Following the disobedience of Adam and Eve, they are given a punishment, and the serpent is cursed for its role in tempting Eve. My question is: Why does God also curse the ground, which seemingly played no role in the affair?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
On the third day of the world's creation, God commanded: "Let the earth sprout vegetation, herbs that give out seeds and TREE FRUIT that grows fruit according to its type" (Genesis 1:10).
The simplest way to understand the words "tree fruit" is that they are actually "TREES that yield FRUIT," but the Torah doesn't write it that way! There is a secret behind the words. According to Rashi (11th century France), God commanded that the tree should taste exactly like its fruit. Can you imagine? That means when you were hungry, you would just walk over to a tree - and tear off a piece of bark which would be just as delicious as the fruit!
On a deeper level, what Rashi means that "the tree would taste like the fruit," is that a person's labor would be as pleasurable as the fruits of his labor. For example, let's say that your boss asked you to write a 30-page stock analysis within 24 hours, or you would be fired. So you go toil and sweat, break down in tears from the pressure, and cry out in your agony "This report is killing me!" But in the end, after all the hard work has subsided, you can sit back and enjoy all the fruits of you labor, having just been made partner in the company.
So although labor is very difficult (something like eating tree bark!), in reality the struggle, the pain, the tears, and the cries should be as pleasurable as the fruit. Hence God's command that the tree should taste like fruit.
Unfortunately, the land disobeyed God's command and grew trees whose bark did not taste like its fruit. As it says, "The earth sprouted vegetation, with herbs that gave out seeds, and TREES that made FRUIT" (Genesis 1:11). Note that the verse doesn't say, "tree fruit" - i.e. trees whose taste are like its fruit. Because of this, God punished the earth when he punished Adam.