When I moved to Jerusalem at a later stage of my life, I discovered a profound teaching which can give us a deeper understanding as to why the Six Day War of June, 1967 and the Jewish spiritual awakening which followed the war is connected to the hippy spiritual awakening which also followed the war. Before I can share with you this teaching, I need to introduce the Hebrew term for a human being or humankind: adam. For example, the Torah states regarding the Divine creation of the first human couple: “He created them male and female; He blessed them and called their name Adam on the day they were created” (Genesis 5:2). Another example is found in this verse: “And it came to pass when Adam began to increase upon the ground and daughters were born to them” (Genesis 6:1).
The profound teaching that I am going to share with you is from Ramban (Nachmanides), a great sage, biblical commentator, and kabbalist of the 13th century. According to 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, a leading sage of our era, 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 beginning of an answer can be found in the following Divine statement to our people when we went into exile from Zion:
“You are Adam” (Ezekiel 34:31).
The Creator is revealing to us that the story of our people represents the human story.
The Prophet Hosea expresses a similar idea:
“But they, like Adam, have transgressed the Covenant” (Hosea 6:7).
The classical commentator, Rashi, offers the following explanation: 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 brought into the Garden of Eden, so too, the People of Israel were brought into the Land of Israel; moreover, just as Adam was exiled from the Garden due to the violation of the Divine mandate, so too, the People of Israel were exiled from the Land of Israel when they violated the Divine mandate.
The above teachings reveal a profound connection between our story and the human story. This insight can help us to understand why the spiritual yearnings among many of our people during the historic summer of 1967 are connected to the spiritual yearnings among many non-Jews during that period.
As we shall discuss in a future letter, our physical and spiritual return to Zion at the end of days expresses another dimension of the human story, for our return to Zion is to lead us and all humanity back to the Garden of Eden.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen