Thursday, May 24, 2012

On visiting the Garden of Eden.

The 16th century Tishbi lexicon of R. Elijah Bahur (Levita) has some really fascinating entries. On Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) he first explains its usage in rabbinic texts, and then addresses the obvious question: can't you visit?

"The Sages called the enjoyable place where the righteous receive their reward "Garden of Eden," after the the garden which the Lord planted in Eden and placed the first man in, since it is the choicest place on earth, without a doubt. Therefore the named this enjoyment the "Garden of Eden." Some ask, if we know that it is in a place called Eden, and we were given various signs, such that it is east of Eden, why is it that no man has seen the place and its garden? The response is that without a doubt many people have gone there! But all who go do not return, because of the great pleasures there. Who is the fool who would leave the Garden of Eden? All remain there. Or, perhaps the reason is the ever-whirling flaming sword (Gen. 3:24) is still whirling and no one can enter."
R. Yeshaya Berlin-Pick's note here (2002 edition) says that it is certainly the ever-whirling sword that prevents people going. He adds that Levita's first answer is only a joke. 


  1. So, we should have a record of what that sword looks like. Right?

  2. A question on Rav Pick: If the first answer was only a joke (and this answer was preceded by the words "without a doubt"), why would R' Bahur call, presumably in all honesty, Gan Eden the choicest place on earth, using the same expression, "without a doubt"?

  3. Phil, maybe he thought it was even a play on words of sorts, and that clued him in to his suspicion that it was meant to be cute.

    But actually, he gives a somewhat technical objection to the first solution ("of course you can go, they just won't leave and tell us about it!"). He says that first of all the question depends on knowing the location. So why don't we ask it about Adam, who knew the location, but never returned? The answer is what the Torah says: he was expelled and it is guarded by the flashing whirlies.

  4. Gabriel Wasserman8:17 PM, May 24, 2012

    See my comment on the FB thread parallel to this. (It makes sense only in the context of the thread -- should I bother posting it here, too?)

  5. According to Mark Twain, I have been to Gan Eden and back many times. In Twain's "Extract From Adam's Diary, 1," Adam notes that Eve has named their estate "Niagara Falls Park." On the other hand, one of the current presidential candidates believes that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri.

  6. Sounds like the premise of Desertion, by Clifford D Simak.

  7. your thoughts on this and its application to Judaica!


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