Adam, the first man is featured in the narrative of creation, which we read this Sabbath. His name (אדם) is also mentioned at the beginning of the Book of Chronicles as the forebear of all mankind. There the first letterof Adam’s name is written with an oversized alef.

The use of an oversized letter indicates greatness and importance. Adam, as G‑d’s handiwork, possessed a unique greatness: an inherent sensitivity to holiness and a desire to be one with it. Adam retained this greatness even after eating from the Tree of Knowledge. On a revealed level, the sin reduced Adam’s spiritual potential. As a result of the sin, it became possible for him — and his descendents — to desire material matters, but internally, he retained his inherent desire and attraction for the spiritual, a longing to connect to G‑d in any and all situations.

This potential was endowed to all of his descendants — mankind as a whole — as a heritage. Every man possesses a certain aspect of his being that regards sin as utterly foreign, something utterly unattractive and to be avoided at all costs. No matter what his or her current spiritual standing, every person has the potential to be aroused to spiritual accomplishments, not because he became distant from G‑d and is now in the act of returning to Him, but because he truly was never apart. At all times, he possesses a soul that is G‑d’s handiwork and consequently has a pure and natural desire to cling to Him. True, there are times when that desire is concealed by our materiality and we do not focus our attention upon it, but it is always present, influencing our thoughts and our desires even when we are unaware of it.

Our Rabbis taught: Just as a person must be aware of his shortcomings, he must similarly be aware of his positive qualities. For the very knowledge that we possess a positive potential encourages its expression. The more we are aware of our intrinsic spiritual motivation, the easier it is for us to move it to the forefront of our thoughts.

Conversely, focusing too heavily on our shortcomings can have a negative influence, causing a person to shy away from spiritual involvement, for he will say: “How can such a lowly and coarse person such as myself be involved in spiritual matters?”

That is the very opposite of the truth. For like Adam, our ancestor, each of us is G‑d’s handiwork and has an innate connection to the spiritual. Regardless of what we have done until now, at any moment, we have the potential to conduct ourselves as if we are utterly above any connection to sin.

Looking to the Horizon

Our Rabbis teach that the name Adam (אדם) is an acronym for the names Adam (אדם), David (דוד), and Mashiach (משיח). Implied is that Adam contained within him the totality of human potential, from its initial creation until its ultimate flowering in the era of Mashiach.

The connection between these three historic figures is alluded to by our Sages who explained that David was destined to be stillborn and the 70 years of his life were granted to him by Adam. (For that reason, Adam lived only 930 years, instead of the thousand originally granted him.) And Mashiach will be a descendant of King David, reestablishing his dynasty.

The positive quality of Adam was, as explained above, spirituality that transcended material involvement, man as he exists above sin. David’s unique achievement was the ability to return to G‑d despite sin. Although he became involved in all the most material dimensions of the world, he did not remain mired in this morass and returned to G‑d, finding the strength within his heart to continually come back to Him, regardless of what he had done previously.

Mashiach will combine the positive virtues of both these qualities. He will reveal transcendent G‑dly truth and simultaneously motivate even the most coarse of men to overcome their material involvement and return to G‑d.

Our Sages explain that Adam was created on Friday. Had he not partaken of the Tree of Knowledge on that day, the Sabbath that commenced that night would have initiated “the era which is all rest and Sabbath for eternity,” the era of the Redemption. When we look at the six millennia of recorded history according to the scheme of a day for a thousand years, it is again Friday after midday, time for us to realize the full potential of Adam and bring about Mashiach’s coming.