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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

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Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

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John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

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April 14, 2014

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Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

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April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

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Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

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April 2, 2014

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Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2005 /11 Shevat, 5765

Serpents of desire: History's First Question: Where Are You?

By Rabbi David Fohrman

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The twelth   —   and final   —   installment of a weekly series examining themes in the Creation story, with the goal of revealing progressively deeper layers of meaning in what too many dismiss as myth. Links to the previous lessons can be found at the end of the article.

G-d willing, the next series, on Cain and Able, will begin in a few weeks.

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "Where are you?", G-d calls out to Adam, after he has eaten the Forbidden Fruit. We asked earlier why the Almighty would ask a question whose answer He already knows. Its time to revisit that issue.

As it turns out, there are two words for "where" in Biblical Hebrew. The more common one is "eiphoh"   —  but that's not the word the Almighty uses when querying after Adam. He instead invokes the less common word for "where"   —   "ayeh".

Is there a difference in meaning between these two words   —   and if so, how would one figure out what that difference is? The way to solve such a mystery is not to look at a dictionary   —   after all, how did the writers of the dictionary figure it out?   —   but to look at a concordance, a book that lists every occurrence of every word used in the Bible. If you can trace when and in what contexts the Bible uses the words ayeh and eiphoh, then it becomes possible to connect the dots, and to understand the unique meaning of each word.

Since I'm in an especially benevolent mood just now, I'll spare you the work of hauling out your concordance. Instead, I'll give you a couple of examples of where each word appears in Biblical literature, and let you draw your conclusions.

Here are a few representative samples of eiphoh and ayeh:

1.       Some examples of "eiphoh":

a.    Hagidah na li eiphoh hem ro'im? — Tell me please, where are they shepherding? (Joseph, regarding his brothers whereabouts, in Genesis 37:16).

b.    Eiphoh likatit hayom? — "Where did you gather grain today?" (Naomi to Ruth, in Ruth 19:2).

c.    Eiphoh Shmuel V'David?   —   "Where are Samuel and David?" (King Saul, searching for his nemesis, David, in I Samuel 19:22).

1.       Some examples of "ayeh":

a.    Vayigva adam y'ayamot, v'ayeh? — "A man dies and then where is he?" (Job 14:10).

b.    Hineh ha'esh...v'ayeh haseh l'olah? — "Here's the fire, but where is the lamb for the offering?" (Isaac to Abraham, ascending the mountain on the way to the Binding of Isaac; Genesis 22:7).

c.    Ayeh na Eloheihem   —   "Where are their gods?" (With reference to idols, Psalms 115:2).

d.     L'Imosam yomru ayeh dagan veyayim   —   To their mothers, [starving children] will say: where is the grain and wine? (Lamentations, 2:12).

Well, what do you make of it? I'd encourage you to take a minute or two to see if you can isolate a common denominator in each series of quotes.

OK, time's up. Did you find one? ...ready or not, here's my take on it:

I would submit that eiphoh is a more generic kind of "where". That is, eiphoh is generally a straightforward request for location. Joseph, for example, simply wants to know where to find his brothers. Naomi wants to know where Ruth has been that day, and Saul is looking to figure out where in the world David is.

Now let's look at "ayeh". For the most part, when this word is used, I think the questioner is generally not all that interested in finding the location of the thing he is asking about. By way of example: "Where is the grain", the starving children wonder. The children know there isn't any grain   —   if there was, their mothers would have given it to them long ago. Instead, they are exclaiming in agony: what happened to the grain and wine [we used to have]? The children are not asking where, in fact, the grain is located; rather, they are crying out in anguish over the bald reality that it is not here.

Similarly: Where is the lamb for the offering, Isaac asks his father on the way up the mountain. Isaac's point is not that he can't find the lamb. His point is that there is no lamb to be found; there should be one here, but there's not. Because ayeh has this meaning, this remark by Isaac packs great emotional punch: It is here that Isaac begins to realize the terrifying truth   —  that there is no ram here after all, and that maybe, therefore, he is the ram. In sum, when one asks ayeh, his point is not to find out where something is, but to express wonder that the thing it is not here, where one would have expected it to be...

This dramatically changes the meaning of G-d's question to Adam. The Almighty was not asking "where are you", a simple request for location. Instead he was asking "where have you gone?"   —   why are you not here? As the sages of the Midrash put it:

Where are you? (Genesis, 3:9)

Yesterday, you were with [Me and] my daas. And now, you are with the daas of the snake... (Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 19:9)

Ayeh is the kind of question you can ask even when you know where something really is. It's a sadder and more mournful word than eifoh. In a strange coincidence, ayekah is spelled with precisely the same Hebrew letters [aleph, yud, kaf, hei] as eichah, the cardinal Hebrew word for "lament".

"Eichah... Look how she sits in solitude..." (Lamentations 1:1), Jeremiah cries, looking upon a destroyed Jerusalem, pining for the bustling crowds who are no longer here, who have been exiled to Babylonia. Adam and Eve, too, have been exiled. And perhaps, like Jeremiah's eichah, G-d's outcry ayekah, is less a question than a lament   —   a lament at the gulf that now exists between man and his Creator:

I brought Adam into the Garden of Eden and commanded him.
He transgressed My commands.
I decreed exile upon him.
And [upon his departure], I lamented "eichah / ayekah" ["where have you gone..."].

And so it was with his children.
I brought them into the Land of Israel and commanded them.
They transgressed My commands.
I decreed exile upon them.
And [upon their departure], I [once again] lamented "eichah / ayekah" ["where have you gone..."]
(Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 19:9).

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden ends with two final acts.

  • The Almighty fashions clothes from animal skins for Adam and Eve, to replace the more primitive coverings they had made out of leaves.

  • After sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden "lest they eat from the Tree of Life", G-d stations angels   —   cherubs   —   with flaming swords at the entrance to Eden to guard the way back to the Tree of Life.

In a strange but poignant way, these two events, I think, are closely tied to one another.

We noticed earlier that cherubs make an appearance just twice in the entire Five Books of Moses. The only other time these angels appear is when their likeness adorns the top of the Holy Ark in the Tabernacle, where they guard the Tablets of the Law. Aptly, the Book of Proverbs describes these tablets, or the Torah they represent, as another Tree of Life   —   a tree of life to all who grab hold of it (see Proverbs 3:18). Evidently, the same cherubs who keep us away from one Tree of Life grant us access to another one. Weeks ago, we asked why. And we wondered in what sense the Torah can be seen as a "replacement" Tree of Life.

The answer to these questions should by now be evident. After attaining the knowledge of good and evil, mankind became more godly   —   more passionate, more desirous, more insistently creative. But we were only half-gods. To truly be godly means not just to be passionate, possessed of will, as G-d is. It means not just to create, as G-d creates   —   but to wisely wield the fearsome power of creation. It means to fully control this power; not to be controlled by it. It means keeping passion in balance; realizing that there is a time to create, and a time to desist from creating.

After eating from the Tree of Knowledge, after boosting the role of passion in our lives, living eternally was no longer what the doctor ordered for humankind. A new and different Tree of Life was called for   —   one that could help restore balance, harmony, in the psyche of man. The new Tree of Life was designed to help man cope with a new world   —   a world in which passion can cloud the mind's eye, obscuring that which is genuinely right and that which is genuinely wrong. The angels that bar man access from one tree of life do indeed grant him access to another one. The Torah is a guide to G-d's Will, a tool that can help man distinguish the impulses of his own creativity from the deeply held convictions of his Creator. In consuming the fruit of this replacement Tree of Life, in assimilating the viewpoint of the Torah, man would attain a steering wheel to match his engine, making himself into a fully godly being.

Now take a moment, if you will, and contemplate what happened here. Even as G-d banished us from Eden, even in that moment when we seemed most rejected, most cast away   —   still, He bequeathed to us the tools we would need to make it in the new world of our own making....

And now let's talk about G-d's second act: The making of clothes for Adam and Eve. In the world that G-d envisioned for man, there would have been no need for clothes; they would have been a superfluity. It was not G-d's choice that man live in a world where nakedness was something to be feared or avoided. Nevertheless, in this moment of profound disappointment, the Almighty provides Adam and Eve with clothes, giving them the wherewithal to "make it" in this journey of their own choosing.

The Sages of the Midrash tell us that the Torah begins with an act of kindness, and it ends with an act of kindness. The kindness it begins with is G-d's providing clothing for Adam and Eve. The kindness it ends with, the rabbis write, is G-d's act of burying Moses just after he died atop Mt. Nebo, having gazed at the Promised Land but never having set foot there.

In both cases, things had not turned out the way the Master of the Universe might have "wished". Adam and Eve disappointed G-d by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, and as a result were kept out of Eden, consigned to die on "foreign soil". Moses disappointed G-d by striking the rock, and as a result was kept out of the Promised Land, consigned to die in the barren desert. In both instances, men had chosen their own path rather than that of their Creator. And in the wake of both events, men would leave behind the world G-d had set aside for them for other, unknown shores.

G-d's reaction in both cases is the same. In burying Moses in the earth when no one else was present to do so, He personally provided Moses the means of transition from this world to another one   —   a transition which, had G-d had His way, would not have happened yet. And in providing appropriate clothes for Adam and Eve, He provided them with a means of transition from G-d's world, from Eden, to a world in which man had chosen on his own. Had G-d had His way, this transition would not have happened yet either.

The stark reality is that beings who possess free will don't always hew to the hopes and expectations of their creators. If this is so for us vis a vis G-d, it is no less so for our own children vis a vis us. If we walk away with anything from this study of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, perhaps we can take this with us: When our children disappoint us, when they make choices we don't approve of; when they exchange the world we have carefully crafted for them for a dubious world of their own making   —perhaps we too, after all the consequences have been meted out, after all the words have been said, after all the anguish has been absorbed   —   perhaps we too, can provide them with clothes for the journey.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspirational articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

If you've enjoyed these articles, you'll love Rabbi Fohrman's analysis of Biblical stories on tapes and CD. For a limited time, save over $100 when you purchase the full library of tapes from http://www.jewishexplorations.com. Individual lectures sets are also available.

JWR contributor Rabbi David Fohrman directs the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies, and is an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches Biblical Themes. He has also authored several volumes of the ArtScroll Talmud.

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Friedrich Nietzsche and the Disc Jockey
It's All in the I of the Beholder
A Dark and Rainy Night in Manhattan
A World of Broccoli and Pizza
Beauty and the Beast
What's in it for the Snake?
The naked Truth
The dark side of paradise
A Tale of Two Trees
Adam, Eve, and the Elephant in the Room
Serpents of desire: Good and evil in the Garden of Eden

© 2004, Rabbi David Fohrman