The hidden miracle behind the expulsion from Gan Eden

The Midrash presents a most uplifting analysis of a gloomy sounding verse:

 “אֲרוּרָ֤ה הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ בַּֽעֲבוּרֶ֔ךָ בְּעִצָּבוֹן֙ תֹּֽאכְלֶ֔נָּה כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ:

“The land is cursed because of you and with difficulty shall you subsist all your life.”(Bereishis 3:16)

Just as the Torah has begun describing Adam’s punishment for eating from the עֵ֗ץ הַדַּ֙עַת֙ (The Tree of Knowledge), the Midrash shares an insight into the spiritual inner workings of life, post-Eden. One would expect it to be quite dismal. Yet the Midrash offers a new element to Mankind’s reality. A situation not even found in Gan Eden – where Adam and Chava were miraculously fed while barely lifting a finger. The paradigm for God’s involvement in our daily sustenance is compared to גְּאֻלָּה- our supranatural redemption.

Rabbi Eliezer said :

מַה גְּאֻלָּה פְּלָאִים אַף פַּרְנָסָה פְּלָאִים, מַה פַּרְנָסָה בְּכָל יוֹם אַף גְּאֻלָּה בְּכָל יוֹם

“Just as our salvation is wondrous, so is our livelihood wondrous, just as our livelihood is a daily (miracle), so is our salvation a daily (miracle).”  (Bereishis Rabbah 20:9)

The commentator, Eitz Yoseph, said that our livelihood and our salvation have something critical in common:

. היינו בנס נסתר כדאמרינן אין בעל הנס מכיר בניסו.וכמ”ש באגדת פסח בכל דור ודור עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵנוּ’:

“They are both hidden miracles as we say; ‘the recipient of a miracle does not recognize it as a miracle.’ And as we say in the Haggadah of Pesach: ‘In every generation they stand against us to destroy us,”’

In other words, we recognize that in every generation there is a great, existential threat to our existence.  However, according to the Eitz Yoseph, there are countless other threats that God foils on our behalf. We have no awareness of them. In the same way our livelihood is a series of constant miracles that we are not aware of. The Midrash continues with more opinions concerning God’s involvement in our sustenance:

Rabbi Shmuel the son of Nachman goes one step further.

גְדוֹלָה מִן הַגְּאֻלָּה God’s blessing of our livelihood is an even greater miracle than redemption.  Rabbi Yehoshua the son of Levi says it is even greater than the splitting of the Red Sea.

This is reminiscent of a message found in Midrash Tanchuma, Parshat Vayishlach. A Roman noblewoman asked Rabbi Halafta what does God do ever since He finished creating the world in six days? He answered her:

עוֹשֶׂה סֻלָּמוֹת, מַעֲלֶה לָזֶה מוֹרִיד לָזֶה

“(God) has been erecting ladders upon which one ascends and another descends.” (Midrash Tanchuma Vayishlach 10:3) In other words, God is arranging that people’s financial position either rise or fall.

The great challenge of distinguishing between perception and reality

Before offering all the opinions we just mentioned, the Midrash starts with a notion that seems to be a direct contradiction:

אָמַר רַב אָסֵי קָשָׁה הִיא הַפַּרְנָסָה כִּפְלַיִם כַּלֵּדָה.

“Rav Ossi said that earning a livelihood is twice as difficult as giving birth.” (Bereishis Rabbah 20:9)

If God is directly involved in helping us make a living, why should it be so difficult? Perhaps the Midrash is describing the people’s common perception, not the hidden reality.  It is counterintuitive for people to recognize any relationship between earning a livelihood and God. After all, they pursue an education, acquire skills, work hard, make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, make contacts, hone their business and social skills. This is what the entire world considers to be the natural process of success. For the Western world, making it big while overcoming these difficulties is a badge of pride. However, the Torah scorns this attitude which it summarizes in 3 words: כֹּחִי֙ וְעֹ֣צֶם יָדִ֔י as the verse states:

וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ כֹּחִי֙ וְעֹ֣צֶם יָדִ֔י עָ֥שָׂה לִ֖י אֶת־הַחַ֥יִל הַזֶּֽה׃

“By my own power and the might of my own hand have I acquired this wealth.”(Devorim 8:17)

The point is, when someone has this attitude they surely don’t realize God’s hand in providing their sustenance. Therefore it is indeed twice as difficult as Childbirth..

It seems that the expulsion from Gan Eden took Mankind from a state where God’s presence was abundantly clear to one where God is hiding. One of Mankind’s hardest tasks in life is to find Him.

About the Author
After college and Semicha at Yeshiva University my first pulpit was Ogilvy where I wrote TV commercials for brands like American Express, Huggies and Duracell. My passion is Midrash Tanchuma. I am an Architect of Elegant Marketing Solutions at We are living in (where else) the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
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