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Bereishit(Genesis 1:1-6:8)

Adam and Eve Eat the Apple

The story of Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit, a major topic in this week's Torah portion, is perhaps the most famous of Biblical stories.Warned by God to refrain from eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge that is in the midst of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ignore the divine command. It is puzzling how they could have acted that way; before they ate from the tree, evil was not a part of their psychological makeup - they were pure of sin, having no shame of their own nakedness. (see Genesis 2:25) While the text makes it clear that the tree was quite attractive, it is still difficult to believe that such an enticement would lead Adam and Eve to transgress. What happened that they disobeyed the Almighty?!

While the snake brought the tree to Eve's attention, and claimed that "on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5), it is hard to imagine that this is what drove Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. The narrative makes clear that to Eve the tree appeared "good to eat, desirable to look at, and a pleasant means to acquire wisdom" (Genesis 2:6). But there is no mention of the tree as a vehicle to become God's equal. Rather, it is a higher level of wisdom they ultimately seek.

The Madregat Adam (great 19th century rabbi) offers a widely accepted interpretation. He says that Adam and Eve never intended to revolt against God. Quite the contrary, they viewed eating the fruit as a means to elevate themselves to a higher level of service to God. Realizing that the "yetzer hara," the evil inclination, was not a part of their psychological makeup, they felt flawed in their ability to serve God in as lofty a manner as possible. Service of God is most significantly exemplified when someone faces a challenge - and acts as the Almighty would want us to act.

For Adam and Eve there were no such challenges, for they lacked the internal desire to do anything against God's will. They reasoned that eating the fruit would allow them, for the first time, to feel the internal tug of war between the "yetzer hara" and the "yetzer hatov" (the desire to do good). They reasoned that facing and overcoming such challenges would demonstrate greater loyalty to God.

What the two failed to realize, however, was that they would be generating conflicts that they may not be able to overcome. Though intended to better show their loyalty to the Almighty, these tests proved to be their downfall. According to the Madregat Adam, the sin of Adam and Eve was not in disobeying God. Rather, it was their failure to appreciate how much God really understands them.

God has the greatest understanding of human beings - who they are and what they are (and are not) capable of achieving. If God says you shouldn't eat from the fruit because it will cause problems, then the right thing to do is to listen to God! God created us and certainly He knows us best of all. When we abandon the parameters laid down by our Creator, we are opening ourselves up to unfortunate circumstances.

For thousands of years, Jews have understood the importance of hearkening to God's commands - not only because they are expressions of His will - but also because we know that following them is truly what's best for us.

January 23, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 12

(10) Anonymous, October 9, 2017 11:39 AM

Amen! Excellent article and very well written! Thanks for posting!

(9) Anonymous, October 9, 2015 11:02 AM

Great article! Thanks for posting!

(8) Anonymous, October 15, 2014 1:42 PM


This is great! Thank you so much for posting it!

(7) Mark Rosenbaum, April 11, 2011 4:23 PM

What is the meaning of Genesis 3:22-23

“The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

(6) Samuel, October 1, 2010 10:42 PM

Too many second guesses

G-d stated : Do not eat of that tree. That command should have been respected, no excuses, no further explanations are required, for it's all speculation. What we do know is that when Adam and Eve ate from the tree, not only did they break G-d's commandment, they commited theft, for the tree was not theirs to begin with, to do as they did. They also traded the respect for G-d (their Creator) in exchange for what the snake had to offer, "Suffering and death", and everything inbetween, as was explained when the commandment was given. Adam and Eve therefore decided to ingest their own demise. The forbidden tree represents an action, and in this case, the action was of rebellion even before the knowledge of good or evil was known to them. For every action, there is a reaction. We are governed by laws, whether mechanical, physical, or spiritual.

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