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Adam's Birthday

Adam's Birthday


Were Adam and Eve Jewish?

The reason I ask is that the Jewish calendar seems to be exclusively about Jewish history and the Jewish experience: Passover celebrates our liberation from Egypt, Shavout our receiving the Torah at Sinai, Yom Kippur is when G‑d forgave us for the sin of the Golden Calf and Sukkot recalls the divine protection during our wanderings through the desert. The list goes on: Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Purim, Lag BaOmer, Tishah B'Av--virtually all our holy days, festivals and special dates are distinctly Jewish affairs, concerned with our lives as Jews.

One very significant exception: the festival of Rosh Hashanah, which marks the birthday of the first two human beings, Adam and Eve, who walked the earth some 2,000 years before the first Jew was born and nearly 2,500 years before we were proclaimed a people at Mount Sinai.

Rosh Hashanah is clearly more than a token "Goyim Appreciation Day." But how?

And Rosh Hashanah is clearly more than a token "Goyim Appreciation Day." As its name proclaims, it's the head of the Jewish year. And as the Chassidic masters point out, the head of a thing is its primary and most encompassing component.

We Jews have a reputation for being an insular lot. We stand before G‑d as Jews, relate to each other as Jews, study, pray, and do acts of kindness as Jews, are born, marry, die and are buried as Jews. And we keep our Jewishness to ourselves: unlike most other religions and isms, we have no interest in converting non-Jews to Judaism. If people show interest, we try to talk them out of it.

So why is the very "head" of our year the one festival which relates to humanity as a whole?

Yet Judaism does have a universal message--one that is fundamental, indeed primal, to our identity as Jews. In the words of our sages, "Civility (derech eretz) comes before Torah."

Long before the Children of Israel received the Torah with its 613 mitzvot, Adam and Eve were given the fundamental laws of civilization. Later, these were reiterated to Noah and his sons and became known as the "Seven Noahide Laws." And when we stood at Sinai to receive "our" mitzvot, we were also given the job of "prevailing upon all inhabitants of the world to accept the laws commanded to the Children of Noah" (Maimonides' Mishnah Torah, Laws of Kings 7:10).

The Noahide Code is Judaism's universal message, yet it is not a "religion." The Noahide Code is not a "religion." This isn't a scaled-down Judaism for non-Jews. Rather, it's G‑d's blueprint for civilization, a seven-point foundation for the building of a just, moral and ethical society on earth. The Seven Laws include basics such as: Do not murder your fellow man. Do not steal. Be faithful to your spouse. Do not tear a limb off a living animal. Establish the legal and social institutions that will ensure a just and compassionate society.

Where it gets interesting is with the first two laws: belief in G‑d and the prohibition against blaspheme. I have a confession to make: some of my best friends are atheists. I can already hear them saying: "In my book, when you bring G‑d into the picture, that's religion, not morality or ethics. You can be a moral person also if you don't believe in and respect G‑d." But the entire point of the Noahide Code is that there's no morality without G‑d. Humanism won't cut it.

How you think of G‑d, how you communicate with G‑d, how you serve G‑d--that's between you and G‑d. That's religion. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about the basic premise that the world has a Boss. That we are answerable to a higher authority than ourselves. That the One who created human life also set down the rules for humane living, and enforces those rules.

This--the Noachide Code insists--is the only viable basis for a civilized world.

A few short weeks ago, the awful realization hit us squarely in the face with the force of a Category Five storm: How pitifully thin the veneer of civilization is, how quickly it crumbles when its artificial supports are swept away!

This is what it takes, in this great country of ours, to stave off the law of the jungle: policemen to watch what we're doing, and policemen's police to make sure the policemen show up for work in the morning. Oh, and a few more important things: electric lights so that the policemen can see us, and passable roads so that they can cart us off to jail.

Turn off the lights, flood the roads and disable the punch clocks in the police stations, and five thousand years of civilization evaporate in an hour. The strong prey on the weak, pillaging and raping simply because they can.

I have another confession: some of my best friends are cultural snobs. I hear them saying: "You say that civilization broke down? You call those people civilized? Do they attend the opera on Wednesday nights? Have they read Voltaire? Do they gather in each other's homes in the evenings to discuss the great moral philosophers of the Rationalist and Humanist schools? These are people who have lived in poverty and depravity all their lives. Nothing really changed. It's just that before the hurricane, the crime and squalor in their ghettos followed certain known patterns and were nicely contained by police reports and government statistics. What shocked you was just more of the same, without the usual frames of reference. That's all..."

Turn off the lights, flood the roads and disable the punch clocks in the police stations, and five thousand years of civilization evaporate in an hour. Ok. So let's look back not three weeks but a hundred years. Question: What country had more moral philosophers per square kilometer than any other before or since? Answer: A large Western European country, begins with the letter G. Question: What country orchestrated, but a generation later, a highly efficient operation, aided by sophisticated technologies and accompanied by strains of Wagner, which was also the most horrendous acts of torture and murder in human history? Answer: Same place.

It's really quite logical. As the ancients said, you can't raise yourself by grabbing a fistful of your own hair and pulling upwards. Nothing human-based will ever transcend the human. A philosophy conceived by the human mind will be elegantly refuted--or side-stepped--by that same mind at the service of its own instincts.

Morality and ethics--the notion that "I want to do this but I won't because it's wrong" and "I don't feel like it, but I'll do it because it's the right thing to do"--might be temporarily enforced by a philosopher's thesis or a policeman's gun. But not for long.

On Rosh Hashanah we remember, and remind the world, that G‑d created man and woman, G‑d gave them the gift of life, and G‑d laid down its rules: respect the life, family and property of your fellow, treat the creatures of your planet kindly, do charity and uphold justice. Do so not only because it makes sense to you, not only because it "feels right," but because you are a subject of G‑d and you accept your Sovereign's decrees.

This is the fountainhead of our existence. Without this, there is nothing.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Dixie Porter Washington September 16, 2015

Morals I totally disagree with the author's statement that you must be a believer in God to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. There are many who are atheist or agnostic that are moral people and do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Reply

John Toronto September 15, 2015

If Adam and Eve were the first human beings, who did their children mate with?

I'm not a member of your faith, but I was curious. I ask this respectfully, not trying to cause trouble! Reply

trey usa August 30, 2014


Yanki's point is that - for all human beings - the only way we know what is right and wrong is that our Creator told us. Whether we choose to admit it or not, He is still in charge of His creation. His laws of morality, cause and effect are just as real as His laws of Physics. We can only be moral if we choose to obey them, willingly submit to His authority, and recognize Him as the Author and Creator of all.

For those that want to take this into a "was the universe created in 7 days" discussion, quit listening to scholars pundits and mystical ideas and just read what Mose wrote: "The earth... (HAYAH) - had BECOME) tohuw (chaotic waste) and bohuw (void empty wasteland)." Yes Past tense.

That means it had been nice before it was torn up. The prophets show pretty plainly why the past tense is appropriate. (Ezekiel) explains exactly how - Satan was cast out of heaven to the earth when he tried to knock his Creator off His Throne. No contradiction for us scientists. Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein September 8, 2013

Re: Soul of Adam Gerald Schroeder makes an interesting argument for an interpretation of Genesis that would accord with the narrative of modern science. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe argued that "six days of creation" must be understood from the point of view of the person learning the Torah, not from a posited "G-d's eye view" that Schroeder claims. His idea about the soul of Adam, which he posits humanized Neanderthals, is based on Nachmanides (Ramban), who says that the human body was created from the earth with a natural life, and then G-d breathed in a superior soul from above. There is no indication that Ramban believes these things to have happened at different times, let alone millions of years apart, so that to say so requires some creativity in reading Ramban. It also ignores the current thinking that humans originated much more than 6,000 years ago. Please see Can I believe in both Science and Torah for an alternate take on this issue. Reply

Fred Chicago September 2, 2013

Soul of Adam This is a great article.

To clear up some confusion, according to Gerald Schroder (Genesis and the Big Bang), Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birth of the 'soul' of Adam, not the physical creation of man. This is how it is possible to reconcile the difference of 6000 years versus the age of the earth.

Once I heard him say this it became clear for me. I hope this helps. Reply

Nochum August 28, 2013

Request for source of where it states that Rosh HaShanah is the celebration of Adam's creation Request for source of where it states that Rosh HaShanah is the celebration of Adam's creation Reply

L. Robianett Colon, MI - usa July 9, 2012

Birth of the World and Adam The World was not completely finished until the sixth day so the birth of the world was completed on the same day that Adam was born. Reply

Anonymous Squamish, Canada September 27, 2011

I do not believe one person can change another. You can lead a horse to water and you can "bring light unto the nations" but that is all a single person can do for others, until the nations realize this we will all be divided and not united. Until we all realize that g-d is within us and accept the truth is that our world will be at war over who's words of g-d are true. Sitting around doing nothing will not "work" but neither will forcing change, for it must be done internally not externally. By accepting this we "bring light unto the nations" Reply

Anonymous LA, CA/USA September 3, 2010

One of the comments states that Is not our mission to "bring light unto the nations". Than who is to bring light to those who live in darkness. Please help me understand this concept.

Thank you Reply

Aviva Melbourne August 19, 2010

Adam's Birthday Rosh Hashana is the birthday of Adam HaRishon, the first man.
The birthday of the world is celebrated on the 25th of Elul. Reply

Anonymous New Orleans, LA via September 28, 2008

Please consider rethinking this: Read these words again... it is a gross generalization based on stereotypes. Stereotyping has the biggest enemy of the Jewish people. We should be mindful of Lashon Ha-ra

"These are people who have lived in poverty and depravity all their lives. Nothing really changed. It's just that before the hurricane, the crime and squalor in their ghettos followed certain known patterns and were nicely contained by police reports and government statistics. What shocked you was just more of the same, without the usual frames of reference. That's all..." Reply

Dvora Fairfield Jacksonville, FL via June 8, 2008

Birthday Dilemma How can Rosh HaShana be both the birthday of the world and Adam's b'day, when he was created on the 6th day?
Since mankind is the pinnacle and goal and purpose of all that was created before it, the world was not truly born until Adam was created; in the same way that all the week was made for the Shabbat and therefore the week was not a week until Shabbat took her place. Then all was complete - together. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA December 23, 2007

How can Rosh Ha Shanah be both the birthday of the world and the birthday of Adam at the same time when Adam was created by G-d on the sixth day? Reply

Ryan Egesdahl Hempstead, TX December 15, 2005

An Atheist Jew? Interestingly, I happen to know an atheist jew. Actually, I find it rather disturbing. Now, I'm no apologist, but I happen to think atheism is just one more religion, and that it answers the same questions as any other, but that they are all based on the self. And something I have learned from world religion is that any religion focused on the self is destructive. Based on this fact, I assert that humanists are agnostic and not atheist - they still have questions to answer and are wandering.

I live my life on the basis of the Noachide Laws. I am not a Jew, nor do I ever want to be, and that is not because of some antisemitic perspective. I'm still finding my answers and I don't feel I am ready to settle down quite yet. I wish I could tell this guy what he's doing to himself, but he won't listen. (He thinks he's always right.)

Is there anyone you know who is like this? Reply

Likeable non Jew Leeds, England. UK November 12, 2005

The Jewish New Year. Jews love to celebrate, it makes no difference what the celebrations about, or who the guest of honour is, and if they don't have a guest of honour its not going to stop the celebrations. You see Jews are not the chosen people, but the worried over nothing people, and any pychiatrist will tell you that worried people celebrate to cheer themselves up.

We can agree I hope that Jews are both practical and impractical people, which means in practice that if its bad news they celebrate it, and if its good news they still celebrate it but tone the celebrations down a little. The converts mentioned were in effect told that they had no right to celebrate just yet, but to return in 2000 years time and there Application would be reassessed. This seems fair enough, I mean when you consider that Jews waited 2000 years for the establishment of the State Of Israel, so, one should ask, why should a convert jump "the queue [line] of celebrants" and want in without paying their dues. Reply

Anonymous September 27, 2005

I appreciated the article for its clarity and humour and because it said many things that are a little taboo... but it left me with a frustration.

As the author admits, we live and die as Jews and the article speaks (I dont say "preaches" because the article does not have that tone) to the converted (or the born jew.)

Is not our mission to "bring light unto the nations", and if so, how do we make a difference in the world? We know in our hearts that G-d is our king and ruler, even if we struggle to actualise this in our every day life, but how do we start to get across to the rest of the world that this is the truth?

Even as I write I realise more that my responsibility is not to sit quietly with my own knowing within my own safe community of fellow "knowers" but to manifest my faith more in my daily life so that I start to shine G-d's light beyond the chosen few. Reply

Ruth September 27, 2005

civilized discussion Voltaire was virulently anti-Semitic, I would hardly use him or his works as an example of civilized behavior. Reply

Eric S. Kingston CA September 25, 2005

Kindness The proof of the essence of G-d's Kindness to us is Rosh Hashanah. G-d giving another year!

The difference between the essence of kindness and the ideal of kindness is as great as looking at the reflection of the moon upon the water and staring at the moon in the sky.

The ideal of kindness says "Let's have a bridge, a declaration between us." The essence says, "I don't need either if I see you as myself." To reach this synthesis takes great understanding.

Hillel says the secret of Torah is "What is unpleasant to you, do not do unto your neighbor." Followed by, "Go and learn the whole of It." Hillel does not say, "Go and learn the whole of Torah and you will find Its secret is, do not do unto your neighbor what is unpleasant to you”

As you study Torah you achieve great abilities: develop them with kindness as you find their inner meaning. The secret to studying Torah is with G-d's Intention, that of Infinite Kindness "all the rest" Hillel said, "is only detail."

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