ויטע ה' אלקים גן בעדן מקדם וישם שם את האדם אשר יצר
“And Hashem planted beforehand a garden in Eden, and He placed there the Man He created.”
The holy Maggid of Mezritch asks about this verse: Why did Hashem plant the Garden of Eden “beforehand” – before man was created? Man has to earn his place in Gan Eden. Therefore, it should have been created after Adam became worthy of living there.
The reason why Gan Eden was created in advance, explains the Maggid, is because Hashem already experienced pleasure – so to speak – from the mitzvos and worthy deeds of the righteous men, even before He created them. The word “Eden” can also mean “sweet.” Hashem already felt the sweetness of future mitzvos, and He therefore prepared the Gan Eden as a fitting place for the righteous.
We may add to this what we discussed on Hoshana Rabbah. We cried out “For Your sake, our Creator, help us!” Hashem created us in order to bestow eternal goodness on mankind. When we read Parshas Bereishis, we see clearly that the plan of creation was for man’s benefit.
We see many people who struggle with various challenges. Some people try different things but everything falls apart. They may become frustrated and think that Hashem doesn’t want them to enjoy life; Hashem doesn’t want them to experience success. Some people may even become bitter at Hashem, G-d forbid, as if Hashem is getting in their way.
But when we read the verses of Bereishis, we see that the opposite is true. Hashem planted the most delightful garden, full of luscious fruits and flowers, even before He created man. He placed Adam in this garden and gave him permission to eat from all of the trees, except one. Adam did not do anything to earn this. Hashem prepared the Garden for him and enabled Adam to enjoy it, purely out of His desire to bestow goodness on mankind. Why was man created last? So that the entire world should be ready for him to use and enjoy. By the time Adam was created, he had light and water, trees and flowers, birds and fish. Again, Hashem had man’s pleasure and convenience in mind.
Even the more difficult things in life were prepared for Adam. We know that shidduchim and parnassa (livelihood) are “difficult for man.” Yet Hashem created Chava especially for Adam and brought her to him without any effort on his part. And as for livelihood, Adam had everything he needed to survive in Gan Eden without any effort. A beautiful river flowed out of Gan Eden, spreading into four large rivers that run throughout the entire world. Gan Eden was the most blissful place for man to live!
Every father desires only what’s best for his son. Even more so, Hashem, the Father of all mankind, desires only what’s best for us. His original plan was for man to live a blissful, trouble-free existence, surrounded by all spiritual and physical pleasures.
“G-d created man to be just, but they make their own calculations.” By making their own calculations, people distort Hashem’s plans that are for their benefit. This is what happened with the first man. Adam would have been able to enjoy Gan Eden for a lifetime! He was permitted to eat from all trees, including the Tree of Life, which would have given him eternal life. But then along came the yetzer hara who persuaded Chava, who then persuaded Adam, to taste the fruit of the one and only tree that Hashem forbade them to eat from.
The same mistake is repeated by all of us. Hashem planned everything to be perfect for us, but the person wants to do things differently. His yetzer hara talks him into transgressing Hashem’s command, and in result he brings untold disaster upon himself. The way to merit total happiness, as Hashem intended for us, is by obeying Hashem’s command and doing what He expects from us.
“Return to me the joy of Your salvation, and may an expansive spirit support me.”
Often a person experiences Hashem’s salvation, but he cannot fully enjoy it. For example, when a person who struggles financially finalizes a shidduch with his child, his heart is full of joy, but at the same time he worries how he will manage with all of the wedding expenses. Another person may have finalized a promising deal, but although he is happy about it, he is worried about the money he is investing and is losing sleep over how everything will turn out. We therefore pray that the salvation should come with joy, with true happiness. Our simcha should be complete.
As we’ve discussed earlier, Hashem wants what’s best for us. However, Hashem deals with us middah k’neged middah – He treats us the way we treat others. If we do not display an expansive spirit when others are on the rise or experiencing success, Hashem cannot bring us the salvation we seek. We therefore ask for an expansive spirit towards others, so that we should be able to experience the joy of Hashem’s salvation.