Freshly inspired by the special period of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos and Simchas Torah, we read the first portion of the Torah- Bereishis.
Chassidim say that Shabbos Bereishis sets the tone for the New Year. It’s really the first “normal” Shabbos of the year and the opportunity to translate the upliftment of the Yom Tov season into real life.
Which is why it makes sense to read the story of Creation at this time. We are in the process of re-creating our world for another year, full of promise and possibility. The story of G-d’s original Creation should provide a good model for us to emulate.
What does not make sense is why we start the year- and the translation of inspiration into action- by reading a story of dramatic human failure.
Here is the story of the first human, created by G-d’s own hand and imbued with the greatest sense of Divine inspiration. G-d gave this archetypal man a single instruction: “Do whatever you want, just don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge”. Our Sages understand that, after a mere three hours, Shabbos would have entered and the prohibition would have lapsed.
What message does that give us? Adam was fashioned by Hashem’s own hand. He had an acute awareness of G-d at all times and received just one, short-term instruction straight from the Divine. Yet, knowing the dire consequences of his actions, he still messed up!
We are simple people. We don’t talk to G-d on a regular basis, and certainly don’t have Him talk to us too often. We have a long list of time-consuming and often inconvenient observances to follow. Our negative voice lives comfortably inside and appears far more alluring than Adam’s serpent did. Do we have any chance of not failing?
Why does the Torah begin with such a depressing message?
We all make mistakes and we hate them. Some of us get depressed over our failures. This might be because we take ourselves too seriously. We expect perfection of ourselves; when we behave less than perfectly, instead of realizing that we have failed, we think we are a failure.
That is precisely what Hashem wants us to know from the outset: He designed humans to fail. We will fail more often than we succeed.
And that’s ok.
Had Hashem wanted a perfect world, He would have stopped creating after He made the angels. Angels and perfection are not the goal of Life, though. He wants humans, He wants our foibles and weaknesses; our failures and mistakes. He loves us for our mess-ups.
More importantly, He’s designed us to achieve real growth out of error. In Torah terms, we call that yeridah tzorech aliyah or descent for the sake of ascent. In simple terms, sometimes you have to go backwards to be able to go forward.
As we get a fresh start on a new year, Torah wants us to know that the only real failure is if you get stuck in failure. The moment you grow from a negative experience, you fulfill the ultimate purpose for which humans were created- to transform adversity and darkness into success and light.