I’ve suddenly gotten busy, so less time to post. The Chizkuni quotes a Midrash which we don’t have: R’ Yehoshua was asked how we know Chavah was commanded not to eat the eitz hada’as. (The prohibition against eating the eitz hada’as in ch. 2 is actually written before Chavah is built from Adam.) When I presented this question to a few people, their response was that the command not to eat was not given to man, Adam in the particular, but to mankind (the actually pasuk refers to ha-Adam). Interestingly, this is not the Midrash’s answer.
The first answer given by the Midrash is that Chavah was built from a side/rib of Adam. The command not to partake of the eitz hada’as applied to every limb and organ of Adam, even those parts of him that were now part of Chavah. R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz quotes this answer in his Sichos Mussar and elaborates on this idea of being mekadesh every part of one’s being.
R’ Chaim does not quote the Midrash’s second answer, which I found even more interesting. The Midrash says that since Chavah responded to the snake by saying that she could not eat from the eitz hada’as, she could in fact not eat from it.
Some people I quoted this to reacted by taking the Midrash to mean that since Chavah acknowledged the prohibition, there must be some source for it, e.g. the command was given to mankind, or maybe m’sevara it made sense. But if that were the case, if the Midrash is just telling us a siman that there was an issur, then ikar chaseir min hasefer – why not tell us the source for that issur? Why give us a proof that there was an issur, which was never in doubt, instead of telling us directly what the source of that issur was, which was the question raised?
It sounds to me like the Midrash is telling us that it was Chavah’s acceptance of the issur of eating eitz hada’as, irrespective of whether she was commanded not to do so, which bound her to not eat. By way of analogy, perhaps the issur could be compared to a neder. What emerges from this approach is a different spin entirely on Chavah’s sin. It was not eating per se which was wrong (as she had never been told not to eat!), but rather what was wrong was that by eating she engaged in hypocrisy – on the one hand, she verbally accepted the prohibition as binding upon herself, while on the other hand she acted as if she was free to do as she pleased.