Parshas Bereishis – After the Fall

Swans HeartFor the past thousands of years, at every traditional Jewish wedding, as the bride and groom stand under the Chupah, blissfully in love and staring adoringly at one another, the Rabbi (or other distinguished guest) recites seven special blessings in honor of the new couple.

One of them goes as follows:

“Bring great joy to these loving friends,

As You gave great joy to Your creations in the Garden of Eden,

Blessed are You, G-d, who gives joy to the bride and groom.”

At first glance, this sounds very nice, even moving.

But let’s take a closer look.

“Bring great joy” – who could argue with that?

“To these loving friends” – a very beautiful message, the bride and groom are beloved friends above all.

“As You gave great joy to Your creations in the Garden of Eden” – HUH, say what? Did I read that correctly? Joy in the Garden of Eden?!?

As this week’s Parsha spells out in gory detail, the Garden of Eden episode is an unmitigated disaster. Eve basically feeds Adam poison, he blames her for his mistake, they get thrown out of paradise, he’s cursed that he has to work “by the sweat of his brow,” and she is condemned to the “joys” of labor pains. This is a blessing?!?

Some commentaries go out of their way to explain that the blessing refers to the time period in the Garden before they sinned (which was all of a couple of hours). They say the blessing is that the bride and groom should always be unique and special in each other’s eyes, as if there were no one else in the world. Just as for Adam and Eve there was literally no one else, this is how the couple should always feel about each other.

While that is certainly an important and beautiful thought, it seems to me that the Rabbis who wrote this blessing may be teaching us an even more fundamentally important lesson.

Sure, Adam and Eve royally messed up in the Garden of Eden. But what happened next? Did they fight? Divorce? And what was G-d’s reaction? Did He give up on them?

Not at all. Immediately after the Torah tells us the story of the sin, we are told how Adam acknowledges the special role of his beloved wife, which the Talmud expounds to mean that she is to be treasured, loved, and spared pain. We are then told how G-d lovingly clothed Adam and Eve, and the Medrash explains that they were not immediately chased out of the Garden of Eden, but were first given the precious gift of the Sabbath, a day of rest.

Perhaps the bride and groom are to learn an important lesson. Yes, your lives are likely to be more like life out of Eden than in it. But that’s the point. It’s easy to gaze lovingly at one another on your wedding day, but it’s far more important to keep the faith and love after the first squabble. G-d doesn’t give up on us when we sin; we shouldn’t give up on spouses either. Wherever we are, we can create Eden. The real love begins when the honeymoon ends. Adam and Eve kept the love going –  so can you.

This is a lesson for our relationship with G-d, as well. The recent holiday season was a time of great joy and closeness to G-d. The real challenge is to keep those feelings alive through the cold, dreary winter.

Mark Twain got it right. He ends off his humorous, yet moving description of the Garden of Eden story, “After the Fall,”  describing the scene long after the expulsion from Eden, as follows:

“Adam standing at Eve’s Grave.

‘ADAM: Wheresoever she was, THERE was Eden.’”

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