Friday, April 6, 2012

Redemption: Eating of the Tree of Life!

Parashas Bereishit: Shem and the Tree of Life

In this week’s Torah Portion, we are introduced to the Creation of the World and the story of the beginning of Mankind. As many are aware of Adam and Eve and of their eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil while abstaining from the Tree of Life, few realize that the product of their disaster in sin led to the great task of Mankind: “The Rectification of Adam.” The Torah is then the guide of Man to find his way back to the Garden of Eden and eat of the Tree of Life, as it is said in the Torah itself, “He stationed at the East of the Garden of Eden the Cherubim and the flame of the ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” Thus the point of rectification is ultimately in total repair and the return to a “Garden of Eden Status” on Earth, of which Hashem has personally instituted a system of guardianship over the challenge placed upon Adam’s descendents who are charged with this mission. Once the Torah is given, this will become the prime directive of civilization – to Repair the damage done by Adam, of which will be fulfilled by Noahides and Jews, working together within Torah to bring Creation to the status of what Hashem calls, “Very Good.” ; Evil then returns to Good and Peace prevails over all. This is how Hashem saw the 6000 years of Creation, as the Torah says, “and Behold, it was Very Good” in reference to evil’s return to within Good, constituting the ultimate Good that Hashem had in mind upon Creation. Throughout many thousands of years, the World has seen plenty of Righteous Men tread the soil of Earth. The Torah gives account from Adam’s repentance to Noah’s Greatness leading to Sinai and Moses until Joshua will end the Chumash (5 Books of Moses) and lead Israel into the Holy Land. From there and beyond Mankind will witness its share of the Righteous along with the Wicked, in the attempt to repair all that went haywire from Adam’s eating of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As we all know, death is part of the equation of being Human, and this was the most direct and severe punishment delivered to Adam after he sinned. The Talmud teaches, that though Man must die, there are those who were so totally righteous that the taste of sin they did not taste. (This should not pose as a contradiction to King Solomon’s dictum of, “there is none so holy who knows not of Sin” as he states in Koheles) The Talmud clarifies that though sin they did not endure directly, all those who do not erase the contamination of the Sin of Adam and Eve in association with the Serpent, is considered upon them as though they were directly involved with sin directly. (Here we see why this poses no threat to King Solomon and his eternal Wisdom) There is yet another level of Man in contrast to “those who never tasted sin” and this is, “those that never tasted Death!” As the Midrash states there are [at least] nine souls who never tasted Death, among them are Elijah, Serach bas Asher, etc. What many are utterly astonished to find out is that there are a few, enormous exclusions from the general list that people are regularly acquainted with. It is not often said that among them is Jeremiah the Prophet, and more directly involving Noahide past directly is Shem the son of Noah! There is an ancient Midrash of which its author is unknown, that speaks of Shem having ascended directly to the Garden of Eden and ate from the Tree of Life. This Midrash that is simply known as, “The Wondrous Midrash”, states the following, “Shem ben Noach went up within the power of names to the Garden of Eden and ate there from the Tree of Life. From there he went to the desert and stood there for ‘many years’…until King Solomon came and prayed for Shem…thus he died the way of all mankind, while King Solomon brought Shem to the Holy Land and buried him there. And still there is to consider [the nature of ‘death’] as the Rabbis have stated, ‘Shem is alive forever.” This Rabbinical statement that “Shem lives” would be in support of the notion of the Four Craftsmen spoken of in Talmud Sukkah (in relation to the Prophecy of Zechariah), stating that the four Men of Redemption are: Messiah son of David, Messiah son Joseph, Elijah, and The Righteous Priest – Shem ben Noach. The simple answer to why Shem would take part in the End of Days, is simply that he ate from the Tree of Life, and to take it one step further, Shem would be ideal in the repair of Adam in that he ate from what Adam was supposed to eat from – The Tree of Life. Not only does Shem belong in the Divine Mission of Torah, but he proves that Jews and Noahides work together in the efforts to bring back the level of the Garden of Eden to Earth, which is synonymous with the Third Temple, The Coming of the Messiah (as mentioned with the Four Craftsmen), and the overall mission of the Four Craftsmen. In short, Shem is one of the men listed by the Midrash as those who entered the Garden of Eden during their lifetime, and even more specifically, he is related to the repair of Adam and his sin, for Shem ate from the Tree of Life, the same Tree that is guarded by Hashem’s Cherubim. The Gematria (Numerical value) of Torah is 611 and this is the same as “תיקון אדם” / “Rectification of Adam.” If Adam was the template of the nature of Man, then we can point to the Torah as the guide in the perfection of Man. And as we have seen, some men did not outright sin, while others did not die, yet both were afflicted by the death decree imposed upon Adam and subsequently Mankind. Shem has the unique status of having eaten from the Tree that would have been the salvation of Mankind, as the same would have been for Adam had he risen to his challenge and eaten from the Tree of Life, thereby entering into what would have been the Great Shabbat. The Torah demands a lot from Man, yet if the task were too tall, Man would not feel the need to attempt to fulfill its demands. We then have the opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of all of the Righteous who have served Hashem with upright heart, and even others who either did not sin or die. Yet their achievements all express the Human nature of fallibility in them, that they suffered the stain of Adam. Shem is no different, as the Midrash clearly says that he died, yet he holds special distinctions of: Living on, having full merit in the Redemption, and representing success where Adam and all others came up short – the tasting of Life. Torah literature may be quick to point to Shem’s flaws, as the axiom says, “the Righteous are judged harsher than the rest of Mankind,” after all, Moses was not even allowed to taste the Holy Land! But Shem will forever be a reminder to us, that the biggest dreams are possible, to the extent that yes, Adam’s sin can and will be rectified. Shem and his Torah are the authentic reminder to us that Torah is the same Gematria as the Rectification of Adam – something Shem lived personally, even if he had to die over it, for the very blemish of simply being Human; a condition that will be uprooted in the Days of the Messiah, when all of Mankind who lives to see it, will merit eating of the Tree of Life. With so many focused on pointing out the flaws of those who lived before us, this Midrash points to the unique praise of Shem, and to quote the Midrash, “Shem Lives on”, [for having found his way to the Garden of Eden.]

Rabbi Katz -

May we see Novelty this Passover  - a 5772 to remember!


Anonymous said...

Blessed be the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Keeper of Truth, and the Revealer of Secret Things of HaKadosh Boruch Hu.

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