‘Sin? Adam Made Me Do It’

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Artwork by Elhanan ben-Avraham

“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.” – Ezekiel 18

According to many Christian theologians, Adam and Eve’s one disobedience in eating non-kosher food brought death, misery, disease and destruction to every man, woman and baby born to all generations since. Furthermore, they would contend, that is the same reason that trout now eat innocent mayflies, lions devour springbucks, eagles eat mice, and in all the oceans the big fish eat the little fish. All suffer because of Adam and his wife, even those who never heard of them, and God, they say, is love, and also a fair judge.

That scenario seems about as likely as saying that because Jesus, the New Adam, came into this world two thousand years ago, all is since well, none of the faithful have died, and the world is healed of Adam’s sin.

But a thoughtful Jew might contend somewhat with that sad scenario. Though Adam sent things in the wrong direction, he might say, and we are all born downstream into that directional flow and propensity, we are not born individually contaminated and personally responsible for Adam’s trespass any more than are we responsible for our own father’s sins, as the Ezekiel scripture informs us. But we are responsible to choose a better path and try to repair the damage with our God-given abilities and by His grace, and to make this world a little better place – tikkun olam – with God’s help to “strengthen the things that remain that were about to die.”