God and Evil
I am writing this article in response to a question about original sin. Why did God make man sin if God loves man? Good question.
I love the story of the Garden of Eden. In the story, God creates everything, then gets modeling clay and makes a little statue in their image, then breathes the breath of life into the statue. There is a theory the thing created in the image of God is male on one side and female on the other, fused back to back. Later on, the story goes that the thing, "Adam," is lonely, so God puts Adam to sleep and pulls one of his ribs out to make Eve, so goes the popular translation. However, I have been taught that the very ancient Hebrew word we are translating as "rib" is never used to say "rib" anywhere else except in this story. So the speculation is that God perhaps put the male/female being, Adam, to sleep and then ripped his female and male halves apart so Adam could have company.
God puts Adam and Eve in a garden that has clear boundaries. It must have clear boundaries because it has a middle. If a thing doesn't have sides, it can't have a middle, can it? So we know the Garden of Eden had clear boundaries because smack dab in the middle of the garden is the place where God decides to put the trees of Life and Knowledge, side by side. God says it's fine to eat the fruit of Life but the fruit of Knowledge is forbidden.. We have the closed Garden with the forbidden Tree in the middle, right beside the non-forbidden tree. You can't miss it.
In my faith we write what we call "midrash" which are stories we use to try to explain missing pieces of the Biblical puzzle. I'm writing one right now, actually, and here it is.
God puts the trees in the middle of the park and says to the brand new, childlike humans, "It's okay to eat this fruit but it's not okay to eat that fruit. Never mind that the fruit of Knowledge looks even sweeter and gooder than the fruit of Life. You can't have it. If you eat it, you'll die. Really, I mean it. Now I, the Omniscient All Powerful God, will go away where I can't see what you are doing. Be good now."
Well, of course we all know what happens. Eve is fooled by the Serpent into eating the fruit, and because she is a woman, she makes her husband, Adam, do it, too.
"Why did you do that, Adam?"
"I don't know. My wife told me to."
The first hen-pecked husband.
The All-seeing, All-knowing God comes back and says, "Oh, you're hiding and I can't see you. Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
"We don't want to come out because we're naked," they reply.
God replies with a reasonable question, except for the fact that God is omniscient, "Who told you that you were naked?"
As if God doesn't already know. Yet, despite what seems to be clear entrapment, God severely punishes Adam and Eve by kicking them out of the garden and cursing them, telling them that they will have painful childbirth (like all the other animals) and that from now on they will have to work for a living and it will be damn hard. And you can see that this is about 97% true since all but about 3% of us have to work damn hard for a living to this very day.
And what happens after they are ejected from the Garden? They meet other people! Where did they come from?
Personally I think that if you take this story literally, God is represented as a scheming, duplicitous and spiteful being. But since I believe that God is a being far beyond our ability to comprehend, I believe that the literal interpretation of this story of original sin misrepresents the true nature of God.
After a journey of several decades either hiding from or searching for God, much like my progenitors, Adam and Eve, I have found that I cannot hide from God and need not search for God because God is everywhere. We cannot understand God because God is infinite and we are not. God understands us better than we could ever understand ourselves, because God is both outside and inside time, and sees our whole lives like a word or two written on a page. Yet God is even greater than this.
Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro, in his book, "Open Secrets," says that evil is not the opposite of God, but a manifestation of God. He quotes Isaiah chapter 45, verses 6 and 7: "... I make peace and create evil. I, the Source and Substance of all, do this." According to Rabbi Shapiro, "God is All... God is the sole reality..." God is even the negation of God, both finite and infinite, all powerful and powerless, unspeakably beautiful and hideously ugly: All, the "Source and Substance of everything and its opposite."
In the Garden of Eden drama, therefore, all the players are God: Adam, Eve, the animals, the Trees of Life and Knowledge, the Serpent, and even the fig leaves. What does that mean?
That, my beloved friends, is the journey.
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