Missing From Eden
I was stopped in front of the hospital by a representative of the Kabbalah Center. She wanted me to sign up for “An Introduction to Kabbalah.” “You look kind of religious; did you ever study Kabbalah?”
“I know nothing about the Kabbalah you teach.”
“Well, aren’t you at least curious?”
“Do you believe in Kabbalah?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you willing to buy a red Kabbalah string that can protect you and bring good luck?”
“No! I do not believe in that kind of Kabbalah.”
At that moment I realized what was missing from the Garden in Eden that would have protected Adam from sinning: A red string,
Not a Kabbalah Center string; the other kind, similar to the red string associated with this week’s portion: How do we separate Bikkurim? A man goes down into his field and sees a fig that has begun to ripen, a cluster of grapes that has begun to ripen, a pomegranate that has begun to ripen; he ties a blade of reed-grass around it and says, “Behold these are Bikkurim.” – Bikkurim 3:1
The man has worked for months to grow his fruit, and sees the first fruits beginning ti ripen. He sees, literally, “The fruit of his labor.” He wants to taste that first fruit and enjoy the first tangible expression of work, faith, and worry. The fruit is right there, possessing the beauty that only his labor’s product can express. It is “pleasing to the sight, and good for food,” (Compare to the trees of Eden – Genesis 2:9) The first fruit is a powerful temptation.
He has a choice at that moment, whether to tie a symbol around the fruit to remember that it is Bikkurim; his first fruits are not his, but God’s, or, he can snatch the same budding fruit and savor the first taste of his labor and love.
That blade of reed-grass is the red string people tie around their finger in order to remember something important. It is a powerful reminder that even though he worked so long and hard, the first fruits are God’s.
Rabbi Shimon argues with the first Tanna of the Mishnah: Rabbi Shimon says, ‘Nevertheless, he must again declare them Bikkurim after they are plucked from the ground.” The challenge reappears when the farmer holds those first fruits in his hands. He looks at the string and remembers that they are not his to eat.
Perhaps if Adam had a red string to remind him that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was God’s, he would not have sinned.
Even after Eve handed the fruit to Adam, he would have seen the string and remembered.
Perhaps this is the meaning of the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 1:4) that the world was created – ‘Bereishit’ – in the merit of Bikkurim – Reishit – the first fruits. Bikkurim’s red string would have been a powerful prophylactic for Adam and Eve. They don’t get more magical than that.
Some people find the Kabbalah string far more attractive, and expensive, than the “Remember String,” of Bikkurim, but I’ll stick with the far more powerful plain piece of grass that was unfortunately missing from Eden, and could have saved the day.
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