by Karen Singer Avrech, Ph.D.
I recently heard Mark R. Levin discuss his upcoming book, Ameritopia. He pointed out that progressive-liberal ideology strives to create a utopian society. But utopia, he emphasized, is incompatible with the ideals of individual liberty as formulated by our Constitution.
It occurred to me that the schism between the goal of achieving a so-called perfect society where everyone receives an equal share of wealth, and a society where success is based on free enterprise, risk-taking, and individual initiative is delineated in the most fundamental roots of Judaism: The story of the Garden of Eden.
I read a wonderful analysis of the Eden story in a book by Rabbi David Fohrman, The Beast That Crouches at the Door: Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, and Beyond which explains the message of the Adam and Eve story. Their choice, teaches Rabbi Fohrman, was between the Tree of Life, one that would grant the utopian dream of eternal life and a worry-free existence, and the Tree of Knowledge which brings awareness of Good and Evil and the burden of mortality.
Judaism does not interpret the Eden story as the downfall of man, nor as original sin. Rather, Judaism understands Eve’s tasting of the forbidden fruit as an act that invokes her very humanity. Adam & Eve and their seed were no longer guaranteed eternal life. However, mankind was given free will, which, argues Rabbi Fohrman, is an opportunity rather than a curse.
Without good and evil, there is no choice.
The Tree of Life represents the utopian ideal of Progressive liberal ideology. In this state there is equality, but minimal room for individual choice or freedom. In contrast, the Tree of Good and Evil signifies the opportunity for the fulfillment of man’s potential.
There are risks of making the wrong choice, but without the possibility of failure there is no authentic free will. This choice represents the position of Conservatives who support a constitutional republic, and have no qualms about defining good and evil. Progressive liberals want to minimize free choice—they dictate what light bulbs to use, which cars to drive, permissible and forbidden foods, America’s health care system—and impose a crushing state controlled equality. Conservatives, on the other hand, advocate for free will, exemplified in our constitutional republic. Liberal Progressives have made a fetish of moral relativism whereas Conservatives have no qualms about defining good and evil.
These two conflicting ideologies are, ultimately, as irreconcilable as the The Tree of Life and the Tree of Good and Evil.