Eve of Life
Volume 3 Issue 1
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Doom and despair and destruction. It all happened so fast after the promises of an idyllic life. And all from two bites of the forbidden fruit. Man, who was promised eternal bliss in the Garden of Eden is now cursed with a plethora of misfortunes. He must toil by the sweat of his brow, work an earth that will produce thorn and thistle. His wife must bear the pain of childbirth with all of its physiological implications. All these are crowned with the most powerful malediction that "you are of dust and to dust you shall return.
But it seems that Adam takes all the news in proper perspective. In the verse that immediately follows the curses, Adam does not spread blame or lament his fate. He continues developing civilization exactly where he left off. Prior to his meeting Eve and partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam began classifying all living things with names that appropriately described their attributes. After the curses he continues. He names his wife.
"Adam called his wife Chava because she was the mother of all life." (Genesis 3:20)
Isn't it unsuitable for Adam to name his wife Chava -- the mother of all life -- immediately following the curse of death? What message is the Torah sending us with that juxtaposition?
Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev was known for his love and good will toward his fellow Jews always trying to assess the good in people rather than expose the bad.
Once on the Fast of Tish'a B'av he saw a Jew eating in a non-kosher restaurant. He tapped lightly on the window of the establishment and summoned the man outside.
"Perhaps you forgot that today is a fast day?" Rav Levi Yitzchok queried.
"No, Rebbe," the man replied.
"Then perhaps you did not realize that this restaurant in not kosher."
"No, Rebbe, I know it is a traife (non-kosher) eatery."
Rav Levi Yitzchok softly placed his hands on the man's shoulders and looked heavenward. "Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe," he exclaimed. "Look at how wonderful your children are. They may be eating on a fast day. In a non-kosher restaurant to boot. Yet they refuse to emit a falsehood from their lips!"
Adam heard the curse bestowed upon himself, his wife, and humanity for eternity. His immediate reaction was not scorn or criticism. He named his wife Chava, derived from the word life. He viewed the woman whom he had once blamed for his downfall with a different perspective. He saw only the eve of life -- and thus named her so.
After tragedy and defeat there is enough blame to share and spread. Adam picked up the pieces and cherished the beauty of what was left.
He did not see himself on the eve of destruction. He saw himself standing at the dawn of life. And he appreciated that life dearly.
Dedicated in memory of Rebitzin Itta Brocho Lipschutz -- Itta Bracha bas HaRav Eliezer HaLevi
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.