The sin of the Etz HaDa’at, the Tree of Knowledge is one of the most perplexing episodes in the Torah. Insight into the story sheds light on women’s unique qualities and role in the process of redemption.
After Adam’s creation, G-d placed him in the Garden of Eden. Man was permitted to partake in all the delicacies except for one food, “From the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will become deserving of death” (Gen. 2:17).
The prohibition of eating from the Etz HaDa’at and the consequence of death upon its violation was intimated for Adam, Chava and their descendants. Although Adam relayed this prohibition to Chava, she became confused with the directive, which then set the tone for the entire sinful episode.
The cunning serpent that was the embodiment of the evil Satan, asked Chava whether G-d had forbidden her from eating from any trees in the garden.
Chava answered, “Of the fruit of any tree in the garden we may eat, just of the fruit of the tree which is in the center of the garden, G-d said ‘You should neither eat of it nor touch it, lest you die'” (Gen. 3:2-3).
Chava added the prohibition of touching the Tree of Knowledge. When the serpent then forcibly pushed Chava against the tree, he victoriously claimed, “See, just as death did not ensue from touching, so it will not follow from eating.”
Through his beguiling words, the serpent introduced doubt into Chava’s mind. It now became easier to dare Chava to taste the forbidden fruit. He convinced her that G-d did not actually intend to kill her and Adam, but merely threatened them to intimidate them.
The serpent enticed Chava by predicting beneficial outcomes. “Your eyes will be opened… The fruit will awaken a new desire and appreciation for the pleasures around you. It will be a source of intellectual benefit.”
Chava longed for this new knowledge and exciting awakening and ate the forbidden fruit. She then used her persuasive powers to convince her husband to eat the forbidden fruit.
Chava’s downfall began when she expanded and distorted G-d’s command, which she did not personally hear.
The Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) states that 10 measures of speech were given to the world. Nine of them were allocated to women.
This statement is neither praiseworthy nor derogatory. Each of us, however, has the responsibility to determine how to use our communication skills. We have the choice of gossiping, lying, plotting and talking evilly; or, conversely, we can express empathy, understanding, and constructive teaching.
Woman’s extra allotment of speech can have many positive or negative ramifications.
Chava distorted G-d’s command, because she did not hear it directly. The command was relayed by Adam and, therefore, was slightly ambiguous to her. Elaborating on the prohibition to include something that it did not include, caused her to eventually be persuaded to sin.
The above explains the circumstances leading Chava to violate G-d’s word, but her reasoning is still unclear. What intrinsic spiritual changes did Chava anticipate that were so irresistible?
Prior to this sin, mankind was not a mixture of good and evil but was innately good, seeking to do the will of his Maker. Although he possessed free will, temptation came from the outside. Evil, per se, was embodied in the satanic serpent that became a vehicle for temptation.
Man’s mission was to elevate himself to the level where evil would become completely senseless and unappealing. If man, an essentially physical being, chose to ignore temptation, he would elevate the entire physical realm.
Had humanity fulfilled this mission, our purpose would have been achieved by the time the sun had set on the sixth day of creation, at the onset of the world’s first Shabbat. Life would have become an upward spiral of spiritual ecstasy.
Chava thought she could do better. She understood that overcoming an external temptation is never as great as overcoming an internal one.
By eating the forbidden fruit, Chava consciously caused temptation to become a part of humanity’s make-up. They became enlightened people. Their eyes were open to the evil of the world. They now displayed a desire for base pleasure, despite its harmfulness.
They had thought they could please G-d by resisting this constant inner call to evil. They now realized that they had stripped themselves of the one precept entrusted to them. Then they heard the “Voice of G-d withdrawing in the garden” (Gen. 3:8). This was the first tragic withdrawal of the Divine Presence.
Though we cannot fully fathom the cosmic effect of this sin, our long exile became one consequence. Death, as well, became necessary.
Yet man’s sin was also part of Creation’s design. Adam and Chava were, in a sense, correct in their assumption that the outcome of this sin would ultimately lead to a greater sanctification of G-d’s Name.
In the era of Mashiach, once the world reaches its eventual state of purity, humanity will have achieved a greater accomplishment. Once we will have overcome temptation from within, the positive forces will be strengthened. Accordingly, man’s reward will be greater, as well.
For this to happen, it was part of the Divine Plan that Adam should relay G-d’s command to Chava. Chava would never have dared to violate a prohibition given to her personally by
Women are stronger in this aspect of faith. Women’s innate humility makes them more conducive to Kabbalat Ol, accepting the Divine Will, regardless of their comprehension.
Had Chava heard the direct command, in her humility, she would not have dared to make any further calculation. But we also would not have achieved our ultimate objective of negating an internal evil. Thus, the greater feat would have been relinquished.
Since woman caused the original taint of sin to become part of man’s make-up – a sin that will only be removed in the era of Mashiach – she must be the one to correct it. She is entrusted with the responsibility – and the privilege – of bringing about this ultimate rectification.
The Final Redemption will arrive in the merit of righteous women, who utilize their immense spiritual capabilities for positive endeavors.
(Excerpted from Tending the Garden by Chana Weisberg)
Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including the best-selling Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and the soon-to-be released book, Tending the Garden: The Role of the Jewish Woman, Past, Present and Future. She is a columnist for www.chabad.org and she lectures worldwide on a wide array of issues. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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