"For the Compassionate One will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her ruins; He will make her wilderness like Eden and her wasteland like the Garden of the Compassionate One; joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music." (Isaiah 51:3).
The above prophecy concerning the future age of redemption can serve an example of our yearning for the Garden of Eden. In this spirit, there is another prophecy which states that when we return to the Compassionate One and undergo a purification, the Land of Israel will once again flourish; moreover, people will say, "This very land, which had been desolate, has become like the Garden of Eden!" (Ezekiel 36:35)
There is a verse which we chant after returning the Torah to the ark, and on Shabbos, many Jewish communities have a tradition to sing this verse with great fervor. I would like to suggest that this verse expresses our yearning to once again live in the Garden of Eden:
"Bring us back to You, O Compassionate One, and we shall return; renew our days as of old." (Lamentations 5:21).
What are the "days of old" that we are yearning for? On one level, the verse is expressing our desire to once again experience the loving and unifying Divine Presence in Zion. On another level, the verse is expressing our desire to once again experience the loving and unifying Divine Presence in the Garden of Eden. In fact, the midrashic work, Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, states that the Garden of Eden was located in the Land of Zion (chap. 20).
If we examine the above verse more closely, we can find further reason to believe that this verse is alluding to the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew term in the above verse for "days of old" is "kedem" –a term which also means "the east." The term "kedem" first appears in the Torah in the following verse:
"The Compassionate and Just One planted a garden in Eden, in Kedem, and placed there the human being whom He had formed." (Genesis 2:8)
"In Kedem" – In the east of Eden (Rashi).
"Kedem" therefore refers to a geographical location. With this understanding of the term kedem, let us return to the verse we are discussing: "Bring us back to You, O Compassionate One, and we shall return; renew our days like kedem." With these words, we are expressing the following prayer: Renew our days as in the era when we lived in the east of Eden.
Have a Good Month, and a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen