Last week we celebrated the end of the annual cycle of High Holy Days with the rolling back of the Torah during Shemini Atzeret, so we get to start reading the Torah, all over again. That is why the holiday is also called Simchat Torah, which means Joy of Torah.
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The first parashah of the Torah takes us from the creation of heaven and earth, through the addition of life on earth, from the sea to the land, ending with the creation of humanity through Adam and Eve.
Then sin steps in. Almost from the very start the Enemy has tried to destroy the good that God creates, and after Eve sins, then causes Adam to sin, God (who must obey his own mitzvot) is forced to eject them from Paradise.
Now we see the introduction of sex into human relationships, and Eve drops her first set of rug-rats, Cain and Abel. We all know what happens then, and as the parashah continues, we are given the succeeding generations up to the time of Noah, when the world has been infected with sin and God is fed up with what has happened to his creation, except for Noah.
Have you ever considered that we don’t really know how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden before the fall? The Torah takes us from the creation of Eve and Adam’s (spiritual) joining with her right to the entrance of the serpent. The only thing in-between these two events is a reference to the condition of Adam and Eve, i.e. them being naked and feeling no shame.
This makes me wonder about sexual relations between men and women in the hereafter. We are all looking forward to heaven, and to seeing our loved ones (at least, those that make it there) and in many cases, that means our spouses who have passed on before us. But will it matter, really, who we see there?
After all, I love to be with my wife, Donna, as much as I can be, but if I have a choice between being with Donna throughout eternity or in the presence of the Lord, God, Almighty, well…sorry, Babe, but God outranks us all.
Yeshua tells us when we will be with God that we will be like the angels in heaven (Mark 12:25), there will be no marriage and without marriage, there can be no sexual relations.
Uh, gee…no sex in heaven? Does that mean when we say to our spouse after making love, “Honey- that was heavenly!” it’s actually an insult?
Here’s another thought: what if sex is the first step towards sin?
We are told in this parashah that the sons of God, meaning the angels, took quite a liking to human women and fell from heaven to mate with them, creating the species the Torah refers to as the Nephilim, giants of great strength that lived on the Earth. If we are to be like the angels in heaven, does that mean there is no marriage, no interpersonal, physical relations, but the desire is still there?
Yowsa! What a revelation! There is no sex in heaven but we might still have desire, so how is that good? It sounds more like hell!
But wait a minute! In Genesis 1:28, right after creating man and woman, God tells them to be fruitful and multiply, so how can sex be bad? There is no way that God would ever tell anyone to do anything that would lead to sin, right?
It sounds like there is a really big contradiction here, but I think I know what this means: everything we do we do for a purpose, and the purpose is what defines the act.
It is similar to the old adage “the ends justify the means”, and although there are exceptions to everything, in general, as far as sin is concerned, what we do is less important than why we do it.
For instance, if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten from the Tree of Good and Evil, they would eventually have figured out where all the parts fit together, and I believe that would end up with sexual relations as a result of caring for each other and not just desire for physical pleasure. If Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, I believe they’re being fruitful and multiplying would have been a beautiful and compassionate act.
On the other hand, there are sexual desires which are sinful in nature, such as with the angels who fell from heaven to be with the daughters of men; clearly, they were driven by lust, not love. And the result of their sin would, eventually, create a human subspecies that did not survive much past the Israelite entry and conquest of the Promised Land.
Let’s look at this idea of why we do being more important than what we do in a different light: if I say something that is hurtful to someone, is it automatically sinful? What if I did it as part of “tough love”, with the intention to help them recover from addiction or find the strength to free themselves from an abusive relationship? How can that be bad? Yet, if I did it out of anger or spite, with the intention to hurt them, well, how can that be good?
It isn’t so much what we do as why we do it. I learned a long time ago that people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. That lesson fits right in with today’s message that it is our heart’s intention that defines sinful or godly. We may sin accidentally because we are weak and easily led astray, and we may do good without really intending to- these are the exceptions, not the rule.
Now, I want to be clear that I am not condoning or authorizing people to tell other people exactly whatever they want to, then hiding under the kippur (covering) of saying, “But I am only telling the truth” or “I am only saying it for your own good” because more often than not, their intention is not to help.
I believe there are many people who use those excuses because they are really just prideful. They want to “tell you off” and do so in order to feel that they are superior, even if they don’t always know it, and that is sinful.
Ultimately, the best example is to look at how God acts. He loves us all, even those who reject and curse him, but even though he loves us, he is straightforward and unwavering with us. He makes the rules and he sticks to them, tempering them with mercy and grace, but never allowing the guilty, especially the unrepentant ones, to go unpunished.
God will do whatever he needs to do to achieve his will on earth, and if that means destroying people who are innocent in order to mete out justice, then that is what will happen. However, his intention is always to do good and never to hurt or damage us out of spite or pride.
In this parashah, we read how Cain’s jealousy and anger caused him to sin, even though God warned him that he must master sin. In Ezekiel 18, God tells us each person is accountable for what they do, and what they did won’t count either for them or against them. When we think about both of these things, we realize that what we do is the result of what we feel, and that is what we will be judged on.
If you allow God to come into your heart, which we can do only after we let go of hatred, spite, pridefulness, and anger, then sin will be conquered; when your heart is right with God, you won’t sin.
Of course, it isn’t that easy and there will always be the ability to sin, but when your heart is right with God, you will be able to conquer sin.
All you need to do is have a heart that is right with God. Oy, if only it was that easy.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!