Being a parent is a hard task. We have to scold our children, teach them right from wrong, sometimes punish them in appropriate ways. Sometimes our children's own actions betray them, other times we or others discover them in their mischief. Disciplining is never an easy task, but a necessary one. But there is a necessary component that must always be present. And it is a lesson that that ever popular owner's manual for the human being, the Torah, teaches us. Torah recognizes it is hard to be a parent. So does Gd.
So now imagine how much more difficult it might be for the Creator to have to discipline the creations. Unlike a human parent, Gd perhaps has infinite power, and the ability to inflict punishment far beyond what mortals can. The Torah is replete with examples of Gd recognizing the temptation to lash out in anger and mitigating it, or allowing it to be mitigated through the counsel or arguments of others (like Avraham, Moshe, etc.)
Adam and Chava have blown it. They have eaten from the tree. The sensed their nakedness, and created coverings for it. And, like a child caught in the act, Adam has not the experience nor strength to dissemble very well-so he slips and say they were afraid of being caught naked by Gd so they hid. The plain text would have us see this as the betraying action. Like the little child caught wearing his or her mother's pearls and lipstick. "Oh, Adam just said he knows they are naked. Therefore they must have eaten of the fruit of the tree I told them not to eat from." But Gd doesn't need the physical signs to know of Adam and Chava's betrayal. It's a point driven home later in the parasha, when Gd senses what Cain has done to Abel.
But I digress.
When Adam and Chava sensed they were naked, they fashioned coverings for themselves. So they already had clothes. Which raises the question of why Gd then went ahead and fashioned clothing for Adam and Chava (Bereshit 3:21) And not only did Gd make these garments, but Gd then proceeded to clothe Adam and Chava in them. But they already had clothes of a sort. Why did Gd bother.
And here we come back to that essential ingredient I mentioned in the beginning that must be a component of any discipline. That ingredient is love. No matter how angry or disappointed Gd may be with Adam and Chava, they are still Gd's (metaphorical) children, Gd's creations, and Gd loves them. Gd has just told Adam and Chava how they (and the serpent) they will each be punished for their sins. The serpent made to crawl, Chava made to bear children in pain, and Adam to toil in arid soil amidst brambles. And after this declaration of punishment, what does Gd do? Gd creates garments for Adam and Chava and clothes them in them. This is how a loving parent imposes discipline and correction. We must emulate Gd's continual capacity to forgive. Scold if you must, but be sure the child knows you will still forgive them and clothe them with garments of love.
Wrapped in Gd's garments of love, we can have the power to survive all. On Shabbat, we say "Oz v'hadar levusha vatizchak l'yom acharon" in the Eyshet Chayil, which quotes it from Proverbs 31:25. "Strength and splendor is she clothed in, and laughs at the days to come." Surely the garments that Gd fashioned for Adam and Chava, even in the midst of Gd's displeasure with them, wrapped them the in strength and splendor of Gd's love.
Right here, in the beginning of the Torah, we learn of the Gd that later self describes Gd's self as slow to anger, merciful, abundant in loving kindness. Gd administers the reproach and the discipline, and then enfolds Adam and Chava in garments Gd fashioned. The stage is set for how Gd will treat us.
And, in return for Gd's gift to us in the form of eternal love, compassion and mercy, what are we to give back to Gd? That, my friends, is what the whole rest of the book is about. Turn it and turn it and learn.
©2001 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some other musings on this parasha:
Bereshit 5766-Kol D'mei
Bereshit 5765 (5760)-Failing to Understand-A Learning Experience
Bereshit 5764-Gd's Regrets
Bereshit 5763--Striving to be Human
Bereshit 5761--Chava's Faith
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