In last week’s Torah reading of Bereishis, Adam is asked by G-d whether he had eaten from the tree from which he was commanded not to eat. Adam did not admit that he was wrong and take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he blamed G-d for having given him the woman who gave him the fruit. Adam forgot that he had asked G-d to create woman, as explained by Rashi. Then G-d went to Eve, who likewise did not admit she did anything wrong. She put the blame on the snake by claiming that the snake deceived her.
None of these defenses worked and all three were punished. Imagine if either Adam or Eve admitted their sin. How different man’s future would have been. It was a lost opportunity that we are still feeling the effects of.
Unfortunately, many years later, the inability to admit error and instead blame others who also may be at fault is still commonplace in our society. For example, some of the defendants who have been charged in the January 6 attack on the Capitol are trying to deny culpability by shifting the blame onto others. Some blame it on social media or other forms of media which claimed that the election was stolen from Trump and that his supporters had to do what they could to “stop the steal.” Others say that Trump, whom they blindly followed, is at fault for deceiving them with his false claim of election fraud. I doubt their attempt to shift blame will be any more successful in court before their fellow man than the arguments made by Adam and Eva were before G-d.
Like with many other disasters, there were mistakes made. Adam had the right idea when he told Eve she should not touch the fruit. He was afraid that if she would touch the fruit, she may be tempted to eat it. The problem was that he did not communicate that to Eve. He left the impression that this was part of G-d’s prohibition. Thus, when the snake pushed her against the tree and she did not die, that gave Eve the resolve to take the fruit and eat it. Just like Eve did not die from touching the fruit, she thought that she would not die from eating it.
Even today there is a problem of proper communication. I believe one of the problems with getting some people to wear masks or take vaccines is due to bad messaging. A good example is the confusion with the booster shots. The president came out with a broad approach, saying that everyone who wanted a booster shot could get it. Then the CDC advisory panel had a restrictive approach, limiting it to those over sixty or with pre-existing health conditions. Then the panel was overruled by the CDC director, who broadened it to include health workers. Although this relates only to booster shots, it affects those who are hesitant to get the first shot. If they cannot get their act together on boosters then why should they be trusted with regard to the first shot?
It is incumbent upon all of us to learn from the mistakes of Adam and Eve. We need to take responsibility for our own actions, no matter the consequences. Throwing someone else under the bus is not the right way to proceed. When possible and necessary under the circumstances, we need to explain why we are doing things. If there are circumstances where we may believe a strict approach is necessary, we need to explain that it is our idea and not a rabbinic or Torah edict.