I lay in bed with my 8-year-old, in the sleepy state of a darkened room. We could hear the soft, even breathing of the other children in the stillness that surrounded us.

“You know, Mommy,” Lazer began, “if Adam hadn’t eaten from the tree, we would all live forever!”

Like most children, my son often bounces ideas he has just learned in school off me, and they sometimes seem to come out of left field.Now I had his attention

I know I probably shouldn’t use these cozy nighttime bonding sessions to drive home lessons to my kids, but this was just too good to pass up.

“That’s right! And you know what?” I rejoined. “We are all a little piece of Adam.”


Now I had his attention.

“Yes. If Adam hadn’t eaten from the tree, he would have lived forever, and we’d also be living forever. But after he made that mistake, he had to die at some point, and so that’s why we also need to die.”

Lazer was still quiet. It was one of those magical moments in which his mind lay open and bare before me, ready to absorb all I could pour into it. I was cautious, aware of the impact each word would have as it fell into his fresh, impressionable young psyche.

“But you know what? We can do teshuvah[repent] for Adam’s mistake. Because we are all a little piece of him, our job in this world is to fix the mistake that he made. Do you know how we need to do it?”

He was silent, still listening. I continued, explaining how before Adam ate from the tree, his yetzer hara (evil inclination) was outside of him; it was a physical thing, separate and removed from Adam himself. The yetzer hara was the snake. “And he’s the one who told Adam to eat from the tree, right?”

My son nodded. There’s something about talking snakes that captures the imagination of little boys.

“After he listened to the snake and ate from the tree, the yetzer hara went into him. Now it’s inside all of us. It’s that voice that tries to get us to do the wrong thing. It’s that voice that tells us to fight with people or to say mean things that will hurt someone’s feelings. Every time we say no to that voice, we’re doing teshuvah for Adam’s mistake.”

Waving my hands in an arc in front of us, I painted an imaginary picture in the space above our heads. The theme was becoming more real for me, too, as I stepped into the mind of my son and tried to hold his attention.

“Imagine a huge puzzle. Every time a person in the world does the right thing, it’s like he did one part of the teshuvah that we all need to do for Adam’s mistake. One piece gets put into the puzzle.” I paused, lifting my hand and placing an imaginary piece into the invisible puzzle above our heads. “See? Like this. When all the puzzle pieces are in, the picture will be finished, and then Moshiach will come!”

Lazer was very excited. “Really?!” he asked.

“Yes. And the harder it is for us to listen to the good voice, the more it is worth. That’s our job. That’s what we’re here for!”

I listened to my own words as I spoke. Jewish thought, distilled for an 8-year-old mind, is simple and clear, yet for me this basic message often gets lost in the myriad distractions of everyday living.

Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what life is all about.Which of us got more out of the exchange?

And so I wondered: Which one of us had gotten more out of this exchange?

Together, we stared at the imaginary puzzle above our heads. We pictured what it would look like completed: full, glorious and beautiful.

As Lazer drifted off to sleep, I thanked G‑d silently: for my son, and for giving me the words that would help him understand how to become a better person. It was a satisfying feeling, kind of like finding the missing piece of a puzzle and putting it in its place. For that moment, in my little corner of the world, the picture was complete.