The story of Adam and Eve is known to be read differently in Christianity from the way it is read in Judaism. When Adam and Eve eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Christianity considers this to be “Original Sin” for which all of humanity is bound for hell, and only baptism can save people from it. Judaism does still consider that act of eating the forbidden fruit to be a sin, but it is treated very differently from the Christian view.  

The Sfat Emet, a Chassidic text, teaches that initially, Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden “to work it and to keep it,” which, respectively, are the positive (“thou shalt….”) and negative (“thou shalt not….”) commandments. During that time, Adam was like a son, a prince, who had access to the secret royal treasury, which was the hidden meanings of the mitzvot. After the sin of eating the fruit (called a sin because it was an act of disobedience), Adam was sent out to work the land like a slave. When Israel received the Torah, they were allowed to come back as sons. 

Adam and Eve, who can represent all humanity, disobey God, then evade responsibility. They are punished with painful childbirth and the need to work for food. Later, they (or at least, some of them) receive the Torah. At the time of accepting it, they say “Naaseh venishma, we will do and we will hear.” Upon accepting the mitzvot, they achieve reconciliation, and are allowed to come back into the Garden, but with the same conditions upon which they left: they still must work for food, and they still experience labor pains. But their relationship with God has been repaired. They are more willing to admit to their own actions, and they are eager to reunite with their Parent. 

The Adam and Eve story, even when seen through the traditional lens so that eating the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a sin and act of rebellion against God, is still, unavoidably, a story of human maturation. As emerging adults or adolescents, the children disobey the parent. They do so out of an impulse for more growth and learning, or at least, for the independence necessary to achieve that growth. There is conflict between parent and child. The child is no longer a child, and must leave, work, and eventually have children. At this point, they have achieved greater maturity, have a broader perspective on their relationship with their parent, and greater self-understanding as well. They are often able to repair the relationship with their parent that their youthful rebelliousness, and the parent’s reaction, harmed.  

There is no sense of “Original Sin” in Judaism. Eating the Forbidden Fruit was an act of disobedience that was necessary for Adam and Eve to become adults. Nevertheless, it was an act of disobedience to God, and so considered a sin. It is simply not a sin that is transmissible from generation to generation as in the Christian model. It is an act of free will.  

Shabbat Shalom! 

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