There is a tradition in Jewish mysticism that Adam and Eve, the first two humans, shared a single soul. That soul would be the only one there would ever be. Adam and Eve were to be immortal, and remain the only two people on Earth. They were never to leave the Garden of Eden.
As we all know, that is not how it worked out. They were expelled from Eden, but not because they ate the forbidden fruit. Rather, it was because how they treated each other when God confronted them with what they had done. Adam blames Eve for tempting him. Eve blames the serpent. They two of them turn on each other, and refuse to take any responsibility for their actions.
This hostility leads to a shattering of their unified soul into many souls, and a loss of their immortality. Each piece of that shattered soul becomes part of the soul of each person to be born.
This is not just a story of loss, nor is it one of despair. If we look at it correctly we can see it as a challenge for us. The purpose of humanity is to reunite those broken aspects of the original soul.
I am discussing this now, and not in the fall when we read the book of Genesis, because a key to understanding this story is Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah, which we will soon celebrate.
God did not give the Torah to the Jewish people. God turned a group of formers slaves of all ethnicities and languages and cultures into the Jewish people. Some of the freed slaves were likely descendants of the original Children of Jacob/Israel who entered Egypt hundreds of years before, but many were slaves from other countries who found the story of the God of Jacob, a God concerned about all of humanity, so compelling.
God took these broken souls, and brought them healing and wholeness through the Torah. It is important to note that this does not mean one mind, or one heart. When the Torah say to love God with all your heart, the word is in the singular. Each person has to find their own way.
A single soul means that we are all deeply connected to each other in an emotional way, and that we take responsibility for our actions toward others and ourselves.
This is not just about the Jewish people. We are to be a model for all people to show that God wants all the descendants of Adam and Eve to feel connected to each other, to realize that all human beings share a single soul. What hurts someone else hurts us even when we do not feel it at the moment. What brings joy to others nourishes our soul when we allow ourselves to feel it.
In these coming weeks before Shavuot let us each find one way to reunite our soul with another. It can be as simple as a kind gesture to a stranger, or as difficult as reconciling with someone who hurt us. Together we can make another Eden.