Wednesday, October 03, 2018

making your own gan eden

This limud should be a zechus for a refulah shleimah for Shulamis bas Sarah Sosha.

Chazal (Shabbos 133) teach us that we have an obligation of "mah hu... af atah," of imitation Dei, of imitating G-d's behavior.  Just like G-d is rachum, we should show rachamanus; just like G-d visits the sick, buries the dead, etc. so should we do the same.  R' Yitzchak Isaac Sher in his Sichos Mussar (vol 1 p 62) quotes a klal gadol from the Alter of Slabodka that extends this principle even further: just as Hashem created gan eden for Adam haRishon, so too each one of us is obligated to create a gan eden for ourselves and our fellow man.  

That's a pretty tall order.  It's hard enough to make the world even a little better place; how can we even dream of making it into a paradise?  I don't have millions of dollars to build you a mansion, buy you a Ferrari, take care of your needs in luxury -- so how can I make a gan eden for you?

That's the mistake we all make -- we think gan eden is about luxury, about having more expensive "things," with no work to do and no other needs to take care of.  That's not gan eden -- there are people who have all that and who have a miserable life.  What made gan eden into gan eden is the fact that adam ha'rishon knew that everything that was created there was done for his sake -- because Hashem cared for him.  What people want more than anything else is to be cared for.  When Avraham Avinu opened his home to wayfarers in the desert it was gan eden!  Avraham did not necessarily have the most luxurious tent, but Avraham had a home where no matter who you were, you felt welcomed and cared for.  You can make someone a simple cup of coffee, but if you do it in the right way, if you do it as an expression of love, then in that moment you've given that person gan eden.

Let's move to the end of the parsha.  We read there how the bnei Elokim took the bnos ha'adam against their will, how licentiousness and debasement took hold in society.  Hashem decided that if things do not change, he will bring a mabul.  There was, however, one silver lining, and this is how the parsha ends, "u'Noach matzah chein b'einei Hashem."

The Berdichiver in Kedushas Levi says a tremendous yesod.  Let's say there is going to be a wild new year's eve party going on all night.  So you say to yourself, "Aha!  That's the yetzer ha'ra's party -- no way am I going."  You met the enemy -- the yetzer ha'ra -- and vanquished him.  Great job. 

But there is something even better you can do.  You can see that excitement of the party, the "hisla'havus" to stay up all night, and say to yourself, "Aha!  Now I know what I should be doing on Shavuos night."  When the tzadik sees wrongdoing, says the Berdichiver, he takes a lesson from it for avodas Hashem.  The wrong behavior becomes a force that can be redirected for good.

The bnei Elokim were immersed in their ta'avos for beauty, for "chein."  They found it in al the wrong places.  Noach took that same ta'avah, that same desire, that same love of "chein," and instead of simply quashing it, he redirected it.  "Noach matzah chein b'einei Hashem" -- Noach found his "chein" in avodas Hashem.  


  1. "adam ha'rishon knew that everything that was created there was done for his sake"

    [knew that] almost everything. when looking for a helpmate while naming the animals, adam should have had the hava amina, opposite the nachash, that it was a (candidate) partner [after all, a speaking biped]; at this evanescent oversight the nachash took offense [on behalf of Hashem!], plotting perek 2 subterfuge from that moment on...

    Noach takes note: just as Hashem can take care, even in passing, to keep up our hopes for every comfort, so His servant will never overlook the least possibility to do avoda in return, to act like the bnei Elokim who never miss a chance for seizing their pleasure and having their way; he, Noach ben Lemech, would become so familiar with every (positive*) mitzvah that he'd seize it leimore: 'etzem mei'at'tza'mi u'basar meeb'saree!' [providing thus a model for future bnei Elokim, am Yisrael]

    *as for negative mitzvot, Noach (may have) had this further bond to gan eden: just as 9:1-3 is an updated version of 1:28, so 9:4 is a version of 2:17, but without any mention of schar or onesh-- did Noach and clan have a unique opportunity, through obedience to 9:4, to recover the (implied) immortality that Adam and Chava lost?? [alas, mos ta'moos remains the order of the day]

    1. "What made gan eden into gan eden is the fact that adam ha'rishon knew that everything that was created there was done for his sake"

      vs man of Bereishis perek 1 who, although Rabbi Akiva declares him beloved as of 1:27 (Avos 3:18), is really no more than the most cunning (aw'rume) of creatures at that point: he is the product of a Hands-off Creator (Who makes the world only by commands, by remote control); thus Shabbos marks, at final say, the cessation of His labor rather than the completion of His work (2:3), for He will resume work, recreating the world in one day/one utterance (realizing the very possibility considered in Avos 5:1)-- gan eden will express d'moos (feminine) Elokim, man penetrated/cared for inwardly; d'moos from 1:26 that was left undone at 1:27-- why? because Elokim realized, after 1:25, that He would need to recreate man Hands-on* to fully Care for him, now that He Himself had named the animals! man at his worst could only fail to subdue** the less cunning creatures (1:28), while man, once it was he who named the animals*** (2:19-20), could cause their very extinction {or their corruption, as before the mabul}; Hashem-Elokim cared enough for adam ha'rishon to make the latter's actions really count****

      *thus the Shabbos of Devarim 5:15 relies on a strong hand

      **what in the world could it mean, at the time of pesukim 1:26,28, for man to subdue fish or birds? maybe we've a clue from Rachbah on B.K. 55a, who imagines a fish [or, let us say, a tethered flock of birds] pulling a wagon along a riverbank

      ***even unto the underappreciated 'nachash', if we would indulge the comment above

      ****adam at 5:3 [5:1 told(o)s = 2:4 toldos] begets beed'mooso k'tzalmo-- first his offspring is endowed with the capacity for reaching into reality's core, and then externally he exercises that capacity [first the child under his father's care acquires Torah, to later execute with halachic 'cunning' that which was learned]