Sin, you see, was in the world long before the Law, though I suppose, technically speaking, it was not “sin” where there was no law to define it. Nevertheless death, the complement of sin, held sway over mankind from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was quite unlike Adam’s. Adam, the first man, corresponds in some degree to the man who has to come.
We know that it was Adam’s sin that caused this because although, of course, people were sinning from the time of Adam until Moses, God did not in those days judge them guilty of death for breaking his laws—because he had not yet given his laws to them nor told them what he wanted them to do.
You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.
For before (the epoch of) the Torah (Law), Chet (Sin, Chet Kadmon, original sin) was in HaOlam (HaZeh, the world). But Chet (Sin) is not accounted, recorded [to make charges for death penalties] in the absence of Torah [i.e., no Law, no violation, death penalty].
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