Vayera: Chapter 19

The Garden of Eden and Gehenom


Man is constantly tested by his own negative inclination in order to provide him with the opportunity to exercise free will. Man activates free will the moment he resists his natural selfish tendencies. The righteous people of this world are those who have conquered their negative natures and subjugated all Evil Inclinations. It is upon their merit that our physical world is sustained. A man who conquers his own negative nature and ego is far stronger and far greater than the man who conquers armies or builds empires.

The Zohar explains that the Garden of Eden and Hell exist both in our physical realm and in the Supernal Worlds. The true righteous dwell in the Garden of Eden above, while the most wicked of men dwell in the lower realm of Hell. There is a story in the Talmud that Hell on Earth was discovered and visited by a great sage some 2000 years ago. This sage stormed the gates of Hell and stole away the knife from the Angel of Death. The Creator explained to the sage that the system of Hell is a necessary process in order to help cleanse the souls of the wicked so that they, too, may be able to partake in the world-to-come. The Creator, therefore, called for the sage to return the knife.


The Garden of Eden is not only a long sought-after paradise located in some remote island in the world-to-come, but it is also a state-of-mind that we experience in the here and now. We connect ourselves to the Garden of Eden on Earth, arousing tranquility, happiness, and inner peace in our soul. We begin to sense and grasp the significance of the hardships that strike in our personal life. During difficult times, when life feels like Hell on Earth, afflictions have a cleansing effect on our soul. Awareness and acceptance of this spiritual truth accelerates the process, and trying times pass more quickly.