First things first.

Parshas B’reishis is all about the beginnings: first creation, first light, first day, first person, first commandment, and, of course, first sin. After blessing mankind to be fruitful, Hashem gives Adam his first official mitzvah. Yes, it has to do with trees and fruit, but it’s not what you think.

While most of us might remember that the first injunction to Adam was to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, a closer look at the text reveals that, in fact, another directive came first: “And Hashem commanded man saying: From every tree of the garden you shall eat” (B’reishis 2:16).

The Meshech Chochmah explains so beautifully that this pasuk is not merely a setup for the following one, in which Hashem tells Adam from which tree he should not eat. Instead, Hashem was formally instructing mankind to partake of all the wonderful enjoyments of the world. It was only after first emphasizing all the positive and exciting opportunities available, that Hashem introduced the one restriction at hand. Presented in that way, man was primed to focus on the many positives as opposed to the one negative.

Unfortunately, the Meshech Chochmah continues, when Adam relayed these instructions to Chavah, this core message was lost. Instead of enjoying all that was allowed, they fixated on the one thing that was not, and this obsession led to the violation of their singular restriction.

There is a lot to learn from the first mistake in history. A life of Torah observance is filled with so many wonderful, joyous opportunities; and by focusing on these over any limitations, we can have the true outlook Hashem intended. For example, instead of describing Shabbos to ourselves and our children as a day when we cannot use our phones, cannot drive, and cannot go shopping, we can authentically transmit the message that it is a joyful day where we can get together with family, can enjoy gourmet meals, and can appreciate the weekly opportunity to reconnect with Hashem.

If we haven’t had this positive perspective before, there’s a first time for everything!

Rabbi Yaakov Abramovitz is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and presides over its Young Marrieds Minyan, while also pursuing a PsyD in School and Clinical Child Psychology at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..