The Garden of Eden provided all that Adam and Eve needed to live. But with
their expulsion came the curse, "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat
bread." (Beraishis/Genesis 3:19) But the Talmud informs us that with G-d in
absolute control of the entire universe, our mandated efforts are just
that. G-d cursed mankind with having to expend effort; the degree of
success that those efforts yield is completely out of our hands - and
totally in G-d's. Indeed, the Talmud teaches, "A person's sustenance is
apportioned for him in Heaven on Rosh HaShana" (Beitza 16a).
But why must we go through this effort? What is the purpose to this
seemingly meaningless task, if G-d is going to provide our sustenance in
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (1) explains that our burden of requisite effort
serves as a spiritual challenge. By its very nature, the physical world in
which we live challenges our ability to connect spiritually. The Hebrew for
"world", "olam", derives from "he'elam", meaning "hidden", because our
physical world hides G-d's presence and spiritual realities from our
consciousness. By all appearances, our will controls and dictates the
success of our livelihood and chores. It is very easy to succumb to the
belief "my strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!"
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 8:17) It is incumbent upon us to remember that,
conceptually, nature does not exist; nature is no less than wondrous Divine
marvels to which we are privy on a daily basis. Nothing happens without G-d
willing it to be. So, too, our livelihood is one of the many natural
"miracles" to which we are too accustomed, not unlike a stunning sunset or
a blossoming flower. Despite our toil, we must remember that we are
fulfilling our mandate, but the results are not ours to determine.
G-d's punishments are never arbitrary or vengeful; rather, they serve to
undo the affects the sin. How does this punishment repair the damage done
by Adam and Eve? Rabbi Dessler concludes that Adam's sin was that he
wanted to understand evil. But Eden is a place of complete, pristine
spirituality - a place that is exclusively good. Therefore, he was removed
from this environment and placed in the realm of coarse physicality, a
world subject to the "laws of nature". G-d appreciated that the way for
mankind to undo what Adam did is, while toiling in the physical realm that
Adam craved, developing the understanding of the fallaciousness of nature
and the reality of G-d's dominion.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) in Michtav Me'Eliyahu, his collected writings and discourses; 1891-
1954; of London and B'nai Brak, one of the outstanding personalities and
thinkers of the Mussar movement