In this letter, we shall begin to discuss a song within our morning prayers which serves as a tikun – corrective – to the arrogant human attitude described by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in the following passage:
“The human being’s intellectual eminence poses the threat of pride: his power to dominate all things and to modify them according to his intentions, might make him think of himself as the master. He might come to forget God, to forget that everything belongs to Him and was lent to the human being only for a specific purpose; and he might thus come to usurp for himself the right to follow only his own will. The human being will reach the greatest depth of degradation when all his efforts are devoted to the gratification of his animalistic urges …At this point, the human being is reduced to the most dangerous beast of prey, for he is armed with intellect, and the world is not safe from his tyranny.” (The Nineteen Letters, Letter 5)
As we discussed in this series, the human being was placed in the Garden of Eden by the Creator of the Universe “to serve it and to guard it” (Genesis 2:15). As Rabbi Hirsch writes, this Divine mandate conveys to the human being the following message:
“The earth was not created as a gift to you – you have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration as God’s earth, and everything on it as God’s creation, as your fellow creature, to be respected, loved and helped to attain its purpose according to God’s Will.” (The Nineteen Letters - Letter 4)
The human being, however, soon lost the awareness of this life-giving Divine mandate. Instead of remembering that the human role is to serve as the custodian of the earth, the human being began to view the human role as acting as the master of the earth. The human being forgot that the Creator of all life is the true Master of the earth, and with the loss of this higher consciousness, the human being began to view the earth as a place for self-gratification and therefore ate from the forbidden fruit.
The loss of this higher consciousness and the resulting selfishness was the original sin which caused our exile from the Garden of Eden. We are still in exile from the Garden, explains Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, “because the same sin is still being committed over and over again” (commentary on Genesis 3:19).
The way for the human being to do a tikun for the original sin is to regain the higher consciousness of the Master of all creation: Hashem – the Compassionate and Life-Giving One. In this spirit, there is a song of tikun at the beginning of our morning prayers, and this song begins by addressing the Compassionate and Life-Giving One as, Adon Olam – Master of the Universe.
One of the sacred Divine Names is Ado-nai – Master of All. We only pronounce this Name as it is spelled when we read from our Sacred Scriptures, and when we say one of our sacred prayers or blessings. On all other occasions, we refer to this Name as Hashem. The Divine Name, Master of All, first appears in the Torah in a question that our father, Avraham, asked Hashem (Genesis 15:2). The Talmud therefore points out that Avraham, was the first person to address Hashem by this Name (Brochos 7b). According to the Etz Yosef commentary on the Siddur – Prayer Book – our daily morning service is inaugurated with Adom Olam to recall the merit of our father, Avraham, who was the first person to address Hashem as Master of All. A reason why Avraham proclaimed this Divine Name can be found in the following teaching of the Midrash: Avraham is to do a tikun for the failure of the first human being (Genesis Rabbah 14:6). The first human being had forgotten that Hashem is the Master of the earth; thus, Avraham called Hashem, the Master of All.
In the spirit of Avraham, Adon Olam – the morning song of tikun – opens with the following words:
“Master of the Universe, Who reigned before any form was created; at the time when His will brought all into being – then as ‘Sovereign” was His Name proclaimed.”
The song of Adon Olam also has passages which convey messages of hope for both the world and the individual. With the help of Hashem, we will discuss these passages in the next letter.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen