In his characteristic epic style, Thomas Cole depicted Adam and Eve being driven from the lush garden to live in the relative wilderness of the mortal world. The exit of the Garden—and presumably the only means of access—is on the east side, at the end farthest away from the mountain of God’s presence. The image of the tiny couple is almost lost in the wide expanse of the landscape, emphasizing the greatness of the power of God and the grandeur of His Creation as compared with the forced humility of fallen mankind. The light emanating from the Garden contrasts with the darkness of the way ahead for Adam and Eve.
Their expulsion is described twice in Moses’ account, with different terms used in each case. The Hebrew word geresh (“drove out”), used in Genesis 3:24, is harsher than the term shillah (“send him forth”) in verse 23. Significantly, the same two terms are used in the same order by the Lord to describe how Pharaoh would drive Israel away from the familiar comforts of Egypt, suggesting that we are not meant to read Adam and Eve’s exit from Eden as depicting a unique event but rather as demonstrating a repeated type of mankind’s difficulty, in its fallen state, to “stand in holy places” and not be “moved.”
Though the scriptural admonition to “stand in holy places and be not moved” is a familiar one, the relevance of its symbolism to the story of Adam and Eve has been underappreciated. In this article, we will explore how one’s fitness to stand in holy places was understood in ancient sources, showing the paramount importance of this idea in the Old and New Testament—and its particular relevance for our own time. Indeed, Avivah Zornberg has argued that to “hold [one’s] ground” in sacred circumstances is the meaning of being itself—“kiyyum: to rise up (la-koom), to be tall (koma zokufa) in the presence of God.” ...