A river flows forth from Eden

I am currently enjoying teaching a series of classes at Temple Israel in Albany, NY titled “Demystifying Jewish Mysticism”. Here are some thoughts from this week’s class.

A river flows forth from Eden to water the garden… (Genesis 2:10)

Adam and Eve are living in undifferentiated bliss in the Garden of Eden. Eden in Hebrew means “pleasure” or “delight” – Adam and Eve are at one in the Garden of Delight.

Then they eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and are inevitably plunged into the necessity of our everyday world of duality: right and wrong, shame and pride, self and other, life and death. After eating from that tree, we are forever required to live in this world of continuous and difficult choices.

Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden, and their re-entry is barred. Henceforth they will have to make their living by the sweat of their brow. But they remember – we remember – a stream that flowed forth from that place of delight, and that stream spread into four rivers that water every corner of our world. It is the Stream of Delight, the living waters that when we drink them, we remember that all is one, that the stream is always flowing, that even though we can’t go back to the garden, we can still at any moment taste its sweet waters.

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