BEREISHIT – EAST OF EDEN

Rabbi Mirvis' Archive

“Bring great joy to these loving companions as you gave joy to your creations in the Garden of Eden in times gone by”. (From the Sheva Berachot)

Why are a bride and groom compared, while under the Chupa, to Adam and Eve in Paradise?

The opening words of this sixth blessing of the Sheva Berachot provide the key: Sameach tesamach refers to simcha, one of two Biblical terms for happiness. The other is sasson.

Sasson is elation, a wonderful expression of unbridled joy, which comes when one hears or experiences something quite remarkable. Simcha, however, is deep-rooted contentment, which accompanies a sense of fulfilment and achievement.  Therefore, in Pirke Avot (4:1) we are taught: Who is truly wealthy?  It is one who is happy (sameach) in his portion, as it states: “When you eat the fruits of your labours, you are happy and it is good for you.” (Ps. 128:2).

Under the Chupa, we acknowledge two different types of joy – Kol sasson vekol simcha – the sound of sasson and the sound of simcha.  The bride and groom enjoy sasson, for they are on cloud nine, at the height of their elation. The parents and grandparents, however, have simcha, through eating the fruits of their labours of many years, deriving nachas from seeing their children now establishing a home and family life for themselves.

On this basis, surely the Sheva Berachot comparison makes no sense? In the Garden of Eden everything was given to Adam and Eve on a silver platter; they didn’t have to toil hard for anything! So, where was their simcha?

In today’s Parsha we are informed that after the original couple sinned, life existed mikedem leGan Eden – East of Eden (3:24). Consequently, an alternative reading of the Sheva Berachot replaces “in the Garden of Eden in times gone by”, with “East of Eden”. With their paradise lost, Adam and Eve now needed to invest time, effort and a lot of toil into achieving fulfilment in life. Nothing would come easily any more and their ultimate simcha would be attained through strenuous efforts.

This mirrors exactly the challenge facing every bride and groom. Our realistic blessing for them is, that while fleeting moments of ecstatic sasson will certainly come their way, may they, like Adam and Eve out of Eden, create an idyllic home through diligent and creative efforts to bring simcha into their lives.