Bereishis - What if

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Perhaps one of the most famous stories from the Torah is the story of the Forbidden Fruit. The Eitz HaDas. The serpent got Chava to eat from the tree and for Adam to eat as well, all because he began the conversation with “Perhaps”, with that he planted even the tiniest seed of doubt in Chava’s heart, “Perhaps God told you a tree from all of these that you cannot eat from?”(3:1), not asking to learn rather to create an opportunity for himself to outwit Chava, telling her that God only commanded not to eat from the tree because of the stature one can reach from the forbidden fruit. All the snake needed to say was that. For even if Chava would not have eaten from the tree she would always think – “what if?” There is a story of a chasid davening Shachris in the Shul of the Baal Shem Tov. Right before the Kedusha he noticed outside the window that a wagon pulled up and began selling firewood for an incredible bargain. The Chasid thought as he walked towards the door, ‘If I get the wood at this price I can have enough to heat my home for winter plus a few rubles extra’ but then he stopped, now thinking, ‘yet, how could I miss Kedusha, I can’t miss davening for this!’ he then returned to his seat. After davening he was talking to his friend as they were wrapping up their Teffilin when the friend mentioned what a great bargain he got on the firewood that a peasant was selling outside of shul. When the two realized they both faced the same predicament yet chose differently they began to fight about who was right in their actions. They decided they would ask the Baal Shem Tov and he would claim who was correct. After explaining the story to The Baal Shem Tov, he ruled that the Chasid who went outside during Kedusha was the right one after all. The Chasid who stayed in and continued davening was dumbfounded how he could be the wrong one when he was the one to stay in for Kedusha. The Baal Shem Tov explained; “Although you may have been in shul for Kedusha your mind was outside thinking about the lumber. And although you left the shul, missing Kedusha to go buy wood, the entire time you were thinking about the davening you were missing.”

The Baal Shem Tov teaches us that “Wherever your thoughts are will be where you find yourself” meaning that you may be doing such a mundane task but if your mind is in a holy place that simple task is uplifted to the highest heights, and so too, we may be doing such a holy thing but in truth if our mind is in the gutter we didn’t do much at all. The Arizal teaches in Shaar HaGilgulim that the Neshama of Adam contained within it the soul of every person, therefore each of us were there when he was about to eat of the Eitz Hadas, so why didn’t we stop him? Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk tells us, we had to let Adam eat the fruit because otherwise the lie of the serpent would forever be in our hearts as a “What if?” tainting any and everything we do with his poison. Adam had to eat the fruit to prove that the venom the snake spewed was falsehood, saving himself and all of us from living our life with a seed of doubt in our hearts. Every once in a while we will run into a question that will plague us, that will prevent us from serving Hashem in the way we should. And usually those are the questions it seems we cannot find the answer to, the questions that contaminate everything we do with a stain of doubt. The only way we can overcome it is to realize that Adam, the first human of all time dealt with perhaps the greatest doubt possible, and proved that all these questions are merely venom of the snake, the serpent that still works hard to distance us from Hashem. Adam showed that all the snake’s words were false, that they were only there to push us further from our real goal. So we must take a lesson from Adam and know that whatever doubts we may have they are purely the venom of the Yetzer Harah attempting to distance us from Hashem, and maybe with that we can overcome our doubts and begin serving Hashem with real daas removing any trace of doubt in our hearts.