Friday, October 09, 2015

"Where are you?"

The few words which parashat Bereshith employs to describe creation overwhelmingly succeed in describing the majesty and perfect beauty of the world G-d created. In six days everything is in place and on the seventh G-d infuses His world with holiness. The repeating phrase, "Let there be..." (in Hebrew, yehi), doesn't describe a process of creation. "Let there be..." tells us that every aspect of creation is informed with Divine purpose. There is no happenstance. In spite of the seemingly infinite multitude contained in creation, every created thing is accounted for. Every created thing serves a purpose in G-d's plan.

The final touch to G-d's creation, His final master stroke, is the creation of man. Man becomes woman and man, and they are placed in a perfected, seamless, blemish free environment: Gan Eden - literally, a Garden of Eden! The happily ever after part of the story, however, is short lived: the snake, the temptation, the grievous error - we all know the story. But what exactly happened? Or more importantly, how and why did it happen?

No sooner than man and woman are standing side by side, we are told, "Now they were both naked, the man and his wife, but they were not ashamed. Now the serpent was cunning, more than all the beasts of the field that HaShem G-d had made... " (Genesis 2:25-3:1) In Hebrew the word for naked, arome, (in this case, plural, aromim), is identical in spelling and pronunciation to the word which describes the serpent, arome - cunning. Leaving the multiple meaning aside for the moment, in the Hebrew scripture it becomes clear that whatever the man and woman were - arome - the serpent was even more arome. Man and woman were at a disadvantage.

Arome means uncovered - naked. Within man's most inner being G-d left an infinitesimally small part uncovered - outside, as it were, of G-d'screation, looking in. This miniscule disconnect from G-d's presence is the seat of man's insecurity, his doubt, his need to question, therefore his susceptibility to temptation, to err, to choose bad and not good. This G-dimplanted vulnerability was no match for the serpent whose being was"most cunning," that is, more lacking a conscious knowledge of G-d'spresence, and therefore more apt to stray.

G-d planted this "flaw" within man for a purpose, and that is for man to learn to choose good, to acknowledge G-d's sovereignty and to perfect G-d's world. In this way G-d makes man a partner in creation. Still, it seems remarkable that the first man and women were so unaware of the beauty and grandeur of their surroundings that they could so easily fall prey to so fatal a temptation. The story degenerates into a blame her, blame him comedy of broken telephone. The serpent approached the women, who after all, had never heard the original G-d given commandment to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, but only from man. Nevertheless, she corrected the serpent, who intentionally twisted G-d's words. When G-d questions the man after the fact, man places the blame on G-d, saying, "The woman whom You gave to be with me she gave me of the tree; so I ate." (ibid 3:12) Rejecting responsibility for one's own actions is most certainly the end result of succumbing to temptation and the most blatant expression of negating G-d'ssovereignty. For G-d it was the last straw. Man and woman - Adam and Eve - were sent from Eden to a place of "thistles and thorns." (ibid 3:18) In any case, the story of the serpent in the garden is a story of a very corrupted chain of command. Whatever man's alibi, in the end he was taking orders from a snake.

Forty eight years ago, by virtue of blood, sweat, tears and Divine intervention, Israel found itself placed back on hallowed grounds - the Temple Mount, the place of the Holy Temple, and as our sages teach us, the very place of the Garden of Eden - the very place where man and woman's ensnarement by the serpent took place. The place of the Temple altar, we are told, is the place where the Tree of Knowledge stood, and the place of the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant and its golden Cherubim rest, is the place of the Tree of Life. But what is the Temple Mount today: a Garden of Eden filled with G-d's light, or a place of "thistles and thorns," a hostile, cruel and deadly arena?

We have been blessed with the historic opportunity, nay, responsibility, to do true teshuvah and to correct, at long last, man and woman's error - to right the wrong and to bring G-d's light back to the place where He first placed man. But whose voice are we hearing and whose command are we heeding? Are we hearing G-d's command, "They shall build for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them," (Exodus 25:8) or are we following an inverted chain of command in which the serpent makes the rules?

Israel has a choice, every bit as profound as the choice first man had, and every bit as clear, concerning its potential ramifications should we make the wrong choice. The Temple Mount is literally a place of thorns today, as anyone who ascends the Mount can easily see. How telling it is that the Hebrew word for thorn, dardar, is also the word meaning to descend precipitously - lehitdardar! There are a multitude of snakes today telling us openly and brazenly to defy G-d's command. Take your pick: the King of Jordan, Ban Ki-moon of the UN, President Obama, Ayatollah Khamenei, the anointed Beaurocrats of the European Union, John Kerry, the list goes on. They all have the same message: "You will surely not die. For G-d knows that on the day that you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like angels... " (Genesis 2:4) They are all telling us to reject the Divine promise of the Temple Mount, the very same ever-so-cunning message of the snake.

"Where are you?" (ibid 2:9) G-d called to man when He saw him hiding from responsibility. "Where are we?" we must ask ourselves today. Are we in a place of "thistles and thorns," a place of death and devastation, a place that the world is calling us to be? Or are we in the place of the Holy Temple, the place where G-d is calling us to be? The choice seems easy. Will we make it?

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