Bereshit – Shlishi

Snake in the Grass

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, during which He removed one of his ribs, which He fashioned into a woman. G-d brought the woman to the man, who called her “Isha” (woman) because she was taken from “Ish” (man). Because of this inseparable connection, a man will leave his parents’ home to be with his wife; the couple will be like a single being. The man and woman were both naked, but they were not self-conscious about it.

And then, along came the serpent (“Nachash” in Hebrew; the serpent may be a metaphor for our evil inclinations or other things, but we’ll treat it as an actual snake here). The serpent questioned the woman as to whether G-d had really instructed the couple not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge between good and evil. The woman replied that He had so commanded; in fact, she said, they may not even touch that tree, under pain of death. (G-d did not actually prohibit touching the tree; Adam added that as a preventive measure, but he neglected to tell Eve that it was not part of G-d’s actual command.) The serpent told her that she wouldn’t die; G-d just wanted to keep the couple from becoming as wise as He. The serpent gave the woman a shove and she grabbed on to the tree. When she saw that nothing bad happened, she disregarded the entire command as bogus and ate from the tree. She also gave some to the man. When they ate, their perspective changed from an objective worldview to the subjective concepts of right and wrong. The first thing they felt was shame for their state of undress, so they made themselves aprons out of fig leaves.

The couple heard G-d’s voice approaching them, so they hid themselves. G-d asked why they were cowering in the bushes and they replied that they were embarrassed because they were naked.

“Where did you get the idea that that was something to be embarrassed about?” G-d asked. “Did you eat from the Tree of Knowledge, counter to My instructions?”

The man didn’t own up. Instead, he passed the buck. “The woman that You gave me fed it to me.” (Blaming the woman was bad enough, but “that You gave me” implicitly blames G-d, i.e., “If You hadn’t given me the woman, none of this would have happened!”)

G-d asked the woman, “And what do you have to say for yourself?” She blamed the serpent.

G-d cursed the serpent to crawl on its stomach and to eat dust. (This doesn’t seem like a punishment in that it ensured the serpent an endless supply of food; that’s a punishment in that it distances the serpent from G-d, Who normally provides a creature’s need Himself.) The serpent’s descendants and the woman’s descendants would have animosity and would attack one another.

G-d cursed the woman with pain in childbirth. Despite this, she would have a desire to have children with her husband and endure it.

The ground was cursed because of the man. Instead of just bringing forth produce, it would have to be worked. It would take hard work to earn a living. And, as promised, humans would die, returning to the dust from which they were formed.

After this, we are told that the man named his wife Eve (“Chava” in Hebrew, from the word “chai,” life), since she was the mother of all who would ever exist. G-d clothed the couple in animal skins (no doubt sturdier than their fig leaf aprons).

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