The Sound of God Traveling in the Garden

Moshe Ben-Chaim

“…and she took of its fruit and ate, and also fed her husband with her and he ate. And the two of them, their eyes opened and they understood they were naked and they seamed fig leaves and made for themselves garments. And they heard the voice of God traveling in the garden at the wind of the day, and they hid, man and his wife, because of God was in the midst of the trees of the garden. And God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And man said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid, for I am naked and so I hid.”  And [God] said, “Who told you you are naked; have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?” And the man said, “The woman you have given with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.” And God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The snake caused me to err and I ate (Gen. 3:6-13).” 

God then punished the snake, then the woman, and then man. However, my focus is on the verses above: what occurred prior to the punishments. After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve “heard God’s voice moving in the Garden” ...and they heard this “at the wind of the day (Gen. 3:8).” There are many questions…

1) Did they truly hear a voice? If so, what was God saying? The verse does not teach of any words or communication. 

2) What is the significance of hearing God at “the wind of the day”?

3) Why repeat God was in the garden, but add “in the midst of the trees”?  

4) Why is God’s voice only mentioned ‘after’ the sin?

5) God questions Eve after Adam blames her, and God then punishes the snake when Eve blames it. Why does God seem to accept Adam’s blame on Eve, then accept Eve’s blame on the snake? 

6) Why do they both shift the blame?

7) God does tell Cain about his inner world, that he can rule over it. Why does God not warn Adam and Eve prior to their sin?

We first learn that subsequent to the sin, the man and the woman received new knowledge, taught by the words “their eyes were opened.”  From the every commencement of this Torah section, metaphor is employed, as “opened eyes” truly refers to knowledge, not to the moving of one’s eyelids. Thus, other metaphors may be included. 

The “wind of the day” is literal, referring to the dimming of daylight, at dusk, when the winds pick up (Ibn Ezra, Gen. 3:8). But here is the lesson… During the transition of daylight to darkness, a contrast presents itself to man. This caused man to distinguish, and reflect on both parts of the day. He then reviewed his actions; man reflected on his disobedience. (Ibn Ezra says this means they repented; ibid) God was going to keep His word of punishment. Man recognized God would be “coming for him” in the garden. Man felt remorse, and this remorse shortly followed man’s sense of nakedness. Remorse is part of the newly-born faculty of morality granted to man once he sinned. This morality is intended to offer man a secondary system of abstention from sin. If reason alone would not stop man from sinning, hopefully a sense of right and wrong will. Subsequent to the sin, the man and the woman received a new awareness, a conscience, which they did not possess previously. This explains why they were ashamed of their nakedness.

As the day subsided, man reflected, and with his new conscience, he then sensed his error conveyed as “hearing a voice.” Voice does not refer only to words, but also to “understanding.” Similarly at Sinai, Maimonides teaches the Jews heard no words, only a voice or a sound, based on the verse “a voice of matters you heard (Deut. 4:12)”. So, in the garden, God was not speaking, as we see no message recorded. Nor can God be located anywhere; neither in heaven, on Earth, nor “in” the garden. Hearing a voice in the garden means that man understood he violated God, Who knows all man’s actions, as if He is “in the garden,” and Who will now exact punishment. 

“And they hid, man and his wife, because of God was in the midst of the trees of the garden.”

Notice in the second half of that verse, God is viewed as amidst the “trees” of the garden, not simply “in the garden” as in the first half of the verse. “Amidst the trees of the garden” conveys that God is aware of his trees, including the forbidden tree which now is missing some of its fruits. 

This teaches a fundamental lesson: until they sinned, man and woman were not contemplating that they stood before God at all times. God was not “in the garden” while they sinned. Sin requires a denial of God, or that He is watching. One cannot sin if he feels he is before God. This explains why man only contemplated God ‘after’ the sin. King Solomon teaches “at all times let your garments be white (Koheles 9:8).” The king means that one should abstain from sin (stained garments) at all times. And this, Pirkei Avos teaches is achieved if we recognize that God records all. But man and woman were able to deny God’s presence, just as anyone must do today when he or she sins.

More startling, is the Torah’s method of conveying man’s mindset subsequent to sin. It is described as “God going in the garden”  – a phenomenon external to man. Similarly, both man and woman blame another party when God inquired of their sin. And even God initially follows suit, seeming to initially accept their blame by seeking a response from the accused party: man blamed woman, and God turns to her and inquires of her. The woman blames the snake, and God turns and addresses the snake. Man and woman are punished after this, but at first, God entertains their blame.  These acts of blame are significant enough that God records them in His Torah. And again, God also records man subsequent to sin, as hearing “God going in the garden,” a literal phenomenon, instead of describing man’s remorse. This is compounded by God being “amidst the trees of the garden.” What is this lesson?

But even with his remorse, man does not yet repent until God calls out to him, “Where are you?” God allows man to believe he has successfully hid himself, just as God asked Cain where Abel is, and asked Bilam “Who are these men?” (The Rabbis teach God does this so as not to suddenly accuse man, which would be too stressful)  And even when Adam replies, he does not confess his sin, but says he was hiding due to his nakedness. It is only after God inquires if he did eat the forbidden fruit, that man confessed to the act, and even so, he still blames the woman. 

In contrast to man and woman where God does not warn them prior to sinning, we find God does in fact warn Cain before he murders his brother (Gen. 4:6,7). Furthermore, God informs Cain that he can rule over his desire to sin. Here, there is an identification of the part of man that sins, as separate from man himself. Was Cain – and not his parents – warned due to his young age, or due to his greater self-awareness of his internal world (instincts), or was he perhaps different in human design than his parents? I can only speculate, but my speculation is in line with an idea I heard years back…

The answer to all these questions might found in the difference in design between the first man and woman, and all subsequent people…

The idea I heard years back was that until they sinned, the instinctual drive was not an internal part of their makeup. Before the sin, it was only when man saw his wife, that he was sexually aroused. Otherwise, he was too engaged in wisdom, that his imagination would not naturally flow towards his instincts without external stimuli, as our instincts work today. Today, our imagination is strong, and is attached to our instincts from youth, as God says, “For the inclination of man’s heart is evil from youth (Gen. 8:21).” This means there was a change from Adam and Eve, to all their descendants. Adam and Eve did not possess an internalized instinctual drive. This is difficult for us to imagine, since all we know is our own makeup; our feelings have always been part of us. It is hard to grasp what we would be like if we didn’t have internal urges and a strong imagination. Yet, this appears to be the state of man prior to sin.

This would explain why after the sin man viewed the “external world” as different, as “God moving in the garden”, and not viewing himself as different…that there were now some internal workings to blame. Adam did not yet recognize this new, internal part of his nature. This explains why he blamed the woman, why she blamed the snake, and why God accepted their blame. For they had not yet grasped the change in their psychological makeup. Therefore, they only recognized the external world, and felt justified to blame something else for their sin. This is significant, so God records their blame. God also momentarily accepted their blame as they were as of yet, not ready to appreciate their new makeup. However, Cain was born with the instincts, and could understand God’s warning to control his internal urges. This is why God warns Cain, but not his parents.

Whichever explanation one accepts, we must appreciate God’s inclusion of the details of this story, the many questions, and the significance of God recording the fact that man felt “God was in the garden.” The fact the Torah does not share any words of “God’s voice”, adds support that there was in fact no voice, but that this conveys a different idea, as we stated.