Sunday, October 25, 2020

The pasuk (2:15) says, “Hashem took Adam, and placed him in Gan Eden in order that he work it and guard it.” This pasuk seems to be redundant, as only a few pesukim earlier (2:8) it says that Hashem put Adam in Gan Eden! Moreover, in pasuk 8 it makes no mention of Hashem “taking” Adam and putting him in Gan Eden, whereas in pasuk 15 it does. Why is that?

Rashi explains that the idea of taking in this context means that Hashem “‘took’ him with pleasant words and persuaded him to enter” [Gan Eden]. The Gur Aryeh expounds on Rashi and notes that essentially, the concept of “taking” does not apply to a person—you can’t take a person. This is because for the most part, a “person” is most accurately identified by his intellect, not his body, and a person’s intellect is not subject to being “taken” in the way we normally understand what it means to take. Hence, even if you moved a person’s physical self and brought it into a different domain, you still have not moved or taken that person’s mind and consciousness. This is why Rashi explains that the taking in this context refers to words [because it was through words that Hashem made Adam desire to enter Gan Eden].


Based on Rashi and Gur Aryeh we can perhaps explain the redundancy of pasuk 15. Whereas in pasuk 8 the placing of Adam was in regards to his physical element being brought into Gan Eden, pasuk 15 on the other hand is noting that Adam was also consciously and agreeably brought into Gan Eden. [As an aside, what it means that Adam was to work and guard Gan Eden, and more curiously why exactly he needed to be persuaded to want to actually enter is not the main idea here, for whatever the reasons for both may be, the main point is that Adam nevertheless needed to enter Gan Eden based on his own volition. It wouldn’t have sufficed if he was only brought physically without his intellect (i.e. his own will) also being part of the picture].

Rav Yaakov Galinsky (“Vehigadta,” Bereishis, p. 29) writes that this idea is one that is vital when it comes to chinuch and essentially any situation that requires one to act from an educational standpoint: you can force someone to listen to you and do something that you wish, but realize that you are only controlling his physical element, whereas you are having no effect on his character, willpower or sense of right and wrong.

When it comes to the actual persuading, there are usually two basic approaches that people take: either a punishment-based persuading or incentive-based persuading. In Parshat Haazinu it says, “Remember the days of old; understand the times of each generation” (32:7). Rashi, in his second interpretation, explains the two parts of the pasuk: Although the phrase of “remember the days of old” is telling us to remember how Hashem punished those who went against Him, if this does not prove effective, then the phrase “understand the times of each generation” comes to teach us to focus on the future—that Hashem has the power to bestow goodness upon you, and can allow you to inherit living in the times of Moshiach and Olam Haba. Hence, we see from Rashi these two forms of persuasion.

Although the punishment-based persuasion has its time and place as is clear from Rashi, Rav Henach Leibowitz sees in Rashi that the incentive-based approach can be more effective. Indeed, Rav Leibowitz asks, why wouldn’t threat of punishment alone be effective? It seems from Rashi that the other motivation—namely, the one that is incentive-based will be more effective then the threat-based motivation since if the punishment-based one does not work, Rashi is telling us to then focus on the incentive-based one! But wouldn’t we think the threat- based motivation is more effective and therefore should alone suffice as a motivator? Rav Leibowitz says that we see from here that, in fact, to spur behavioral change a positive-oriented and incentive-based motivation is more effective than a harsh, punishment based motivation.

Perhaps we can explain similar to the above why this is so. Punishment-based persuasion can get someone to change, but they may only change because they have to [who wants to go to hell, right?], not because they necessarily want to and see the benefits of changing. Essentially, you again may have his physical element to cooperate, but his will and true self are ultimately not present. However, through incentive-based persuasion, a person is enlightened to see how much one can gain, the benefits therein, and the luxurious life awaiting once change on his part occurs. In this sense, the change that occurs is self-motivated, real, and thus more profound.

Not just when it comes to others, but also when it comes to motivating ourselves as well, I thought that perhaps one needs to see for himself how to best motivate oneself. Sometimes it can be through a more somber approach, one that is based on some kind of fear or losing out on something good. But seemingly based on the above, focusing on the benefits of accomplishing something or bettering ourselves and envisioning a more optimistic and incentive-based outcome may ultimately work better for everyone.

Binyamin Benji is a graduate of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He can be reached at [email protected]