Off the Pulpit

The Spinning Sword

When God exiles humanity from the Garden of Eden at the beginning of the Bible, God stations a spinning sword at the mouth of the garden. That sword prevents humanity from reentering the garden.

Back in 1927, slightly more than a decade before the worst catastrophe in human history, Rabbi Israel Leventhal preached a sermon about that sword. He said that indeed the sword continues to prevent human beings from entering the garden: “Civilization and the sword cannot go hand in hand.”

Rabbi Leventhal could not know the tragedies that the sword would create over the century following his words. Still today there are many human beings who are enchanted by the sword, and who make this world, which might be a garden, a vale of tears and travail.

The Rabbis tell us that God sent both the book and the sword down from heaven, saying: “You can choose one or the other, the book or the sword.” In an age when we have grown our knowledge and expanded our technology of life, the sword in all its manifestations continues to threaten the continuation of the book. May our children’s world choose more wisely than the world faced by our parents.