Clothing for Adam and Eve
By Martin Lewis
If some one were to actually pay attention to what they read in the bible, they might notice something strange in the story of Adam and Eve. After Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, the Torah states that they knew that they were naked, therefore they made for themselves a "belt" (sort of a prehistoric pair of jockey shorts).
Afterwards the verses continue to describe G-d coming into the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve hide from Him. G-d asks them for the reason that they are hiding and they answer because they are naked! (Seems that appearing in from of G-d in your undies is not considered proper.)
Then after G-d metes out the punishment to the snake, Eve and finally to Adam, the Torah continues, and G-d made for them clothing!
Right now we should be wondering, why on earth did G-d make for them clothing? What was improper with the "jockey shorts" that Adam and Eve made for themselves? They knew that they were naked, and the "jockey shorts" seemed to remedy the situation. But if that be so, why did they feel it necessary to hide from G-d?
Truthfully, these questions aren't really such great questions anyway, especially if you have had a bit of exposure (hmm, pardon the pun) to the Talmud Brachot page 24. There it states that a person may recite the Shema, with only a cloth around his hips (like our belt) separating his nakedness from his heart (which is uncovered). But for praying he must cover also his heart.
This part of the Talmud seems to parallel our story very well.
What is the difference between reciting the Shema and praying? There is a very big difference!
The Shema is our acceptance upon ourselves of the yoke of G-d's ruler-ship in the world. We are declaring that we are servants of G-d, and that we acknowledge that that is our relationship with G-d. Prayer, meaning the silent standing Amida, is a prayer in which we petition the Master of the Universe for our earthly needs. In the Amida, we are actually standing in front of our King.
The above accounts for the difference in the type of attire that is permissible to wear. The same was true for Adam and Eve, when they were working in the Garden of Eden, which by the way was their particular mitzvah; it was sufficient to merely cover their nakedness. They knew they had sinned, they had no reason to expect that G-d would come down to actually speak with them, so their concept of shorts was justified.
But when G-d actually came down to speak with them, they realized that they were not fit to stand before the King of the Universe in their "jockey shorts", therefore they hid. However, G-d had other ideas. He came down to them. They hid. So He asked them why did they hide. They answered that they were not naked, meaning, for working in the Garden of Eden, they were fine, but for appearing in front of G-d, they were lacking.
G-d asked them, were did they get such knowledge that they had to cover their nakedness, since prior, Adam did not show any knowledge in this matter. So they confessed to their sin.
G-d made for them clothing. Why did he do this? Simply because man must still stand in front of the King even though he may be a sinner.
The mystics, of course, see something deeper in the concept of garments. To them, a soul also has to have a garment. But the garments of the soul are not the garments that the physical body needs. The body is physical and the garments that the body wears are to protect him from physical harm and discomfort, as well as to shield his nakedness. The soul, as we know, is not physical; therefore its needs are for spiritual protection. The garments of the soul are the mitzvot that the person does. It will be the mitzvot that will protect the person from harm and cover (at least partially) the sins that are performed.
This, of course, is something that we should all know. One day we will be called upon to stand in front of the King of kings and give an account. Let us hope that we will have the sense to prepare ourselves with suitable clothing.
from the November 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine