"My Firstborn Child": Israel's Story as the Human Story


According to the Torah, we are called "Adam" - a term which can have the following meanings:

1. "Adam" refers to the human being, as it says, "So God created the Adam in His image...male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:17). The Midrash cited by the classical commentator, Rashi, explains this verse in the following manner: The Adam was created as an androgynous being with two sides, male and female. These two sides were later separated in order to form two separate beings - man and woman (Genesis Rabbah 8:1). The tradition that the first human being was created as an androgynous being is also cited in the Talmud (Brochos 61a, Eruvin 18a).

2. "Adam" refers to both man and woman, as it says, "He created them male and female; He blessed them and called their name Adam" (Genesis 5:2).

3. "Adam" refers to humankind, as it says: "And it came to pass when Adam began to multiply upon the face of the earth and daughters were born to them" (Genesis 6:1).

Dear Friends,

The Ramban (Nachmanides) was a great sage, biblical commentator, and kabbalist of the 13th century. According to the Ramban, the secret of human history can be found in the following statement of the Torah:

"This is the book of the descendants of Adam" (Genesis 5:1).

What "book" is this statement referring to? The Ramban explains: "In my opinion, this alludes to the entire Torah, for the entire Torah is an account of the descendants of Adam."

I asked my teacher, Rav Aharon Feldman, how he understands this explanation of the Ramban, and he said: "This means that the entire Torah - both written and oral - is the story of the reconstruction of humanity, from its fall in the Garden of Eden until its renewal in the messianic age."

If the entire Torah is the story of humanity, then why does the Torah focus on the story of the People of Israel? The answer can be found in the following Divine proclamation to our ancestors, when they went into exile: "You are Adam" (Ezekiel 34:31). The Creator is revealing to us that our story represents the human story.

Another reference to this idea is found in the following Divine rebuke of the People of Israel.:

"But they, like Adam, have transgressed the Covenant" (Hosea 6:7).

Rashi explains: Just as Adam was brought into the Garden of Eden and yet violated the Divine mandate, so too the People of Israel were brought into the Land of Israel, and yet violated the Divine mandate. A source for Rashi's explanation can be found in the Midrash which states, "Everything that happened to Adam happened to Israel" (Yalkut Shimoni on Eichah 1:1.) The Midrash explains that just as Adam was exiled from the Garden as a result of violating the Divine mandate, so too, the People of Israel were exiled from the Land when they violated the Divine mandate.

Through these insights, we have a deeper understanding as to why, at the beginning of our exile, the Prophet Ezekiel told our people, "You are Adam." The Prophet was making us aware that we were reenacting the exile of the human being from the Garden.

Ezekiel also conveys the following Divine promises regarding the end of our exile and our return to Zion:

"Behold, I am taking the Children of Israel from among the nations to which they have gone; I will gather them from all around and I will bring them to their soil" (Ezekiel 37:21).

"They will dwell on the Land that I gave to My servant Jacob, within which your ancestors dwelled; they and their children and their children's children will dwell upon it forever…I will seal a covenant of peace with them; it will be an eternal covenant with them" (Ezekiel 37:25,26).

"You, O Mountains of Israel, will give forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for they are soon to come" (Ezekiel 36:8).

And the Prophet Ezekiel mentions that those who witness the fulfillment of these prophecies will say, "This very Land, which had been desolate, has become like the Garden of Eden!" (36:35)

In this spirit, the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: "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).

Does our return to the peaceful and fruitful "Garden" represent the return of humanity to the "Garden"? The beginning of an answer can be found in the following prophecies which describe the spiritual ingathering of humanity in Zion and how the earth will once again become peaceful and fruitful:

"It will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Compassionate One's Temple will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will go and say, 'Come, let us go up to the Mountain of the Compassionate One, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.' For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of the Compassionate One from Jerusalem." (Isaiah 2:2,3)

"They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore. They will sit, each person under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid, for the mouth of the Compassionate One, God of the hosts of Creation, has spoken." (Micah 4:3,4)

The classical biblical commentators, Radak and Ibn Ezra, explain that the peaceful and pastoral vision of "each person under his vine and under his fig tree" includes all humankind. Yes, all humankind will find their way back to the "Garden"; moreover, the joy and gladness found in Zion will spread to the entire world, as it is written in the messianic "Psalm of Thanksgiving":

"Shout for joy all the earth! Serve the Compassionate One with gladness, come before Him with joyous song" (Psalm 100:1,2).

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)


Just as Israel's story represents the human story, so too, the human story represents the story of the world, for our tradition teaches that the human being is a microcosm of the whole world (Midrash Tanchuman, Pekudei 3). The Vilna Gaon, a leading sage of the 18th century, finds a reference to this idea in the following verse:

"And God said: 'Let us make the human being in our image and after our likeness.' " (Genesis 1:26)

Who was the Creator speaking to when He said, "Let 'us' make the human being"? The Vilna Gaon explains that since the human being was created last, the Creator was addressing everything that was created previous to the human being, bidding each to contribute a portion of its characteristics to the human being. For example, the human being's inner strength is traced to the lion, his swiftness to the deer, his agility to the eagle, his cunning to the fox, his capacity for growth to the flora - all of which are unified within the human being.

Hazon - Our Universal Vision