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G-d said: "Behold Adam (who ate from the Tree of Knowledge) has become one of us, knowing good and bad. He might now eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever". So G-d expelled Adam from the Garden of Eden, to work the land from where he had been taken (3:22-23).
Thus Adam was sentenced to a life of hard labor to scratch out the basics to keep body and soul together. The Sforno understands the change in Adam's destiny as a consequence rather than as a punishment of his eating from the Tree of Knowledge. The result of eating from the Tree of Knowledge was that he understood the world better, and was able to see it in terms of human values: "knowing good from bad". In that sense, he was on a potentially higher spiritual level. But the downside was that were he to have all the time in the world, he would be lazy, put things off, continually procrastinate, and end up making no progress whatever. He would be idle and shiftless. He would never achieve that spiritual level which G-d intended for him to be "in His image and likeness" (1:26). To make that possible, G-d had to make Adam and all his descendants mortal. The knowledge that he would not live forever would encourage him to make the most of the time that he had.
However, making the best of one's time is qualified by going to the other extreme: the danger of going to unacceptable lengths to find short cuts. This is shown by Cain's offering to G-d: "from the fruit of the land", which contrasts with Abel's "from the first and choices of his domesticated animals" (4:3-4). The details show that Abel's offering was accepted because he had gone out of his way to bring of the very best that he had (Ibn Ezra), whereas Cain had not paid the appropriate attention with the quality of the gift - he wanted a short cut to G-d. Indeed, Sforno reads that as the message of G-d's reply: "if you wish to improve, let yourself be lifted by putting similar care into your offering to Me as Abel did" (4:7, translated according to Sforno). Cain chose not to get the message, with tragic consequences.
Thus the post-expulsion of Adam from the Garden of Eden put a new framework for Mankind to reach the destiny of being "in His Image and likeness". He was mortal ("for dust you are and as dust you shall return - 3:19), he had to "work the land from where he had been taken (3:23), and he had to interact with G-d and his creations with suitable care, pride, and discipline, as seen in the contrasting of Cain and Abel's sacrifice.
That Man's days were numbered did not give him an excuse for not leaving the world a better place than he found it: "it is not on you to complete the work, nor are you a free person to disengage with it". Rather the ideal is to bear in mind that "a generation goes, and another generation comes" (Eccl. 1:4) - the author phrases it that way because people must bear in mind that they have to strive to leave the world a better place than they found it, passing it on to the next generation, who in turn is required to do the same…
And part of the function of the Torah as later revealed by Moses is the code of conduct to produce a society with that ideal.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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