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The Psychology of Sin

by Rabbi Yossi Goldman


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If we are all descended from Adam and Eve, then it stands to reason that our characteristics--both positive and negative, fine points and foibles--can all somehow be traced back to our earliest ancestors.

If one studies the accounts of the first man's first sin in the Talmud and Midrash, one is struck by a most remarkable observation. The commandment not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge was given to Adam and Eve only after most of Friday (the sixth day, when they were created) had passed. Furthermore, the prohibition was only until that Shabbat. And it's not as if there was nothing to eat. I mean, there was a whole Garden of Eden with fruit trees galore. Could they not have started with a perfect pear, or a magnificent mango? Did they absolutely have to eat from the one and only tree that was forbidden to them?

The problem is further compounded when one considers that Adam and Eve were not just a couple of homeless hobos. They were hand made by G-d, formed and fashioned personally by the Creator! Surely such august creatures could have waited a few hours and occupied themselves with the other fruit first. Why did it have to be that fruit?

It doesn't matter how difficult something is. It might be the easiest commandment, but once we have to do it, it becomes difficult in our minds
We all know the answer, don't we? Forbidden fruit is always sweeter, isn't it? We play mind games. We imagine that the one forbidden fruit in a paradise with dozens of other luscious options has simply got to be the most deliciously delectable fruit on the planet. And we just have to get our hands on it--and it has to be now.

We do the same thing as Adam and Eve. But when it comes to our own choices we rationalize, whereas their sin seems ridiculous, foolish and unforgivable. The truth is that it's always the same story all over again. It has been since the beginning of time. It is simply the psychology of sin. It doesn't matter how difficult something is. It might be the easiest commandment, but once we have to do it, it becomes difficult in our minds.

Is it really so hard to be a Jew? Are our traditions so onerous? Is the Torah so demanding and burdensome? Are all those who do keep it such otherworldly saints? Of course not. It's all in the mind.

Is playing golf on Saturday so much more fun than on Sunday? Why can we walk and jog for miles all week long but to walk a mile to Shul on Shabbat is not even up for discussion? Are non-Jewish girls really more beautiful than Jewish ones? If we are honest and objective, we will recognize the truth.

The psychology of sin is that we imagine things to be more difficult than they really are, just as Adam imagined the forbidden fruit to be sweeter than all the others. He had one Mitzvah of a few hours duration and he still blew it. No doubt, it would be the same for us even if the entire Judaism were reduced to one easy commandment. We would still complain and find it too hard.

The sooner we realize it's a mind game, the sooner we will be able to win the game. Good luck.


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The Psychology of Sin

Posted by: Alliston, Brooklyn, NY on May 18, 2006

I couldn't agree with you more. Nothing is hard if you truly believe in it. And as far as doing right, or following the commandments, sure, there may be a lot, but I haven't seen anywhere where it says that you have to be perfect at all of them on your first try as a Jew, it takes time, just like with everything else, and practice, and the more you make it a habit (part of your daily life) the easier it is to follow them.


History » Early Years

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
(Yiddish) Synagogue.
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.