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Adam's "hearing" God and meaning of Bereshit 3:8


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Cheshvan 28, 5776
וישמעו את־קול ה' אלקים מתהלך בגן לרוח היום "And they heard the voice of the Lord God going in the garden to the direction of the sun" (Breishit 3, 8). This line is fascinating, being the first time that Adam and Eve perceive something. I’m trying to make sense of it, and I’ve read Rashi, but I’m wondering about a few things. Firstly "rewakh ha-yowm": Is "the direction of the sun" a good translation here? Ruwakh seems to say more than that, and so does "yowm". Also the word "shema", seems to relate to understanding or perceiving, more so than hearing per se. I wonder if there is a relationship with "shem" being a "name", or "something known" or "renowned", that the hearing of something here is the recognising of it. I’m sure there is more in this line, maybe you can suggest some more leads for me.
Firstly, allow me to admire your observations! Every pasuk in the G-dly Torah is loaded with many diverse and important ideas, and it literally takes years to get the entire harmonic picture (that’s why we re-read the entire Torah every single year!). In short, what’s clear is that G-d (Who is really everywhere at all times) wanted man to “hear” Him “coming”, and give him an opportunity to apologize. You are correct that “hearing” here is mainly “perceiving”, for G-d doesn’t “walk” or “make noise”. Similarly, when He asks Adam: “Where are you?”, G-d is opening the conversation innocently, giving man another opportunity to initiate and voice his guilty feeling and repent. Similarly, ru’ach can be either direction or wind (and obviously both are intended). Rav Sa’adya Gaon explains that it was the time of the normal pre-evening wind, so that Adam and Chava should feel at ease and not be scared (despite their guilty conscience). Hayom means “The” day, and some say comes to stress that it’s still referring to the first day (!) of man’s creation, inferring that these challenges, and ups and downs are an essential part of every life and every day. The Shadal adds that according to the explanation “in the direction of the sun”, G-d made them feel especially exposed, to feel their new-found nakedness that much more. Regarding “shem” and “shama”, there is a disagreement among grammatical and philosophical commentaries regarding words which have 2 of the 3 letter roots in common, whether they can they be regarded as one “family” and are related, or not. Kabbalists definitely hold that their similarity cannot be coincidence, as do Dunash and Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch. This is all just a drop in the ocean what has been written on one pasuk. I strongly suggest learning Hebrew so that you can objectively learn and properly enjoy (!) the original text, and the various commentaries on your appropriate intellectual level, and not have to rely on the understanding of others.
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