Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Lesson of the Cherubs

Picture by Yoram Raanan
The Cherubs ("Kruvim") atop the Holy Ark were a pair of winged figurines with the "face of a child", says Rashi (Ex. 25, 18). This isn't the first time Cherubs are mentioned in Torah. The first mention of them is when Hashem placed them before the entrance to The Garden of Eden, to prevent Adam and Eve from re-entering and eating of the Tree of Life. These Cherubs, says Rashi, were "Angels of Terror" (Gen. 3, 24). How could Rashi ascribe antithetical definitions to the same term?

The lesson is that, in fact, they are one and the same, only that opposite characteristics emerge from different upbringings, as these two contexts suggest. If the upbringing rests upon a holy foundation, children grow up to become angelic; But if brought up spoiled by giving them most of what their hearts desire, they become demonic.

Let's recall the story of Adam. He was intelligent, handsome, had a gorgeous wife, lived in Eden among the finest and largest selection of delicious fruits, was meant to live eternally, with the whole world as his domain. Only one small constraint limited his freedom - he was told not to eat the fruit of one tree out of thousands.

That little challenge proved to be his downfall.

Similarly, a child raised to get everything he wants, will in the end lose everything he has because the smallest restriction he cannot tolerate will take him down. He will become egotistic, haughty, abusive and have no friends. On the other hand, the same child, if brought up to hold dear the holiness of Torah and its restrictions, will end up being a source of goodness to everyone around him.

From where the Cherubs were atop the Holy Ark, the voice of Hashem emanated to reach the ears of Moses. In contrast, the Cherubs guarding the Garden of Eden had swords swinging in their hands.

Our sages ask (Chulin 139b) "Where is there a hint of (the evil) Haman in Torah?" They answer, referring to the words of Hashem in rebuking Adam, "Have you eaten from the tree I forbade you to eat from?" The Hebrew words "from the" spell out "Haman".

Our sages (Sota 9b) list 10 people in Tanach who lost everything they had because they could not accept the slightest restriction confronting them. One was Haman.

Haman was the viceroy of the King of Persia, whose empire embraced 127 nations. Haman had a large family, including ten sons. He was extremely wealthy. People were ordered by the king to bow down to Haman when he passed by. You could say he lacked nothing.

But one small thing Haman did not have. It angered him that one old man, the Jew Mordechai, refused to budge when he passed by. "Everything I have is as good as worthless," he complained to his wife, "because that [old man] Mordechai won't bow down to me." (Esther 5, 13) This emotional anguish consumed him so he plotted to destroy Mordechai, who in the end, ended up with everything Haman had, and Haman was hanged.
Based on this fine lecture by Rabbi YY Jacobson.

1 comment:

  1. But what is the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Do a search: The First Scandal.