Adam and Eve are not just two people. They are a metaphor for the primordial Vessel whose existence preceded creation. Just as all the colours of the spectrum exist within a single beam of sunlight, the Vessel encompassed all matter, space, time and consciousness. And all the souls of humankind were also present in the Vessel.
The Vessel shattered because of a contradiction in its nature. It had been created only to receive, but, in being filled with the Creator’s Light, it had also received and taken on a degree of the Creator’s own nature: the desire to share. All of our existence now is predicated on the goal of transforming this duality into a single desire, the desire to receive for the sake of sharing, in order to be able to finally reconnect with the Creator and receive the fullness of His Light.
This can happen in only one way. The shards of the shattered Vessel – you and I – must choose to make it happen. We must choose of our own free will to transform ourselves into ‘beings of sharing,’ as the kabbalists say, first on an individual level, and ultimately as a collective transformation of all humankind. Not even God can do this for us. Transformation is the supreme expression and the only expression of free will. It is the choice we make in every thought, feeling and action. Adam and Eve faced this choice in the Garden. They chose wrongly, but, their intentions were good.
The allure of evil makes that choice more difficult, and therefore more worthy. Evil, in its way, therefore serves the Creator. Indeed, by understanding this we can free ourselves from its temptations. A parable in the Zohar dramtises this teaching: A king forbade his son to consort with harlots, but the he hired a harlot to test the strength of his son’s character. The son was tempted – until he realised that the harlot was acting in the service of his father. She then lost all power over him.
The serpent in the Garden (acting in the service of our Father) is essential to our final transformation, but he certainly doesn’t make it any easier! At the time of his fateful encounter with Adam and Eve at the Tree of Knowledge, their state of being was fundamentally different from what ours is now. They embodied the pure energy of desire, and Kabbalah teaches that desire is inherently a positive force.
While the conventional view of our first ancestors portrays them as transgressors, the kabbalists point out that their motivation was to serve God. The serpent understood this also. In fact, he used their positive intentions to manipulate them for his own ends. He fostered the transformation of their pure, undifferentiated desire into desire to receive for themselves alone.
And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You are not going to die, but God knows that as soon as you eat of [the tree] your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad’. (Genesis 3:4)
Because Adam and Eve were not fully constituted to receive the Light – because the Vessel had not yet earned an unmediated connection – they were overwhelmed by the moment in the same way that a weak electrical circuit will flash brightly and then burn out at the sudden infusion of a powerful current. The kabbalists literalise this principle through a startling addition to the narrative:
Adam and Even took a second bite!
In the interval, a fundamental transformation had taken place, but not the positive one that had been envisoned. Rather, their desire had lost its sharing intention and had become self-serving. They were farther than ever away from unity with the nature of God, and this is exactly what the serpent had intended. It is essential to understand, however, that the impasse is also an opportunity. By traversing it, we can truly prepare the Vessel. We can earn the Light. We can receive it and take fulfillment in it. Most important, we can share it.
We have spoken of Adam and Eve as a couple, but until that second bite of the fruit they were not separate at the spiritual level. This detachment took place at the same instant that the divide widened between the Vessel and the Light. Where there had been unity and equilibrium, there was no dissimilarity and fragmentation. Where there had been eternal existence in Paradise, there was now mortal life in the physical world.
After the Fall, immortality consciousness was gone, replaced by a consciousness – a knowledge – of death and evil that instantly expressed itself in the physical dimension of life. But despite all this, the plain fact of immortality remained untouched, but in the same way that the signal that carries a TV programme remains in the air even after the set has been turned off.
With the Fall of Adam, the bad news is that we stopped receiving the programme. But we also began the process of repairing the receiving mechanism and getting it tuned in again. This correction, this tikkun, is our task for however many years it requires and however many lifetimes. When an individual human being truly completes this process, immortality is restored.
The Essential Zohar, Rav P. S. Berg