As soon as we finish reading the book of Devarim, we seem to hit the reset (or rewind – remember that?) button and start Bereshit again. In truth we neither reset, nor do we rewind. Rather, we revisit familiar stories with a fresh perspective.
Adam is created in God’s image, imbued with a divine soul that gives him (and us) the capacity of free will, rational thought and intelligent speech.
Unlike the angels who are purely spiritual, or the animals that are purely physical, he (and we) are a unique blend of both and is therefore held accountable for our actions.
This theme repeats itself numerous times in our parsha, most notably when Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit (which, by the way, in rabbinic thought was almost anything but an apple) and with Cain’s brutal murder of his brother Abel.
The notion of free choice is so fundamental to the essence of mankind that it is hinted to in Adam’s very name. ‘Adam’ comes from the world adama, the earth from which he was formed, but it is also related to the word adameh, to be like God, in whose image he was created. This tension is our eternal challenge.
In addition to drawing our attention to this tension and challenge, the Torah provides tools and solutions.
It is the Almighty’s one-time written communication with mankind (the word Torah comes from the word horaah, which means ‘instruction’).
The Torah, which is often referred to as Torat Chayim, presents itself as instructions for living.
Every detail of every story, every law contains within it a life lesson to achieve this goal. Our challenge is to invest the time to be able to read it as such.
Rabbi Roodyn is education director of Jewish Futures Trust @rjroodyn