Gan Eden -  גַּן עֵדֶן

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


Introduction. 1

Eternal Life. 2

The Garden of Time. 5

In The Temple. 6

Iinteresting Connections: 7

In The Synagogue. 8

Connecting Worlds. 9

Machpelah (מערת המכפלה) 10

Entrance to Gan Eden. 10

First In Creation, First In Importance. 11

 

 

Introduction

 

Adam and Eve were created and then placed in the Garden of Eden -  גַּן עֵדֶן. They lived in Eden until they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I believe the scriptures indicate that the righteous will, one day, return to the Garden of Eden.

 

We will literally go “back to the future”.

 

Solomon said:

 

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

 

This prophetic statement seems to indicate that, in the end, righteous men will return to Eden to walk with HaShem. This coincides with the statement of Sefer Yetzirah, “the end is enwedged in the beginning.”

 

Sefer Yitzirah 3:1 Ten Sefirot out of nothing. Stop your mouth from speaking, stop your heart from thinking, and if your heart runs (to think) return to a place of which it is said “they ran and returned”; and concerning this thing the covenant was made; and they are ten in extent beyond limit. Their end is infused with their beginning, and their beginning with their end like a flame attached to a glowing ember. Know, think [reflect, meditate] and imagine that the Creator is One and there is nothing apart from Him, and before One what do you count?

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

 

We will be looking at the proofs of this position and some of the ramifications of this position.

 

The word ‘Eden’ is defined by Strong’s dictionary as:

5731 ‘Eden, ay’-den; the same as 5730 (masc.); Eden, the region of Adam’s home:-Eden.

--------------- Dictionary Trace ---------------

5730 ‘eden, ay’-den; or (fem.) ^ `ednah, ed-naw’; from 5727; pleasure:- delicate, delight, pleasure. See also 1040.

 

The first use of a Hebrew word in the Torah is the place where that concept is created. The first time the word Eden is used in the Torah, is in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 2:8-10 Now HaShem God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And HaShem God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.

 

From this passage we learn that the garden was planted by HaShem in Eden. The implications are that Eden is bigger than the garden. We also see that HaShem’s place for man was Eden. That was the place He put them first. The garden was watered by a river which flowed from Eden. The Talmud indicates that all of the water in the world originated in Eden[1]. I believe that this earthly Eden is a copy of the heavenly Eden even as the Tabernacle was a copy of the heavenly tabernacle.

 

Eden is a very mysterious place: [2]

 

Daniel 2:21-22 He changes the times and appointed moments... He reveals the deep and mysterious things...

 

Bereshit Rabba 1:6 mysterious things... this means Gan Eden.

 

Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) 6:11 I went down to the garden of nuts...

 

Why did the Holy One call Can Eden ‘‘the garden of nuts”?

 

Midrash haNe’elam, Bereshit Just as the nut has one shell within the other with the core in the center, so too is Eden: there is world within world, and it is the core.

 

Eternal Life

 

The Tree of Life, in the middle of the garden, is more than just an ordinary tree. HaShem said that the one who eats from this tree will live forever:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 3:22 And HaShem God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

 

HaShem wanted to prevent fallen man from eating from this tree, so He put a special guard at the tree:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 3:24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

Our Sages understand that the cherubim protect the tree so that we can eat of it at the proper time.

 

The Midrash Rabbah also indicates that the Tree of Life is Torah:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Vayikra (Leviticus) IX:3 Another interpretation [of the verse hitherto rendered]: ‘And to him who setteth aright (we-sam) the way will I show the salvation of God.’ R. Jannai said: It is spelt [so as to be capable of being read] we-sham, [thus making the passage mean], one who calculates (shayyem) his way will prosper greatly. There is a story that R. Jannai when once walking in the road, saw a man of exceeding effusiveness[3] who said to him: ‘Would you, Rabbi, care to accept my hospitality?’ R. Jannai answered: ‘Yes,’ whereupon he brought him to his house and entertained him with food and drink. He tested him in [the knowledge of] Talmud,[4] and found [that he possessed] none, in Haggadah, and found none, in Mishnah, and found none, in Scripture, and found none. Then he said to him: ‘ Take up [the wine cup of benediction] and recite Grace.’ The man answered: ‘ Let Jannai recite Grace in his own house! ‘‘ Said the Rabbi to him: ‘ Are you able to repeat what I say to you? ‘ ‘Yes,’ answered the man. Said R. Jannai: ‘ Say: A dog has eaten of Jannai’s bread.’[5] The man rose and caught hold of him, saying: ‘ You have my inheritance, which you are withholding from me!’ Said R. Jannai to him: ‘And what is this inheritance of yours which I have? ‘ The man answered: ‘Once I passed a school, and I heard the voice of the youngsters saying: The Law which Moses commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov (Deut. XXXIII, 4); it is written not ‘The inheritance of the congregation of Jannai’, but ‘The inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov’.[6] Said R. Jannai to the man: ‘How have you merited to eat at table with me?’ The man answered: ‘Never in my life have I, after hearing evil talk,[7] repeated it to the person spoken of, nor have I ever seen two persons quarrelling without making peace between them.’ Said R. Jannai: ‘That I should have called you dog, when you possess such good breeding (derek-erez)!’ [8] He applied to him the passage: ‘And as for him who sham the way, him will I show great prosperity’ [meaning]: ‘He who calculates his way, will prosper greatly.’ For R. Shmuel (Samuel) b. Nahman said: [The duty of] derek-erez preceded the Torah by twenty-six generations.[9] This is [implied in] what is written, To keep the way to the tree of life (Gen. III, 24). [First Scripture mentions] the way (derek) which means derek-eretz, and afterwards [does it mention] ‘ The tree of life’, which means the Torah.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Devarim (Deuteronomy) I:1 DEBARIM 1. THESE ARE THE WORDS. Halachah[10]: Is it permissible for a Jew to write a Scroll of the Law in any language, etc.? The Wise have learnt thus[11]: The difference between [sacred] books and phylacteries and mezuzoth is only that [sacred] books may be written in any language. R. Gamaliel says: With books too [the only other language] in which they permitted them to be written is Greek. And what is R. Gamaliel’s reason for saying that a Scroll of the Law may be written in Greek? Our Rabbis have taught thus: Bar Kappara, interpreting the verse, God enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen. IX, 27), said: This indicates that the words of Shem may be rendered in the languages of Japheth[12]; therefore have [the Rabbis] permitted [sacred books] to be written in Greek. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘See how beloved is the language of the Torah; it is healing for the tongue.’[13] Whence do we know this? For so Scripture says: A soothing [lit. ‘healing’] tongue is a tree of life (Prov. XV, 4); and ‘tree of life‘ is but another term for Torah, as it is written, She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her (Prov. III, 18). That the language of the Torah lends fluency to the tongue you can learn from the fact that in the time to come God will bring from the Garden of Eden excellent trees. And wherein consists their excellence-In that they are soothing to the tongue. As it is said, And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow

 

One day the righteous will have the right to eat from this tree:

 

Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

Paradise is the English transliteration of the Greek “paradiso”, which is how the Septuagint translates the “Garden of Eden”. So, Revelation 2:7 indicates that we will one day be able to eat from the tree of life in the Garden of Eden! We find later on, in the book of Revelation, that the tree of life is in the new Jerusalem:

 

Revelation 21:1 - 22:5 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, The fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb Down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

 

We have now traveled full circle back to the tree of life and the river which are in the Garden of Eden. Remember that the river provided our only link with Eden after we were evicted for sinning. This connection provides the reason for the mikveh (baptism). It is also noteworthy to notice that the meaning of the “Jordan” river is: “that which descends from Eden or the Judge“. “What has been before will be again, there is nothing new under the sun”. The ideal that HaShem created for man has been preserved for the day that we can enter without sin.

 

The flood, in Noah’s day removed all traces of the rivers associated with Eden, in Bereshit (Genesis). There is no reason to believe that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are the same as the post diluvian rivers by those same names. This, I believe, ended the existence of the earthly garden of Eden. This would account for the fact that we can not find it, or the cherubim, today.

 

The Garden of Time[14]

 

Psikta Rabbasl, 23:1 As the Holy One created Adam haRishon, He first left him still unformed, stretching from one end of the world to the other. And the Holy One passed before him each generation and its righteous, each genera­tion and its wicked, each generation and its ex­pounders, each generation and its leaders...

 

Gan Eden was a womb for the world, determining the essence and potential of each thing yet to exist, but it was also much more. It was a true garden: a garden of eden—a garden of time. A botanical garden gathers to one site all manner of flora, a zoological garden provides easy access to animals from widely different places, and a garden of time is a locus cultivating all times, displaying them before the eyes-to-be of Man. This Is why those who live in Gan Eden, such as Eliyahu haNavi,[15] have access to all times, appearing throughout the centuries at will.

 

What is even more startling, is that the display is open in both directions, allowing a connection of all existence to the garden in all times! In fact, the garden continues to perennially provide life through the portals of time:

 

Ta'anit 10a All the world drinks from the surplus of Can Eden…

 

This means that not only was the potential of all life and history assigned in Gan Eden, but there is an ongoing attachment of our lives to the womb which brought us life. We are not something apart from ma'aseh Bereshit, we exist only as direct expressions of the singular, original, act of Creation as it continues through what we see as our times: He renews every day, continuously, the act of Creation? The Garden of Time Is the environment within which all shattered time exists.

 

Even our experiences share some element of the primal experiences In the microcosm called Gan Eden, marking our lives with the freshness and import of the first day. Still today, we bless our own beginnings of love and life with the original!

 

What blessings are said [at a wedding]?

 

Ketuvot 8a ...Be happy, make happy, bebved friends, just as your Creator made you happy in Can Eden from before...

 

It Is fascinating that Chazal find the same Edenic character in the human womb, completing the correlation of garden to womb, and touching on an important pattern in the cycle of our lives...

 

In The Temple

 

Rabbi Chaim Volozhin[16]  teaches us that the Mishkan was a miniature model of reality-every element of creation was represented in it.[17] Given this idea, I propose that the tree of life was and will be planted where the Ark of the Covenant was and will be placed, in the Holy of Holies. Remember that the only thing in the Ark were the tablets of stone with the summation of Torah. These tablets represented the Torah which is the tree of life. Now, since we know that everlasting life is only found in Yeshua from:

 

I Yochanan (John) 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

 

There is yet one more connection between the Garden of Eden and the Temple mount. In this passage we will see HaSatan (the Satan) in both places:

 

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 28:12-15 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign HaShem says: “‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

 

We can see that Yeshua is the Living Torah and the tree of life! Both of these symbols accurately describe Yeshua. But wait, there is more! Notice:

 

Luqas (Luke) 23:39-43 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Mashiach? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Yeshua, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Yeshua answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

Wherever the earthly Garden of Eden (paradise) was, Yeshua and the thief went to the garden of Eden on the day of their death.

 

According to R. Isaac Nappaha the fact that the Temple was built on the site of the Akeida[18] is the basis of the saying that “whoever is buried in the land of Israel is as if he were buried beneath the altar”.[19] This, I believe, is where the saints are in:

 

Revelation 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

 

But, I digress. Paul indicates that the heavenly Garden of Eden (paradise) is “up”:

 

II Corinthians 12:2-4 I know a man in Mashiach who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not knowHaShem knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but HaShem knows-- Was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

 

If the heavenly garden of Eden is “up”, then it makes sense that it will come ‘down’ with the New Jerusalem. I believe that HaShem will show us the heavenly Garden of Eden (paradise) after He renews the earth at the end of the seventh millennium.

 

In this next passage we see Zion and its current wilderness as they will be transformed:

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 51:3 HaShem will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of HaShem. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

 

Since this has not yet happened, we can look forward to this day!

 

Eden was a sanctuary, without sin, where HaShem dwelt with men. This is a copy of the heavenly Eden.

 

After the fall, the Temple was the sanctuary, without sin, where HaShem dwelt with men.

 

The new Jerusalem, in Eden, will be a sanctuary, without sin, where HaShem will dwell with men, on earth.


 


The Garden of Eden                                      The New Jerusalem (heavenly Eden)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Planted eastward in Eden. Gen. 2:8                                       Planted in Abraham’s land. Gen 13:15

In the garden was the tree of life. Gen. 2:9                            The tree of life, bearing twelve crops. Rev. 22:2

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden. Gen.2:10 The river of the water of life. Rev 22:1

HaShem walked in the garden. Gen.3:8                                 the dwelling of God is with men. Rev 21:3

The ground is cursed. Gen. 3:17                                            No more curse. Rev. 22:3

He may not eat from the tree of Life. Gen. 3:22       They may eat of the tree of life. Rev. 22:14

Cherubim guard the tree of life. Gen. 3:24                            Cherubim guard the Ark. Exo.25:20, 1Ki.6:23

 


Iinteresting Connections[20]:

 

How was the world created? When HaShem created the world, He didn’t create it as a vast expanse of existence all at once. Rather, He created a single point, and from there, He drew out the entire universe. We know where that place, that first point, is. It’s about a mile from where I’m writing this. Behind the Kotel, the “Western Wall,” on a hill where now sits a Mosque, there is a stone. That stone is called the Even Shetia, literally the Foundation Stone. From that stone the entire Universe was drawn out. In other words, when HaShem created the world, there was a single point of contact between the world above and this world. The site of that stone was the place where HaShem tested Abraham by commanding him to bring up his son Isaac as a sacrifice; that stone is the site where Yaakov dreamed of a ladder connecting Heaven and Earth and angels going up and down on it. Around that stone stood the two Holy Temples. In the first Temple, the Holy Ark – with the Torah tablets - sat on top of that Foundation Stone, and around it was the Holy of Holies; around the Holy of Holies was the Sanctuary; around the Sanctuary was the Courtyard of the Temple; around that was Jerusalem; and around Jerusalem -- the universe. Thus the the tablets represent the Tee of Life, and the Garden of Eden was recreated in the Temple. And it is around that stone that we long to see the Third and final Temple inaugurated in the month of Cheshvan.

In The Synagogue

 

The rollers that hold a Torah scroll are known by Jews, as the “Tree of Life”. The tree of life is also known as Torah:

 

Mishlei (Proverbs) 3:13-20 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom (Torah), the man who gains understanding, For she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed. By wisdom HaShem laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; By his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.

 

We can now understand why the following is recited when the Torah scroll is returned to the ark:

 

“Return O HaShem, to the myriads of Israel’s families. Arise HaShem to Your resting place, You and Your mighty ark. Clothe Your priests with righteousness. May those who have experienced Your faithful love shout for joy. For the sake of Your servant David, don’t delay the return of Your Messiah.”

 

“I give you good instruction; do not forsake My Torah. A tree of life it is for those who take hold of it, and blessed are the ones who support it. It’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all it’s paths are peace. Long life is in it’s right hand, in it’s left are riches and honor. HaShem was pleased for the sake of His righteousness, to render the Torah great and glorious.”

 

This prayer clearly portrays the Torah as the “tree of life”. This tree is mentioned a couple of times in the book of Mishlei (Proverbs) as pertaining to Mashiach. This tree still exists!

 

We see Gan Eden recreated a third time when looking at the synagogue and it’s arrangement.

 

The following diagram depicts the synagogue AND it also depicts the Garden of Eden. The synagogue walls around Gan Eden. The Tebah, or Bimah for the Ashkenazi, is an elevated platform in the center of the synagogue, just as the Tree of Life was in the center of the garden, so also is the grasping and the reading of the Torah done in the center of the synagogue. The wooden rollers for a Tolrah scroll are called “the Tree of Life”. The book of Mishle (Proverbs) calls the Torah the Tree of Life.

 

Mishlei (Proverbs) 3:13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. 14  For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. 15  She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. 16  Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. 17  Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18  She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.

 


 

Here is the layout of the synagogue:

A = Hechal (the Permanent Ark) – storage for the Torah scroll.

 

B = Small Teba (Lectern) from where the Chazzan leads the services.

 

C = Seats for the Officers of the Congregation (most synagogues have the seating either horizontally with some inclination or vertically).

 

D = Seats for men who sit on the first floor and women in the second floor or atrium.

 

E = The greater Tebah, or Bimah, (raised platform) on which the Torah is read and the Hakham delivers his Sermon. Here is where we grasp the Tree of Life and read the Torah!

 

Behind the greater Tebah usually there are seats reserved for the Hakhamim and this seating is also known as the seat of Moshe.

 

 

 

Connecting Worlds

 

In Psalm 50, Mizmor L’Assaf, it says: “Out of Zion, consummation of beauty, HaShem appeared.” What does it mean that HaShem “appeared” in this world out of Zion? It means that there is a place called “Zion” that connects the world above to this world. Zion is the place of the foundation stone. They are one and the same -- the gateway to that which is beyond this world. The word “Zion” is an interesting word. It is related to the word “l’tzayein” -- meaning “to mark,” “to indicate,” “to show something.” When we say that the world was founded on that point called Zion, it means that the whole world stands on the principle that its very existence is to be “mitzayain” -- to indicate something.

 

When you found a nation, a club or a company, you make a declaration of its goals. When the American Colonies seceded, they drew up a “Declaration of Independence.” That was the foundation of the United States. The foundation of something necessarily includes the aspirations and the ultimate purpose of that which has been founded. In other words, when we say that the world is founded on the point called Zion, not only is Zion its point of departure -- the place from which it emanates and spreads out -- but it is also its purpose.

 

The purpose of Zion is to mark. To mark that there is something which protrudes above the vast trackless expanse of nothingness; to indicate that there is a world above this one.

 

As we said before, Zion is where the site of the Temple was revealed to Yaakov. How was the Holy Temple revealed to Yaakov? By a ladder. Nothing in the Torah is coincidental. What is the idea of a ladder? A ladder is that which connects one place to another. Yaakov’s ladder tells us that there is a place -- a place called Zion -- that reveals that there is a connection between the upper and the lower. The task of Zion is to stand with a finger pointing upward saying, “There is a higher world. And our very existence proves it.”

 

Machpelah (מערת המכפלה)

Entrance to Gan Eden

 

Me'arat HaMachpelaIf the center of the Garden contained the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as well as the Tree of Life, then the entrance to Gan Eden is the cave at Machpelah (in Hebron[21] - חֶבְרוֹן), as we can see from the Zohar:

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 57b God also decreed that he should die. Taking pity on him, however, God allowed him when he died to be buried near the Garden of Eden. For Adam had made a cave near the Garden, and had hidden himself there with his wife. He knew it was near the Garden, because he saw a faint ray of light enter it from there, and therefore he desired to be buried in it; and there he was buried, close to the gate of the Garden of Eden.

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 127a R. Judah said: ‘Abraham recognised the cave of Machpelah by a certain mark, and he had long set his mind and heart on it. For he had once entered that cave and seen Adam and Eve buried there. He knew that they were Adam and Eve because he saw the form of a man, and whilst he was gazing a door opened into the Garden of Eden, and he perceived the same form standing near it. Now, whoever looks at the form of Adam cannot escape death. For when a man is about to pass out of the world he catches sight of Adam and at that moment he dies. Abraham, however, did look at him, and saw his form and yet survived. He saw, moreover, a shining light that illumined the cave, and a lamp burning. Abraham then coveted that cave for his burial place, and his mind and heart were set upon it.

 

The Cave of the Patriarchs, Machpelah (literally the cave of doubling), contains the graves (Hebrew: kever[22]) of four couples (eight people), husbands and wifes who connected: Adam and Chava, Yitzchak and Rachel, Yaaqov and Leah. The term kever (which typically means grave), may also signify uterus or womb. From this we learn that a kever is a portal, or connection, to the higher world. We come through this portal when we are put in the womb and we go through this portal when we are put in the grave. Thus we learn that the kever at Machpelah is a portal to Gan Eden.

 

It is interesting to note that this was the first place in Israel acquired by Avraham. It represents the beginning of HaShem’s promise to give Avraham, and his descendants, the land of Israel. In the same way, Gan Eden is the utimate beginning, and we know that “all things go after the beginning”, as it is the most potent moment. All beginning starts from beyond! Our understanding commences only from after that beginning point and onwards. But that first point, the beginning of knowledge itself, is beyond, beyond our understanding, beyond our grasp. That first point is the basis of all understanding; without it we have nothing on which to build knowledge, but it itself cannot be understood. It is hidden. It is something that HaShem gives.

 

First In Creation, First In Importance[23]

 

Ta’anit 10a Eretz Yisrael[24] was created first and afterwards the rest of the world, as the passage states (Mishlei 8:26): “Before He made Eretz (land) and Chutzot (outlying areas).”

 

The term “Eretz” applies to Eretz Israel which was the main purpose of creation and therefore created first. All the other lands are considered secondary in importance as they were in the sequence of creation and are therefore referred to as “Chutzot.”

 

Even today we refer to the land we love simply as “Eretz” while the rest of the world is “Chutz”, outlying areas of secondary importance.

 

 

 

* * *

 

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 



[1] Bechorot 55a. See Malbim on Genesis 2:10.

[2] This section is an excerpt from: Patterns in Time, Vol.1 - Rosh Hashanah, by Matis Weinberg

[3] Meshuppa’, fr. shafa’ (to flow in abundance). Jast.: ‘ eloquent. ‘ But in view of the passive form, ‘well endowed (with blessings, qualities, good influences that have flowed in upon him).---M.K. renders: ‘ distinguished in dress, like a scholar, so that R. Jannai mistook him for one.

[4] In edd. the order of these grades of knowledge is--obviously wrongly- reversed.

[5] Probably in the sense of ‘ has eaten bread with Jannai ‘.

[6] So that it is wrong for any Israelite to be treated as one having no share in the Torah and called a dog, for every Israelite has a share therein, if only a potential one.

[7] Calumny, backbiting.

[8] A term difficult to render; it expressed what in English is understood by gentlemanly bearing and conduct, high-principled behaviour. v. Ab. III. 17 (Sonc. ed.), p. 40.

[9] Since the duty of derek-erez commenced with the very first man created, while the Torah was not given until Moses, twenty-six generations later.

[10] It is characteristic of this Midrash that every discourse in it begins with an halachic question introduced by the term Halachah: v. Introduction.

[11] M. Meg. 1, 8; v. Rabbinowitz, Mishnah Megillah, p. 60.

[12] Shem is the ancestor of Israel and Japheth of the Greeks (Jawan). Cf. Gen. X, 2and 21. Cf. Meg. 9b.

[13] It gives it fluency even where one normally stammers, as the Midrash proceeds to explain.

[14] This section is an excerpt from: Patterns in Time, Vol.1 - Rosh Hashanah, by Matis Weinberg.

[15] Elijah the Prophet

[16] A talmid of the Vilna Gaon.

[17] Nefesh HaChayim 1:4

[18] Zevachim62a

[19] Tosef., Av.Zar.3:3; ARN 26:41; S.Lieberman, ‘Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), p.163

 

[20] This excerpt is taken from: “Seasons Of The Moon” written by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair

[21] Hebron comes from the Hebrew root “chibbur”, which means connection.

[22] Kever is not only the Hebrew word for a grave, but it is also the word for a womb. A kever is literally a portal to and from another world.

[23] Ohr Somayach, Torah Weekly - Vayeshev 5758, Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair

[24] The land of Israel