The Book Or The Sword?

When God exiles humanity from the Garden of Eden at the beginning of the Bible, God stations a spinning sword at the mouth of the garden. That sword prevents humanity from re-entering the garden.

Back in 1927, slightly more than a decade before the worst catastrophe in human history, Rabbi Israel Leventhal preached a sermon about that sword. He said that indeed the sword continues to prevent human beings from entering the garden: “Civilization and the sword cannot go hand in hand.”

Rabbi Leventhal could not know the tragedies that the sword would create over the century following his words. Still today there are many human beings who are enchanted by the sword, and who make this world, which might be a garden, a vale of tears and travail.

The Rabbis tell us that God sent both the book and the sword down from heaven, saying: “You can choose one or the other, the book or the sword.” In an age when we have grown our knowledge and expanded our technology of life, the sword in all its manifestations continues to threaten the continuation of the book. May our children’s world choose more wisely than the world faced by our parents.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).


About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.