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On What it means to be truly Alive and the Impossibility of reading Torah Literally

Last week we began reading the Torah anew with the book of Genesis. One of the more well known stories from this book is G-d's direction to Adam that he may eat of anything in the garden except for the Tree of Knowledge, because if he eats of that one, "on that very day, you will die" (Genesis 2:17). Like most of us when we're told not to do something, he goes ahead and does it anyway. However, he does not actually die, and therefore right in the very beginning of our Sacred Book we see that trying to read things makes things incomprehensible.

Thankfully for us, this complexity leads us to some very important and real-life relevant questions. What does it mean to live but actually feel dead (at least in small part) inside? When have we experienced that, what kinds of things lead to that, and what do we do about it?

We might not know what that Tree business was about for Adam, but it certainly sounds like small pieces of him began to die after he ate. The next time Adam hears from God, he hides, and he is afraid (3:8 and 3:10), he blames the woman (3:12), and she in turn blames the snake (3:13). My guess is that whenever we do something we know is wrong (by our own moral standards) a piece of us dies, whenever we feel we have to hide a piece of us dies, whenever we feel afraid or ashamed, a small piece of us dies.

The end of the Torah says, "See, I set before you this day life and goodness vs. death and destruction.." (Deuteronomy 30:15) Many time we can't tell these things ahead of time, but we can always learn from them in retrospect. So that's my challenge for all of us this week: Take some time to reflect on what kinds of choices (or life events you had no choice over) have caused bits and pieces of you to die. What can you learn from that? How can you begin to revive yourself, what small step can you take to begin to revive yourself and what support do you need to do so?

With Love,

Rabbi Moshe

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