At the dawn of history, Adam in paradise is unable to resist one restriction, the tree of knowledge.
Yonatan ben Uziel comments that Adam hid, not because of his nakedness, but from fear and shame of his sin. But Adam had the courage to stay put and admit his guilt. He never fled from the garden: he had to be thrown out.
A generation later, the picture changes. Parents who compromise the word of God, and think that they can live in paradise on their own terms, stand aghast as they see their family torn apart, with brother killing brother.
This time, no-one hides. Adam, who confronted his guilt with shame and fear, overhears his son Cain’s arrogant rebuttal: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” How quickly things change. How speedy is the generational transition. Paradise has turned sour, and a family world has been shattered. A father faces the shame of lesser guilt, but a son denies even the most heinous of crimes.
Paradise lost, however, can be paradise regained. The Almighty, in expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, placed angels called Cherubim at the gates, with fiery swords to guard the way.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that the only other reference to Cherubim in the Torah is that of the childlike figurines placed on the Ark in the Holy of Holies of the Sanctuary. How strange that the symbols of destruction should be placed on the very symbol of our faith!
The angels at the gates of paradise, however, were placed there not to keep man out but to guide his return. Man’s quest to find paradise on earth is fulfilled as he finds the Cherubim of God.
Placed on the Ark, they plot a new path to the paradise that our forefather Adam once forfeited.