Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra: Naked Awareness (Bereishit)

zak kinkade garden of eden
Zac Kinkade's rendition of the Garden of Eden.

The Torah Text

Genesis 1 focuses on God the cosmic creator. Genesis 2 shifts focus to the creatures themselves, setting the stage for the human drama that will occupy the rest of the book. After Adam and Eve are created, they are described as עֲרוּמִּ֔ים (arumim), “naked,” yet unashamed (Genesis 2:25).

Ibn Ezra’s Teaching

Genesis 2:25 NAKED. Arumim (naked) is an adjective. “And stripped the naked (arumim) of their clothing” (Job 22:6) is similar. Some say that arum (prudent) in “A prudent man (arum) sees the evil and hides himself” (Proverbs 22:3) has essentially the same meaning. What the verse means is that the mind of the wise is uncovered (arum) and open to everything like the eye. (Translation adapted from Strickman and Silver)

Reflections for the Path

Although Ibn Ezra’s commentary seems focused on clarifying what the word arum means – it is an adjective meaning naked – he offers a beautiful indirect insight into that Edenic state that humans were in before they partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. On one level they are simply physically naked, not yet aware of their potent and sometimes painful sexuality.

Yet, by quoting the Proverb, Ibn Ezra points us to the quality of “nakedness” that is a mental state, not a physical condition. Most simply, the proverb means that it is prudent to distant oneself from danger. But because it uses the word arum, Ibn Ezra suggests that the deeper meaning is to cultivate what some call beginner’s mind, “naked” of preconception or over-determinative goals and thus seeing most clearly what is actually present.

Adam and Eve, then, can model for us mindful awareness (at least in this chapter), a human quality that will soon be shattered by the self-judgmental quality here called “shame”. As we begin a new cycle of Torah study, may we occasionally find ourselves so open to the text, so naked of the hopes and fears we project onto the text, that we discover ourselves slipping by the angel with the fiery sword and entering once again the Garden.

For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.