Born to a confused sixteen-year-old girl impregnated by a man she met at an English pub, virtuoso guitarist Eric Clapton didn’t have much of a wholesome family childhood. His father vanished before he was born and he was raised by his grandmother, led to believe that his mother was his sister. Young Eric was soon playing guitar on the streets of London while passers-by dropped coins in his hat.
Years later, in rehab for alcohol addiction after having become an international music star, Eric writes in his autobiography:
“…I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair. At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way, and I fell to my knees. In the privacy of my room I begged for help. I had no notion of who I thought I was talking to, I just knew I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with. Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help and getting down on my knees, I surrendered. Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me. An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that. I’d found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted or needed to believe in. (emphasis added) From that day until this I have never failed to pray in the morning on my knees asking for help, and at night to express gratitude for my life and most of all for my sobriety. ”
Eric survived and went on to thrive because he took his soul seriously. Treating his addiction as if it only afflicted his body wasn’t working. Like the famed twentieth century Swiss psychiatrist who played a role in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous by recognizing that alcoholism has a spiritual dimension, Clapton involved his soul by using prayer.
Trying to overcome life’s many tribulations thinking only of the body while ignoring the soul is like failing to fuel your chainsaw and trying to fell a towering tree by laboriously scraping the chainsaw blade backwards and forwards across the tree trunk.
Scripture advises taking our souls seriously, although the first such message is lost when translated from the original Hebrew.
And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground,
and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life…
Seven verses follow describing the Garden of Eden in detail. Then comes this verse:
And the Lord God took the man, and He placed him
in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.
Most English translations draw the same, but unfortunately incorrect, conclusion that God put Adam in the garden to work IT and to guard IT (the garden). However, in Hebrew, the Lord’s language, nouns and pronouns depict gender. Hebrew has no ‘it’; only ‘her’ or ‘him’.
The noun, garden, GaN, is masculine. Meanwhile, the correct translation of the key words in verse 15 is “to work HER, and to guard HER”. Therefore, it is clear that Adam was not put in the garden to work and guard the garden.
Ancient Jewish wisdom informs us that Adam was put in the garden to work and guard his soul. That, after all, is what was described back in verse 7. After a seven verse diversion describing the garden, we return to discussing the soul, NeSHaMaH, which, as you have probably surmised, is feminine. Soul is the only noun that could be the object of ‘work’ and ‘guard’ in verse 15.
The Garden (Eden) in its very essence expressed the idea of a safe place for humanity, with Adam being asked to follow only one prohibition as his contribution, thus working and protecting his soul. The Hebrew makes this clear.
The word for garden is GaN.
The word for defense, as in the Israeli Defense Force, is HaGaNaH.
The word for shield is MaGeN.
You can see that they are all related words. Gardens are where we put things that we want to defend and protect. And despite Adam having failed, this is exactly how we are to best treat our souls. We must construct a garden for them to remain safe and secure so that they can play their role in helping us overcome the tribulations we all face.