Sent to the Showers: Bereshit 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you think there is such a place as Paradise? When you picture it, what does it look like? Does it resemble a garden as described in the second chapter of Genesis? If not, how is your picture different?

As we reset our study of the Torah, we return to the story of Creation and humanity’s first generations, which initially takes place in the Garden of Eden – but not for long:

The Pitch: “So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:23-24

Swing #1: “The Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant ‘spread out their wings on high, screening the Ark cover with their wings.’ To this, the Sages comment: ‘The Cherubim had the form of a child’s face.’ If a child is trained properly he may grow up to be like the Cherubim who guarded the Holy Ark. But if he does not receive the proper training, he will become like the Cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, who were angels  of destruction.” – Rabbi Moshe Mordecai Epstein

Swing #2: “The fact is that our primordial ancestors had to be separated from the Divine presence, just as the male and female were separated in the Creation story, before they could be bonded together into an even more meaningful, lasting unity. The primal human being enjoyed unity at the outset of the Garden experience – a harmony between many sides, male/female, Divine/human and good/evil. Yet, true wholeness requires the struggle between the disparate elements. True covenant between God and the human being cannot be sealed in the paradisial setting of the Garden of our infancy, but must come as a result of our experience in the world outside of Eden. To appreciate the very essence of oneness requires the experiencing of fragmentation, isolation, and loneliness.” – Norman J. Cohen, Self, Struggle & Change: Family Conflict in Genesis and Their Healing Insights for Our Lives

Swing #3: “In his anxiety at the travails of consciousness, [man] may snatch compulsively at the Tree of Life. God wishes, instead, that he work through his new condition, coming to repentance by way of arousal. God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden, not as a punishment, but to bar them from specious remedies. Their way must be forward and outward; each must struggle with a new map of desire, a new self-knowledge and isolation, if they are ever to bridge the chasms that now divide them.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep

Late-Inning Questions: Do you think God intends to banish Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden from the very beginning? Or do you think they surprise (and disappoint) God by succumbing to the snake’s trickery? Should we aspire to returning to a life in Paradise? Or does the story of Adam and Eve teach us why people aren’t meant to live there in the first place?

The Big Inning at the End: I’m not going to say anything for fear of jinxing my Cubs …

Hag Sameach, and soon enough, Shabbat Shalom!