My children constantly fascinate me when we hike in breathtakingly beautiful British Columbia during the summer. Some of them visibly thrill to the vast vistas and magnificent landscapes revealed as we crest a hill. Others seem oblivious to the large scale spectacles but will stoop to pick up a pebble which can absorb their attention for twenty minutes. Similarly, when boating, one child gazes endlessly at the wave pattern stretching to the horizon. Meanwhile, her sister lies on her tummy on the edge of a dock peering down at a school of tiny fish darting around as if being signaled by an invisible choreographer.
We learn much from the patterns of larger arrangements such as the earth’s upheavals that created the mountain ranges and the erosive forces that carved majestic canyons. However it is just as important to understand the microscopic forces that help atoms to form molecules and the characteristics that shape those tiny molecules into complex substances.
Just as understanding both the macro of mountains and the micro of molecules helps us relate to physical reality, so understanding both the macro and the micro of the letters, words, and texts of the Bible helps us relate to spiritual reality.
Whenever we probe the inner meaning conveyed by a word or letter in the Lord’s language as we often do here in Thought Tools, we are exploring the micro. However, when we examine patterns that reoccur in different parts of Scripture we are allowing the macro to reveal its secrets.
Let’s wrap our souls around four famous parallels linking God’s Garden of Eden with the desert Tabernacle and its successor, the Jerusalem Temple, both constructed by humans.
1. God walks in both the Garden of Eden and the Tabernacle.
And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden…
And I will set my tabernacle among you…And I will walk among you…
2. Water flowed out of the Garden of Eden and also out of the Temple.
And a river went out from Eden…
…and a fountain shall issue from the house of the Lord…
3. Cherubs appear in both places to guard and protect.
…and he placed cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden…to guard the way to the tree of life.(Genesis 3:24)
And the cherubs shall stretch out their wings on high to cover the covering with their wings…(Exodus 25:20)
4. Special garments [ketonet] are required in both places
For Adam and for his wife the Lord God made leather coats [ketonet]…
And these are the garments which they shall make…an embroidered coat [ketonet]
Recounting the four parallels, we see:
1 God walks in His garden and in the places we create.
2 Water flows out of His garden and out of the places we create.
3 Spiritual forces protect the way to the Tree of Life and to the Tablets of the Covenant.
4 God made clothing for humans in His garden; we emulate Him in our holy places.
Today, in our current conditions, we are obviously unable to locate the Garden of Eden let alone enter it. However, God did provide us with blueprints to create our own substitute. Moses and the Israelites used them to build the Tabernacle and later Solomon used them to create the Temple.
As long as we recognize that both the Tabernacle and the Temple were human replicas of the Garden of Eden, we too become capable of erecting our very own Garden of Eden substitutes right in our own homes. We merely need note the four parallels.
One, our homes must be places where God walks and we walk with Him. We don’t sit with Him or stand with Him, we walk with Him. Meaning we and our families are on the move; we are never in exactly the same (spiritual) place.
Second, water, (associated with spiritual sustenance in Torah nomenclature) must flow out of our homes. Regularly inviting guests to share our meals and participate in uplifting conversation allows our ideas to flow and spread.
Third, we must ensure that spiritual forces are in place to protect our most cherished attributes, namely our faith and our families. With the same enthusiasm that we invite the right people to enter, enjoy and contribute to the atmosphere of our homes, we must also keep out those people and influences that could harm it.
Fourth, and finally we must always, even in the privacy of our home, clothe ourselves in the garments of human dignity. Clothing is holy because God bestowed it upon His children as a way of distinguishing us from the animal kingdom. Almost all of us look better clothed than naked and for all of us, being clothed protects our sense of self. This is why the first thing Nazi concentration camps did to Jews upon their arrival was strip them naked.
It is all too easy to figuratively ‘let ourselves go’ when we’re at home. It is so tempting to slide into poor behavior, abysmal manners, inadequate clothing and other unwholesome self-indulgences when we’re in our own homes. In reality, in order to build our own Garden of Eden we need to resist these allures.
It is never too late to turn our own home into a Garden of Eden, a Tabernacle, or a Temple. The rewards are incalculable and more than worth the effort it takes. Keep both the mountain and the molecule in mind. The former is the larger vision for the kind of home you’d like to live in while the latter are the details that keep you on that road.
This Thought Tool was first published in October, 2014.