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Video 18 of 50
So, let’s go and hear the actual language of the Midrashic text that talks about these strange fruit trees. Doresh Rabbi Norai, Rabbi Norai expounded the following. He said that as the Jews, as Israel crossed through the sea, haytah bat Yisrael overet bayam, ‘a daughter of Israel would be walking through the sea’, u’benah bayadah, ‘clutching her infant by her side’, u’bochah, ‘and the child would cry’. What would she do – poshet et yadah, ‘she would stretch out her hand’, u’notenet tapuach, ‘and she would take an apple’, mitoch hayam, ‘from the sea’, v’notenet lo, and ‘she would give it to him’. There’d be these apple trees, these pomegranate trees, lining the path between the water and the ocean. Shenemer, as it says and now the Midrash quotes a verse in psalms that discusses the crossing of the sea. Veyolichem batehomot, God led the Israelites through the depths, kamidbar, as if it were a dry desert. Now the Midrash talks about this comparison, this text made between the depths of the sea and a desert and says, a desert, what we know about a desert, for the rest of the forty years the Israelites were in desert. So, mah bamidbar, just as it was in the desert, lo chasru klum, we know that they weren’t really missing anything because God took care of their every need, there was the mannah, anything they needed was there, af patom ot lo chasru klum, that happened all the way back at the very beginning of the desert when they went through the sea, their very first journey into the desert.
As they went through the depths, it was the same thing, lo chasru klum, even there they weren’t missing anything. It was all just there for them. These fruit trees, was all laid out, whatever they wanted. You know in last video I kind of fastidiously gave you this example of main street and Disney land, it just seems almost like a concession stand. But that’s kind of how the Midrash portrays it, it’s just like Midrash goes out of its way, it’s just everything was there for them and the fruit trees are emblematic of that.
So what’s going on here? So I want to take you back to the last video which hopefully you just saw. In which we began to peel back one layer of understanding this Midrash. The Midrash seems to be eluding to the elements in the splitting of the sea. That remind us of creation itself. The fruit trees were the missing element in creations. The Rabbis were saying, no, they were there too. But once you start thinking about creation, now come back and think about this Midrash. Now ask yourself, what else about the creation story, does this remind you of? Think about it one more time, why are the Rabbis going out of their way to talk specifically about a daughter of Israel there clutching a child, reaching out her hand, taking a fruit and giving it to child. What does that sort of kind of remind you of in the great creation story of genesis? A place where there was everything they wanted, a place that was like paradise itself. It seems to evoke the Garden of Eden. Why were the Rabbis specifically talking about a woman reaching for a fruit? Why they don’t just say there were all these fruits, anybody can have them? Because the woman reaching for the fruit reminds you of what happened in the garden. It’s Eve, reaching for the forbidden fruit but here the fruit isn’t forbidden. In the actual creation story Eve reached for a forbidden fruit and gave it to her husband. In this creation story, the woman reaches for a permitted fruit and gives it to her child. The contrast between the stories seems telling indeed, the sages are suggesting that in this new version of creation, there was a round 2. There was a chance to do it right. We failed the first time around but what would have constituted success? So here is I think a mistaken look at success. You say what was the problem? Eve reached for forbidden fruit. If she hadn’t reached for fruit, everything would have been fine but that’s not quite true. That’s not the right way to phrase it. Because if you look at the original command, regarding the fruit trees, it is true that God had placed one tree off limits, the tree of knowledge of good and evil but God had allowed them to eat off every other tree, he’d given them everything they wanted. As a matter of fact, the emphasis is on everything that you can eat far more than the one tree that you can’t eat. Listen to the text, vayetzav Hashem Elokim al-ha’adam lemor, God commanded Adam, mikol etz-hagan achol tochel, ‘from all the trees of the Garden’, achol tochel, ‘you shall eat. Yes, you shall eat’; ume’etz hada’at tov vara, ‘but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil’, lo tochal mimenu, ‘you shall not eat from that’, ki beyom acholcha mimenu mot tamut, ‘because on the day you eat from it, you will die’.
Now, from God’s perspective which is the bigger deal? The command of not to eat from the one tree or the command to eat from all of them and yes, I do mean command. The first command actually was not the command, to avoid the one tree. It was to eat of them all. They weren’t just allowed to eat from them all, they were commanded, vayetzav Hashem Elokim, and God commanded them to eat from all of the trees, to eat, yes, eat. In Hebrew that double language, achol tochel, indicates imperative. You were commanded to do this. You are commanded to enjoy. So if we go back to the perfected world, what really was it, what did God want? God put us in paradise and all he really wanted from us is to see us enjoy all that he gave us. To eat from all of the wonderful trees that he provided for us. Yes, stay away from my tree. You have to understand there is a maker of the Garden. You are not the maker of the garden, so stay away from my tree and honor the fact that the garden is a gift from me. But eat, yes eat from all of the wonderful trees that I provided for you.
The mistake of Eve was not in stretching out her hand and reaching for fruit, it was just which fruit to eat from. The perfected version of Eden looks like that which the Midrash describes now. A woman reaches out her hand and instead of taking forbidden fruit and giving it to her husband, takes permitted fruit and gives it to her child, to satiate him and stop him from crying. And what’s the meaning of that? Why is giving that fruit to your child a vision of ultimate perfection? Well, ask yourself this, what did God want in putting us in Eden? God is our heavenly father, what did he want to see? He wanted to see his children satiated in their hunger. His children enjoying what it is that he gave them. What is the greatest nachas, the greatest happiness that father in heaven can have? The happiness of the grandchild, the ability to have humans experience the same pleasure he experienced. I created this world to be able to take care of you when you are hungry, to give you delight. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to see you reach for fruit and give it to your own child to make him happy, to soothe his tears, to give him delight too. It is the true closing of the circle and a vision of what Eden perfected would look like. The sages seem to be telling us that as Israel crossed through the sea, there was a kind of recreation, a kind of glorious celebration of God, the creator. There was a mini version of creation itself taking place. And along with those mini six days of creation, there was a version of Garden of Eden too. A wonderful, fragile place that would exist for a moment, where men could exult in God’s goodness, as if you were in paradise itself and in our ability to delight in God’s bounty during that time, we had a chance to redeem an age old failing, an age old sin. The turning of our back on what it was that God gave us to delight in and the choosing to take something forbidden instead, now we would have the chance to say, yes to the bounty that God gave us. To delight in a way that he wish to see, to give him the nachas the joy of seeing our pleasure and the pleasure of sharing it with our young.
There were two commands that we had in creation, the very first two commands. One was peru urevu, be fruitful and multiply. One was eat from all the trees while avoiding the one tree that’s forbidden, the other was be fruitful and multiply, have children. The sages are bringing those two commands together, into one glorious celebration of God’s goodness to us. Have children and share with them the goodness of God’s bounty. Take delight in what you can give your kids and in so doing, bring ultimate delight to your creator. There was a moment, in history where we had the chance to redeem a troubled past, a sin that had hunted us ever since the beginning of time. The sin of the forbidden fruit. How is that sin redeemed? In the most unlikely of ways, through enjoying the bounty of creation and sharing it with our own children.
1. Bereishit: Thank You, God...For Not Making Me A Woman?
2. Noach: Why Aren't Dinosaurs In the Torah?
3. Lech Lecha: The Battle For Abraham's Legacy
4. Vayeira: Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael and...Exodus?
5. Vayeira: Epilogue
6. Chayei Sarah: Eliezer and Samuel's Surprising Connection
7. Toldot: What Is Isaac's Legacy?
8. Vayeitzei: Understanding Rachel's World
9. Vayishlach: From Jacob to Israel
10. Vayeishev: Does God Speak To Us Today?
11. Miketz: Reversing the Sale of Joseph
12. Vayigash: Understanding Pharaoh's Dream
13. Vayechi: A Tap On The Shoulder
14. Shmot: Does God Really "Love" Us?
15. Va'era: Seeing God in Science
16. Bo: God's Justice In Action
17. Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?
18. Beshalach: Epilogue
19. Yitro: Seeing Ten Commandments in the Burning Bush
20. Mishpatim: Does Our History Become Laws?
21. Mishpatim: Epilogue
22. Terumah: Angels In the Tabernacle? Part I/2
23. Tetzaveh: Angels In the Tabernacle?- Part 2/2
24. Ki Tisa: A Closer Look At Kiddush
25. Pekudei: A Giant Chiasm In Sefer Shmot
26. Vayikra: How Can We Relate To Sacrifices Today?
27. Tzav: A Deeper Look At The Priestly Role
28. Tzav: Epilogue
29. Shemini: What Does Aaron Teach Us About Loss?
30. Tazria-Metzora: Rejoining the Community
31. Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Social Justice...and Sacrifices?
32. Behar-Bechukotai: Walking With God
33. Bamidbar: Why We Count
34. Beha'alotecha: Where It All Went Wrong
35. Shelach: How Can We Relate To Such a Vengeful God?
36. Korach: Why Did Korach Rebel?
37. Chukat: Why Did Moses Hit The Rock?
38. Balak: What Is Israel's Purpose In The World?
39. Pinchas: What Is True Leadership?
40. Matot-Masei: The Art of Negotiation
41. Devarim: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 1/2
42. Va'etchanan: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 2/2
43. Eikev: Why Does The Nation Of Israel Merit The Land?
44. Re'eh: Why Do We Need Both Oral and Written Law?
45. Shoftim: The Significance of Saving Private Ryan
46. Ki Teitzei: How To Merit Long Life
47. Ki Tavo: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 1
48. Nitzavim: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 2/2
49. Ha'azinu: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 2/3
50. V'Zot Habracha: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 3/3
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