Writers note: Last weeks article discussed
how the ancient Euphrates river bears witness to history and
helps define the true meaning of the war in Iraq and world
events. The article elicited a powerful response from many
readers, coupled with some intriguing questions as to the
true personality of this dual-natured river. I decided to
do some more research and travel further up the Euphrates
to explore where it leads us. Here are some of the results
of my investigation.
As we quickly approach Passover, the time of
our freedom, in the month of redemption and miracles (Nissan),
lets review the latest dots accumulating
around us. Connecting these dots is the key to understanding
the true nature of todays world-shaking events.
22 days have passed since the war began in Iraq
on Shushan Purim night.
6 days remain till Passover.
It was Shushan Purim night when we consummated
our triumph over Humans genocidal decree in ancient
Persia. On the same night, 2360 years later, the United States
and the coalition forces launched war against Saddams
tyranny in Iraq, in the same geographic location where Purim
originally took place (the Persian empire was centered in
what is today modern day Iraq), hopefully as a beginning of
ushering in a world where violence will no longer exist.
4 Wednesdays later next Wednesday night
we will be sitting at the Seder table recreating the
liberation 3315 years ago from Egypt, the archetype and root
of all the exiles and empires, Babylonian, Persian, Greek,
Roman and Ishmaelite.
Egypt Mitzraim in Hebrew
(from the root meitzar, boundary) represents
all constraints, inhibitions, fears and limitations in our
lives, both internal and external, both personal and global.
And now, during this period between the redemption
of Purim and the redemption of Passover we are experiencing
the juxtaposition of these two redemptions (mismach
geulah lgeulah) right before our very eyes.
As each day passes its amazing the astounding
unfolding events are so fittingly happening in these days
of miracles and redemption. We are witnessing an unprecedented
war. Never before has an army advanced so quickly through
so much territory. Many have even called it miraculous that
the United States and the coalition forces should have conquered
so much territory, so effectively decimated enemy forces and
entered Baghdad with such little resistance!
Yet, by no means is this war over. Every thinking
person realizes that greater confrontations lie ahead of us
some call it a clash of civilizations. The world still
needs serious work to discover global peace. The challenge
created by the void left in Iraq and the difficulty of rebuilding
of Iraq is just a beginning. We have yet to tackle the fundamental
differences between the Muslim and Western worlds. We have
yet to address the breeding ground of the seeds of rage in
the Muslim world and their deep distrust of the West. Saddam
Husseins reign of terror is at best the symptoms of
much deeper, historical forces at work. In this space I have
attempted to define some of these forces (see previous articles).
On the other hand, we are told that the final
and complete redemption of the world will take place in this
month. In Nissan we were redeemed [from Egypt], and in
Nissan we will be redeemed in the future (Rosh Hashana
11b). So though the world is yet to be completely free, redemption
is in the air. And the redemption of Passover, following the
one of Purim, is a precursor of complete redemption to come.
But what can we do to facilitate the redemption
process? For generations upon generations wars have been waged
between Ishmael and Esau between the Arab/Muslim world
and the Christian/Western world with the Jews always
sandwiched in between. How much blood has been shed for control
Deeply embedded primal forces have splintered
nations apart. What will it take to finally bring true peace
to this ailing world? How will we ever unite such disparate
cultures, overcome so many years of distrust, heal from the
deep wounds inflicted on each other?
Yes, we are told that we should not fear, because
todays events in Persia are a really a sign that the
time of your redemption has arrived (Yalkut Shemoni
Isaiah, remez 499), as the Lubavitcher Rebbe (citing the Midrash)
dramatically declared 12 years ago during Gulf War I.
But where do we see redemption in these events?
Its fascinating how the battles today
are taking place in the exact region and in the exact time
of the year where and when these battles have been fought
for thousands of years, and they so parallel the events in
ancient Babylon and Persia.
All these astonishing commonalities compel us
to connect the dots, which help us understand the true nature
of todays war. Namely: the war is ultimately rooted
in the historical split between the sacred and the spiritual
a battle that has been raging since the beginning of
time. Abraham taught his children how to balance the two,
and ever since, his children and the nations they gave birth
to, have been struggling to find a way to integrate
to fuse matter and spirit, the universe and G-d.
So, while its true that the uncanny prediction
in Midrash and todays extraordinary coincidences
expose historical patterns, the question still remains: where
do we see redemption in the events of our times, and what
is our role in this process?
No doubt that clues abound in the geographical
region of Iraq. Ever since the Rebbe cited the Midrash about
the king of Persia wreaking destruction I always
wondered what deeper significance was hidden in this parallel.
After all, the Rebbe was not in the habit of just citing prophecies
and he was definitely not into sensationalism. Just because
todays king of Persia instigates a war doesnt
mean that we just find a corresponding Midrash. Persia is
not just incidental. Clearly there is much more here than
meets the eye. This Midrash is really a key that helps decipher
and expose the patterns that connect the seemingly disparate
When you begin to study the books of Isaiah
and Jeremiah and other prophets you discover a pattern, that
at the end of days G-d will confront Babylon, Persia and the
other empires that wreaked so much havoc throughout history.
Edom (Esau) and Ishmael will confront each other. The more
you read the more you see how the confrontations in the end
of days reflect to the tee the battles waged in the beginning
of days in the home of Abraham, and then in all the
centuries to follow.
But as we continue to search for clues, where
does the search lead us?
Indeed, as I was searching for clues it suddenly
struck me that the search is understanding the very nature
of the search itself. A unique feature of todays wars
is that the war itself is really more like a search than a
war: Never before in history has a war been fought without
a clear and defined enemy. Beginning with the attack on the
United States on September 11th (and let us not
deny that todays war would probably not be fought had
it not been for that fateful Tuesday morning), the enemy has
been hidden from our eyes. Who exactly attacked us? Where
are they hiding and where can they be found?
The search and hunt goes on. For close to two
years now they have been searching for Osama Bin Laden and
his cohorts. Then the search for terrorist cells waiting in
hiding. Then came the search for the source of Anthrax found
in US mail. Then inspectors were dispatched to search for
chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. And now, the search
for Saddam Hussein goes on. No doubt, once Saddam Hussein
is found there will still be much to search for.
We are dealing with an invisible enemy. But
paradoxically, once we recognize that what we are looking
for is invisible then that recognition itself begins to make
So yes, todays war in Iraq is really more
like a search. Ah, but what truly lies behind this search?
Many theories have been posited and many more
will surely come. Here is one thought.
As the world searches for whatever it is searching,
and as battles wage along the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers,
let us take a trip. Let us travel up the river and see what
Indeed, this river trip actually takes us along
a journey on the river of history. Last week I wrote about
the message of the Euphrates River. This week let us travel
further on the river and see what we discover
Well, as we move further up (or is it down?)
the Euphrates we discover something seriously wrong. According
to the Torah the Euphrates should lead us to the Garden of
Eden. As we read in Genesis (2:10-14): A river flowed
out of Eden to water the garden. From there it divided and
became four major rivers [heads]. The name of the first is
the name of the second is river is Gichon
the name of the third river is the Tigris which flows to the
east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
According to the Talmud the river that flowed out of
Eden is the Euphrates, which waters the garden,
and then continues and divides into four (Bechorot 55b and
But today, as we continue to travel on the Euphrates
we find that at the city of Al-Qurnah (in southern Iraq) it
does join the Tigris River to form the Shatt Al-'Arab, which
flows into the Persian Gulf. The other two rivers are not
to be found, and neither is the Garden of Eden!
So, where did Eden disappear to? We know that
the first human beings, Adam and Eve, were placed in the Garden
of Eden. But where exactly is the geographic location on the
map of this cradle of civilization?
This precise question is posed in Chassidus.
Rabbi Dov Ber (son of the Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) asks:
The Garden of Eden is a physical place on Earth. Why
then dont we find it on the map? Scientists have wondered
where is its location; as much as they searched they cannot
find its geographic location?! 
The explanation he offers: The Garden of Eden
is an ethereal state of being, which is an intermediary between
the physical and the spiritual, between matter and spirit.
For example: the taste of an apple, though the taste is within
the physical apple, yet it does not occupy tangible space.
Before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge their bodies
were also on this ethereal state; once they ate from the tree,
they became more materialized and therefore could
no longer remain in the spiritual state of the garden. The
Garden of Eden therefore exists on Earth, yet we (with our
material eyes) cannot see it on the map. Just like the vegetative
properties in the soil cannot be seen on the map. 
Perhaps this can be associated with one of the
theories offered by some scientists (including Dr. Juris Zarins,
a professor from Southwest Missouri State University) that
the location of Eden is now submerged beneath the mouth of
the Persian Gulf. Using advances in satellite technology,
the hypothesis is that the northern tip of the Persian Gulf
(where the Tigris and Euphrates end) had once been a lush,
fertile region. This area was located at the junction of four
rivers: the Tigris (Chiddekel); the Euphrates; the Karun River
in southwestern Iran, which according to this theory is the
Biblical Gichon (see also Kesseth HaSofer); and the now-dry
riverbed Rimah-Batin (also known as the Wadi Al-Batin), which
is the Pishon.
Look at a map and youll see that the Karun
River joins the Shatt Al-'Arab at
Basra (yes, Basra,
Who is this coming from Edom, with soiled garments from
Basra), and they empty into the Persian Gulf altogether.
According to Chassidic thought waters of the
sea reflect the hidden worlds, and are a more
sublime state of being than land. Perhaps one can say that
after the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, the Garden of Eden
became submerged under the waters of the Persian Gulf
a fitting place for the ethereal Garden of Eden. Eden is like
a piece of heaven on earth.
For the record there are other theories. Josephus
for instance identifies the Gichon and the Pishon as the Nile
and the Gangus. There is also a theory that the Garden of
Eden is in the mountains of eastern Turkey. 
It should also be noted that the Talmud clearly
states that the Euphrates could have been altered by man (Berochot
59b. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 228:2). Additionally, one
can argue that the flow of the rivers was altered, even drastically,
by the Great Flood.
The only thing that is certain is that we do
not know the location of Eden and that the search for Eden
Yet, it is quite fascinating that the Torah
finds it necessary to define in detail the geographical location
of the Garden of Eden. And that two of the four rivers flowing
out of the Garden Eden are obvious today in the Euphrates
and the Tigris. Indeed, the Euphrates is the main river flowing
out of Eden to water the garden, and the Euphrates is here
with us today.
Why leave us a reminder of the Garden of Eden
and remind us of our inadequacies? Either hide it completely
or let us have it?
Eden represents the ultimate pleasure of the
Divine the deepest dimensions one can reach, the Essence.
As the Talmud tells us (Berochos 34b) that Eden is the level
which no eye has ever seen and reserved for those
that wait for G-d (Isaiah 64:3). Even Adam and
Eve were not in Eden; they were in the Garden of Eden, which
was watered by the river flowing from Eden. Eden itself is
a level that no eye has ever seen.
Yet, we have a river the Euphrates
that flows from Eden, a relatively narrow river that only
gives us a glimpse into Eden, yet a glimpse it is into the
Essence of existence (see Hemshech 5666 pp. 10).
This is the true nature of our search in life:
We are looking for our essence, we are searching for the essence
of existence we are in search of Eden.
Some people give up hope. They resign themselves
to a life of (Thoreaus) quiet desperation.
The Euphrates reminds us that there is an Eden somewhere
though we cannot see Eden itself, we can see the river flowing
from Eden, bringing us a taste of another reality.
This is the dance of life a true dance,
with all its strange paradoxes. At the same time that we sense
a presence from beyond it also eludes us. Just as we try to
control it, it disappears.
On one hand we clearly can see the Euphrates
and the Tigris. But the other two rivers elude us. The Talmud
(Berochos cited above) even says that we must make a blessing
when we see these rivers rivers that are here with
us since the beginning of creation. But only the sections
of the rivers that were not altered by man. As soon as man
touches and alters their flow, they no longer retain the power
of Eden. 
Perhaps that is why the Talmud and Tosfos (Berochos
54a) mention by name only the two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris,
being that these are the only definite rivers today. We are
not clear about the location of the other two rivers.
So on one hand, some of the rivers of Gan Eden
disappeared, but on the other hand we still have the other
two rivers, and primarily the Euphrates the main river
flowing into and watering the garden (from which the other
three stem) is with here us today, as a reminder of
our mission to reconnect with Eden.
What is the point of telling us about the Eden
and then its loss? The point is to tell us that we have the
ability, the power and the responsibility to reconnect with
Eden and allow it to resurface into our lives.
But what is our role today how do we
return to Paradise? The Torah tells us this as well, following
the description of the rivers flowing from the garden:
When Adam (which includes man and woman) was
placed into the Garden of Eden he was also told his mission:
To serve and protect the garden. Vayitzav
Hashem Elokim al haAdam lamoir, mekol etz hagan
ochol tochail. G-d commanded Adam, you may
definitely eat from every tree of the garden. The Talmud explains
that these seven phrases are the root of the seven Noachide
laws the universal laws of civilization (Sanhedrin
War in Iraq today brings our attention to that
region in the world. It compels us to realize that the entire
human experience began in that area, and that above all, the
actual geography of Iraq tells us the story of our own lives,
and of the history of nations.
And when you take into account that the current
events in Iraq are taking place in this month of Nissan (month
of Redemption) the message takes on even more import. Because
the events in the Garden of Eden took shape on one
dimension on the first day of Nissan.  Which means
that the banishment from the Garden of Eden took place in
the early days of this month.
The human race as a whole and each individual
in particular is in search of Paradise. Each of us translates
that search in our own way. Our search is sometimes healthy
and sometimes not so healthy. What we are all searching for
is: the Garden of Eden, and more specifically, Eden, the essence
Gan Eden disappeared because we were no longer
sublime enough. Perhaps it sunk beneath the water waiting
to emerge. Yet, it did not disappear entirely.
After the sin of the Tree of Knowledge and the
banishment from Eden a split took place a schism between
the matter and spirit, between the mundane and the sacred.
The door closed between Eden, Gan Eden and our lives
between our higher calling and our daily routines. Yet, the
door did not close entirely.
We have a river in our lives that waters our
garden and reminds us of truths that come from a greater place.
Sometimes we are awake and aware, sometimes not so much. But
the river is always there to remind us. Within each of us
lies a garden of Eden watered by the river
of consciousness that squanders the boundary between
matter and spirit. We also have rivers that flow out of the
garden into the mundane aspects of our lives.
Our mission is to use these rivers as channels
to connect us, our material lives, with our Divine
calling. We do this by following the universal Divine laws
that G-d gave the human race, the entire human race. Every
aspect of our lives has to be permeated via the river
channel with Eden.
By doing so we have the power to reach a place
that is even greater than Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
They only connected to the river flowing from Eden. We, however,
through our efforts and hard work in these difficult times,
have the power to reach Eden itself, to see that which
no eye has ever seen.
What we await for now is that in this month
of Nissan the Euphrates will split and allow us to
reach into Eden itself. And we can help facilitate the process
through our behavior and actions.
So as the search continues in the war in Iraq
during these early days of Nissan, the lesson to us is crystal
There are many angles to understand the war
in Iraq. But the true war today is driven by the angst of
man in search of Eden.
 Shaarei Teshuva 69b. Maamorei Admur HoEmtzoee Vayikra
vol. 2 p. 703, and in sources cited in the footnote there.
See Ohr HaTorah Bereishis vol. 7, 1163a.
 See also Etz Chaim (Arizal) Shaar Tziur
HaOlamos ch. 3. Likkutei Torah Shemini Atzeret 84c. Sefer
HaMaamorim 5565 vol. 2 p. 560. See Zohar II 150a and in Ohr
HaChama. Ramban Shaar HaGomul pp. 295.
 The Ramban in Shaar HaGomul (ibid) writes
in the name of surveyors that the location of
Gan Eden is below the equator (which has not changed
over time), 32 degrees south of Jerusalem (Maamorie Admur
HoEmtzoee in note 1). See also Etz Chaim, Shaarei Teshuva
and some of the other citations in note 1 and 2. Likkutei
Torah Tazria 20a. The reason for this is because Gan Eden
is the navel, the center of the earth
(Israel is at the center of populated earth) Etz Chaim
ibid. Shaar Haaoras HaMochin ch. 5. See also Ramaz (Mikdash
Melech) on Zohar II 184b. In Etz Chaim (ibid ch. 1 and 3)
Gan Eden is to the southeast, like the right arm, of Israel.
Interesting note: The Ramban also cites medical
books form the early Greeks (and also from a book by Asaf
the Jewish doctor) who relate a story that Aspalkinus, a Macedonian
thinker, together with 40 men, traveled to a place beyond
India, east of Eden, in search of the Tree of Life, which
they felt could provide major medical benefits. They wanted
to become famous. Instead, they were all killed by the revolving
flaming sword that stands East of Eden. The Ramban writes
that this a true story known and publicized even today.
And that many people from the land in the East can see the
revolving flame from afar. This needs to be reconciled
with Shaarei Teshuva which states that you can not see the
 Halachically speaking, see Eliyahu Rabba
and Olat Tomid Orach Chaim 228:2 (cited in Kaf HaChaim), that
one shouldnt recite a blessing if in doubt.
 See Rosh Hashana 10b. Sichat Shabbat Parshat
HISTORICAL EVENTS THAT HAVE OCCURRED IN
THE TIGRIS-EUPHRATES VALLEY REGION MODERN DAY IRAQ
- The human race begins in the Garden of Eden, which is
in the area of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (Genesis
2:10-14), where Adam and Eve were placed.
- After the Flood, the region was first ruled and developed
by Nimrod, "the mighty hunter before The Lord"
(Genesis 10:8-12). Among the numerous cities of his kingdom
were Nineveh and Babylon, two names that would be prominent
in the history of Israel.
- The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) was constructed
in the region - Babel takes its name from Babylon.
- Abraham was born and lived much of his life in Ur Of
The Chaldees (Genesis 11:28), which was located near the
Euphrates River approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers)
southeast of the Iraq's modern capital city of Baghdad.
- Nineveh, located on the Tigris River, was the capital
of the Assyrian empire (see Ancient Empires - Assyria).
The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel,
and transported the "Lost Ten Tribes" into exile,
never to return (2 Kings 17:21-23).
- Babylon, located on the Euphrates River, was the capital
of the Babylonian empire. The Babylonians conquered the
southern kingdom of Judah, destroyed the original Temple
at Jerusalem, and carried the people of Judah away into
the Babylonian exile (2 Chronicles 36:15-20). They remained
there until the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians,
who allowed the Jewish people to return to the land of
- Babylonian Talmud which encompasses the entire
body of Torah law was compiled in Babylon over
a period of seven generations.
HISTORICAL EVENTS THAT HAVE OCCURRED IN
YEAR 357 BCE
~ Adar 13 (this year March 17): Persian King
Achashverosh decrees that this day be transformed from a day
of genocide to a day of war against all the enemies of the
Jewish people who plotted to kill them. Humans sons
are killed together with many other enemies
~ Purim Adar 14 (March 18): The battles ends and the
Achashverosh decrees that this day be transformed to a day
of liberation. Hamans sons are hung together with thousands
of others who plotted the genocide
~ Shushan Purim Adar 15 (March 19) the war ends
and celebration is held in Shushan, capital of Persia
A YEAR EARLIER, 356 BCE
~ Nissan: Haman throws lots which fall on Adar
13 as the day of the genocide of the entire Jewish nation
~ 13 Nissan (this year April 15): Writing the decree and sending
them out to the entire Persian Empire
~ 14-16 Nissan (April 16-18): At Esthers suggestion
all the Jews gather to pray and fast for three days to abolish
the tragic decree
~ 15 Nissan at night: King Achashverosh has insomnia, he hears
the story about Mordechai rescuing his life and decides to
reward him. This becomes the beginning of the Purim redemption
~ 15-16 Nissan (2nd day of Passover): Esther invites
Haman and Achashverosh to a party and then to a second party,
with the intention to ruin Humans plans
~ 16 Nissan: Haman is hung on the tree which he built to hang
~ 23 Sivan (June 23): The decree is abolished, and transformed
YEAR 1312 BCE
~ 1 Nissan (April 3): G-d designates the month
of Nissan as the first month of the year, and tells Moses
that the Exodus would take place in two weeks. Commands him
about the details of Passover
~ 10 Nissan (April 12): Preparing the Pascal lamb for Passover.
The Egyptian first born wage war against Egypt
~ 14 Nissan (April 16): Plague of the first born
~ 15 Nissan (April 17): The Jewish people leave Egypt after
430 years of exile
~ 21 Nissan (April 23): The Red Sea parts and allows
the Jewish people to walk through while drowning the pursuing
Egyptians. The Jews sing praise
~ 1 Nissan: Creation of Adam and Eve and their
placement in the Garden of Eden (according to Rabbi Yehoshua
Rosh Hashana 11a. See Tosfos ibid 27a)
~ 14 Nissan:
>>> Abraham wins his battles with the kings
>>> Birth of Isaac
>>> Jacob steals his brother Esaus
>>> Jacobs crosses the river and wrestles with and
prevails over Esaus angel
>>> The victory of Devorah and Barak over Sisra (Judges
>>>The fall of Assyrian King Sancheriv and his army
through the prayers of Chezkiyahu (Kings II 19:35)
>>>Daniel interprets the dream of Nevuchadnezzar,
King of Babylon (Daniel 6:23) as predicting the fall of the
great empires to come, Babylon, Persia, Greek, Roman and/or
>>>The death of Babylonian King Baltshatzar, grandson
of Nevuchadnezzar, the night of his party where he displays
the vessels of the Holy Temple (Daniel 4:30)
>>>Daniel is saved from the Lions den (Daniel
>>>n the future vengeance against Edom (Piyut
for Shabbas HaGodol and 2nd day of Passover)
>>>In the future Esau and Amalek will be destroyed,
followed by the construction of the Third Temple (see Sukka
41a. Pesachim 5a. Zohar III 249a. Citations in Shaarei Zohar
on Sukka ibid)