Torah begins with Divine Creation. 

     Divine Creation culminates with Eden; the “ideal life” that G-d intended for men and women. The most “ideal” element of all is that in Eden, Adam and Havah clearly enjoy G-d’s Presence – G-d’s “Voice” – as a familiar, even “ordinary” part of their day.

“…Rabbi Elazar said: [In] The light which the Holy One created on the first day, Adam saw…from one end of the world to the other…” [1]

Even after they’ve eaten the fruit that had been prohibited to them, they still retain a vestige of that familiarity:

     “They heard the voice of…G-d walking in the Garden in the cool of the day and [they] hid themselves from the Presence…” [2]  

     “…they hid themselves [ויתחבא]…” in their fear and guilt, on which Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz  comments tersely: “Conscience makes cowards of them.” [3]

     Yet, virtually all later Jewish teaching tells us: it’s utterly and completely impossible to “hide ourselves” from G-d!

     How, then, can Torah say that Adam and Havah “hid themselves”?

     We must infer: they thought they were hiding themselves! As a defense against their own fear and guilt, they assumed an erroneous belief in their separateness from G-d; in their minds, they reduced G-d’s True Presence Everywhere to something that they could hide from! Madness itself! At a given moment, such denial might help us calm down our emotional intensity from what seem to be unbearable levels. But it never changes the objective reality or milieu. As a Zen poem says: “To see or not, Choose! Yet, the autumn moon shines.” [4] After their error, G-d was as Real and True as before, regardless of what they told themselves.

     Humankind inherits Adam’s and Havah’s erroneous sense of separation from G-d, leading to every human misery – fear, murder, hatred, pain, back-breaking toil, and so on.

     Adam and Havah were tragically unaware: G-d forgives and repairs!

     “Faith is the whole-hearted realization of the Divine Presence accompanied by the conviction of His profound Goodness.” [5]

     Ages later, the Talmud tells us, “Four entered the Garden…” [6]. The Tosafot (medieval commentators) said on this: “[They] did not go up literally, but it appeared to them as if they went up” [i.e. they “went up” cognitively or ‘mentally,’ rather than ‘physically’].” The “four” reversed within themselves the remnants of Adam and Havah’s denial. Just as Adam and Havah thought to themselves that they were ‘hiding,’ these “four who entered” corrected their mistaken perception and re-experienced the Creation as Adam and Havah saw it in Eden, before their error.

     Our solution, then; our “therapy,” as it were – our chance to recapture Adam and Havah’s ideal state of mind in Eden; to see the Light in which they saw from one end of the world to the other – is to alter our thinking, to “remember” the reality of G-d’s Presence, and to bring what we want for ourselves into harmony with the much greater Good that G-d wants for us. We can do this through learning Torah and worshipping in love of G-d and love of others. Meditation or contemplation can be a tool for us, too, just as it was for “the four who entered the Garden.”

     Torah tells us that Avraham, while not the first person to worship G-d, takes the first steps in leading all of humankind back from Adam and Havah’s madness.

     The next steps are through Avraham’s “children” – through whom, he’s told, all the world will be blessed. His children’s “spiritual trials” lead through their Egyptian bondage and liberation, through G-d’s revelation at Sinai, to the shrine where that revelation is maintained, and where, for the sake of all the world, Avraham’s “children” will come to learn and worship: the Mishkan. 

    We can see an arc that begins with Creation and the ideal life in Eden – followed by Adam & Havah’s error, which led to every human misery – and reaches a climax with the putting up of the Mishkan as Sefer Sh’mot/Exodus ends.

     It’s no surprise, then, that what immediately follows in Torah, the opening of Sefer Vayikra/Leviticus, are the actual directions for how worship in the Mishkan is to be done: “…When any of you brings an offering…” [7] Nor should it be suprising that this was the traditional beginning of the education of Jewish children. We should be taught from the beginning: “Worship” can inform our view of every aspect of our lives.

Worship: Allow G-d to bring yourself and the entire Creation back to Eden.

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[1] from the G’morah to Mishnah Hagigah 2:1, and elsewhere
[2] B’reishith/Genesis 3:8
[3] Hertz, Rabbi Joseph H.; Pentateuch and Haftorahs; p. 11
[4] Sengai (1750-1837)
[5] Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris; Jewish Science and Health; “Faith”; p. 135
[6] Chagigah 14b         
[7] Vayikra/Leviticus 1:2