Is This Why Jews Argue So Much?

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Rabbi David Wolpe's thought of the week:

If God wished Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree in Eden, why create the tree?

One among many possible answers: all real life is deciding. Wanting, weighing and choosing are the essence of being human. The fruit dangles from the tree, and even the choice not to decide is a decision.

The essayist Gilbert Highet quotes "'a wise man' who said the Greeks' greatest legacy to the world's welfare was 'on the one hand and on the other hand.'" The constant weighing of options can be maddening; after listening to his advisors offer him conflicting economic advice Harry Truman burst out in frustration, "Can someone get me a one handed economist!" Of course not. If there were one choice, one path, vitality would be drained from the world. The gift of possibility entails arguing, failing, reevaluating, feeling the constant frustrating yearning to do better.

God could have fashioned a garden without a tree. Eve and Adam would never have eaten and never have left. Eden would be their permanent, perfect address. It would have been a beautiful place to exist. But it would have been no place to live.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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