Adam possessed an intense awareness of God … Adam knew that he had almost limitless potential … Adam didn’t realize how much distance would actually be created by a seemingly small departure from God’s wishes. In fact, the distance that Adam created was disastrous, not only for himself but for the entire world.
The Talmudic tradition regarding the original “light” is that its presence in the world was short-lived. In fact, the Talmud tells us that the “light” was apparent within creation for just thirty-six hours, and then it was hidden. The question, of course, is why was the “light” hidden? And the answer is that in hiding the “light,” God was creating a cosmic framework for the fundamental dynamic of man’s existence; it’s called hide-and-seek.
God’s “light” was hidden just enough to make it not overwhelmingly apparent. As a result, man would not be irresistibly drawn to the “light.” It was this hiding of the “light,” therefore, that set the stage for Adam, the first human being.
As we have already seen, Adam didn’t fare so well.
Now, let’s look at God’s response to Adam’s failure:
“And they [Adam and Eve] heard the voice of God manifesting itself throughout the garden, at the approach of evening, and the man and his wife hid from God, amongst the trees of the garden. And God called out to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?'”
Is it possible that God didn’t know where Adam was? Clearly not. Rather, within these words lies a veiled message. According to the sages, the Hebrew word used to express “where are you?”—ayekah—is a highly unusual word, so unusual in fact that it is actually an allusion to the hidden “light.”
Consider the following and remember, the original “light” was manifest for just thirty-six hours before being hidden.
“Rabbi Shimon the son of Pazi said, ‘The numerical value of ayekah [“where are you”] is thirty-six.'”
Midrash Zuta, Eichah 1:1
“The word light appears thirty-six times in the Torah.”
When God called out to Adam and said, “ayekoh, where are you?” what He was actually doing was pointing out to Adam the consequences of his action. The deeper meaning of ayekoh is, “Where is the light?”* God was telling Adam that he had allowed an enormous opportunity to slip through his fingers.
“Adam,” God was saying, “you had a chance, by virtue of your free will, to reveal the hidden “light,” and you missed your chance. Adam, when I hid the “light,” I was creating the potential for a fully genuine relationship—a relationship that wouldn’t be imposed but would be freely embraced. Adam, in hiding the “light,” I actually gave you the possibility for closeness, and instead, you created distance. Adam, you could have revealed the “light,” but now, Adam—ayekoh! Where is the “light!”
And so the “light” remained hidden—hidden, but not extinguished.
Abraham Is Light
With the appearance of Abraham, hope for mankind had been rekindled. Abraham was able to see through the veil…As a result of Adam’s failure, the “light” remained hidden, and it would take another two millennia before someone would arise with the potential to reveal it. That person was Abraham, and Abraham was a man who was more than enlightened, he was light itself.
“The earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the surface of the depths… and God said, ‘Let there be light.'”
Genesis 1:2-3 “Abraham is the light. The generations preceding Abraham were unformed and darkness, and Abraham was the light of existence.”
Maharal, Gevuros 5:34
And of course, Abraham had an encounter with twenty-five—with the hidden “light.”
To grow to the point where he would be able to utilize all of his abilities, Abraham had to face ten tests. With each successive test, Abraham came a step closer to actualizing his potential for bringing “light” into the world.
By the end, as Abraham and his son Isaac were approaching the place of his final test, the Torah says—“And Abraham said to the young men accompanying him, ‘Stay here with the donkey while the lad [Isaac] and I go there.'” What’s interesting is that the Hebrew word used here for “there,” koh, is an unusual word. But the use of this strange word is no mistake. In fact, it’s an allusion to something else—the “light.” You see, this is the same word, with the same numerical value of twenty-five, that appeared in the story of Adam. So when Abraham said that he and Isaac would go koh, “there,” what he was actually saying was that he and Isaac would go koh, “to the light.”
God now had an answer to His question. God said to Adam, ayeh-koh, “Where is the light?” Two thousand years later the answer came back: the “light” is with Abraham.
*The word ayekoh can be split into two words. Aye, which means “where” and koh, which is a difficult word to translate and seems to have different meanings in different contexts. However, the numerical value of the word koh is twenty-five, the number that represents “light.” When looked at this way, the word ayekoh literally means, “where is the light?”
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Shimon Apisdorf is an award-winning author whose books have been read by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. He has gained a world-wide reputation for his ability to extract the essence of classical Jewish wisdom and show how it can be relevant to issues facing the mind, heart and soul in today’s world. Shimon grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and studied at the University of Cincinnati, Telshe Yeshiva of Cleveland and the Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He currently resides with his wife, Miriam, and their children in Baltimore. The Apisdorfs enjoy taking long walks, listening to the music of Sam Glaser and going to Orioles games.
Shimon can be reached at [email protected]
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