Parshat Breish’t 5784: Eitz Hadat: Communication Breakdown?

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Parshat Breish’t 5784: Eitz Hadat: Communication Breakdown?

by Moshe Burt

Torah records:

“Hashem G’d took the man and placed him in the Garden [Gan] of Eden, to work it and to guard it. And rHashem G’d Commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad [Eitz Hadat], you must not eat thereof; for on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.'” (Sefer Breish’t Perek 2, posukim 16-17 Rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

After Chava was created — “a helper corresponding to him” [Ezer Kanegdo] (citing the Artscroll Stone Chumash Perek 2, posuk 18). Assumably, Adam conveyed Hashem’s Command to Chava. But it seems that something got lost in the transmission for Torah relates that Chava was confronted in the Garden by the serpent.

Torah relates the dialogue between the serpent and Chava:

Serpent to Chava: “Did, perhaps, G’d say: ‘ You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'” (Sefer Breish’t Perek 3, posuk 1 Rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Chava to the serpent: “Of the fruit of any tree of the garden we may eat. Of the fruit of the tree which is in the center of the garden Hashem has said: ‘You shall neither eat of it nor touch it, lest you die.'” (Sefer Breish’t Perek 3, posukim 2-3 Rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Serpent to Chava: “You will not surely die…” (Sefer Breish’t Perek 3, posuk 4 Rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin notes, in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Breish’t, pages 16-19 :

…It is unclear where the breakdown in communication between Hashem and man actually take place.

Hashem originally Commands Adam concerning the Eitz Hadat…, before Chava is created. One would assume that Adam then shares the Commandment with Chava and that Chava repeats it to the serpent.

The Torah seems to deliberately leave this process of communication vague. At what point do the mistakes occur? Does Adam misunderstand Hashem’s words? Does he understand properly but communicate mistakenly to Chava? Or is it Chava who fails to properly comprehend the Commandment?

By leaving the point of breakdown unclear, the Torah conveys an additional lesson… The task of communication is at once important and delicate. We should be most cautious with how we deliver and receive verbal messages.

Midrash states that when Chava tells the serpent that she is forbidden to touch the tree, the serpent proceeds to push her against it. Upon seeing that nothing happens to her, Chava then eats from the Tree and falls into sin. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabba Sefer Breish’t, Perek 19, posuk 3) This event, continues the Midrash, supports the dictum stated by King Solomon: “Do not add upon His [Hashem’s] words.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Mishlei 30:6)

Absent in Chava’s words is any indication of the specific nature of this tree. By failing to refer to it as the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” Chava ignores that Hashem may have His reasons for the prohibition, More importantly, she fails to understand that the thrust of the prohibition is a demand upon man’s behavior, rather than a warning concerning a dangerous tree. She would rather believe that she is facing an arbitrary danger, created by a capricious [adjective: subject to, led by, or indicative of a sudden, odd notion or unpredictable change; erratic] god [in the lower case], than confront the reality of a thinking Deity Who is making demands upon her behavior.

…Chava’s version of the prohibition: “Not only can’t we eat from the tree [she says], but we can’t touch it.”

The tree is so dangerous that it must be avoided at all costs. According to the Midrash, the serpent sees an opening. He pushes her against the Tree, thereby demonstrating that it is not inherently dangerous. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah, Breish’t 19:3) Once the danger disappears in Chava’s mind there is no longer any reason to avoid eating from the Tree.

What began as a reasoned, moral Commandment has become a superstitious fear. Once the fear disappears, for Chava, the prohibition dissipates as well.

The Torah is indicating that Chava originally thought that the fruit of the Tree was poisonous. When she sees that it is apparently not — but instead beautiful — she proceeds to eat from it. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t Perek 3, posuk 6)

Chava’s description of the ramifications of eating from the Tree is also significant.

Hashem had said, “for the day on which you eat from it you shall certainly die.” Chava states simply, “lest we die.”

Hashem defines death as a moral consequence of the act of eating from the Tree. There is cause and effect, justice based upon man’s obedience or disobedience to the Divine Will.

Chava sees death as a potential danger rather than as a moral consequence of disobedience to Hashem.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, pages 19, 22) :

Rooted in Gan Eden, therefore, are the seeds of sin and failure. From the moment that Chava speaks to the serpent, the struggle is joined: a struggle between religion and superstition; between thought-filled dedication to Hashem’s Will, and rote, unthinking ritual; between what Hashem wants and what we are willing to give. This battle can be traced across the generations as time after time, man seems to deliberately misunderstand what it is that Hashem desires from us.

Hashem clearly tells us that what he wants from us is ourselves. Over and over again, frightened by that demand, we desperately try to offer Him anything and everything else.

Tragically, Am Yisrael falls into the trap first established in Gan Eden. Frightened by the demands which a close relationship with Hashem will create, the people instead choose to retreat and distance, ultimately sinning through the creation of the golden calf.

This author sees this error, seemingly indicated by Rabbi Goldin, and resultant tragic consequences to Am Yehudi repeating itself countless times through the generations to our day. Many amongst Am Yisrael see issues such as reforming the draft laws and Judicial reform, i.e. elimination of what amounts to judicial appointments by committees unrepresentative of the will of the voting governed and resultant judicial dictatorship as steps toward a creating a Halachic State and compelling Torah law upon them. They cloud these important issues, as Chava seems to have done regarding the Eitz Hadat, with the cover of “the right wing is destroying ‘democracy.'”

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we see, in 5784, the REAL Jews, via matrilineal descent, from the Ukraine and Russia make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.