Wednesday, October 21, 2009

was Chavah told not to eat the eitz hada'as?

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.


  1. Answers I've heard:

    According to the midrash that Adam was created as a two sided hermaphrodite, the command not to eat from the tree was given when Chavah was still a part of his body. Therefore the issur applied equally to her.

    Or... ishto k'gufo. Just as Adam was forbidden so was Chavah.

    Or... really the first man had no name. We popularily call him Adam but the Torah refers to him as HaAdam, which implies that Adam is the name of the species, not an individual. Therefore when God commands HaAdam not to eat from the tree, all members of the species are so included.

  2. Answer #3 is what people suggested m'sevara.

    Ishto k'gufo? I don't understand... by that token your wife should be obligated in every mitzvah you are, including mitzvos aseh sh'hazman gerama.

    I'm waiting for someone to say that there is no difference between men and women with respect to chayvei lavin so the whole kashe does not get off the ground.

  3. So, would you say that the original woman was not included in the command -- lacking arvus -- but accepted it upon herself, so to speak?

  4. First of all, Adam wasn't Jewish. Really he wasn't even a ben Noach since he was his great---great grandfather! The concept of time-based positive injunctions is only applicable to Jewish law. I am not aware of the 7 mitzvos of b'nei Noach (for lack of a better term in this case) making that differentiation. Therefore yes, she would be equally obliged in any laws he was obliged to keep.

    Secondly, even if one says that there is a difference in positive injunctions, this was a negative one so it doesn't apply.

  5. I don't get it -- you are being mechadesh that 1) the sevara of ishto k'gufo applies to an aku'm 2) that ishto k'gufo functions as a mechayeiv. Why does it work as a mechayeiv l'gabei the issur of eating eitz hada'as but nowhere else in halacha?

    I am just using mitzvos aseh to illustrate that nowhere else do we find ishto k;gufo used as a mechayeiv, at least to the best of my tired brain's recollection.

  6. Anonymous8:37 PM

    The Aruch Hashulchan uses Ishto Kigufo for a Pitur for women to not give Shalach Manos but your Klal stands

  7. It's also used as a ptur by neiros chanukah, but that sevara is challenged by many achronim. Pashtus is it's a din in hilchos eidus, no more than that.

  8. "being mekadesh every part of one’s being"

    except only Adam was able to fulfill this literally. ;)

    could one that the prohibition of eating from the Etz Hadaas was either on the gavra (in which case she had to be part of him) or on the cheftza (in which case the fruit itself was a prohibited item)? (again, ;) )


  9. Examples of specific eivarim being addressed can be found in various midrashim: ozen sheshema al har sinai...; raglei molichos osi l'batei midrash, etc.

    Even if it was an issur cheftza, that does not mean it is assur to everyone. For example, if termunah is an issur cheftza, a kohein can still eat it. Gavra vs. cheftza has to do with effect, not scope -- see Ch. R' Sh. Shkop on Nedarim 2.

  10. Anonymous9:24 AM

    The Ohr H'Chaim says that since when Adam was told not to the Eitz H'Daas he was told 'Laymor' it included Chava.

    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.

    But she also said she couldn't touch it.Why didn't that also become forbidden to her?

  11. Anonymous 9:24, thanks for waking my brain up this morning!

    You have to answer that accepting an issur that you weren't commanded is fine, but adding the fabricated issur of touching is bal tosif, and so the neder wouldn't be chall (nisba le'vateil and all that). Of course, you can make a neder to not eat bread; but here, she was attributing the issur to retzon Hashem, so it would be bal tosif both according to the Rambam and the Raavad.(

  12. "Examples of specific eivarim being addressed can be found in various midrashim"

    but none of them does one literally marry. the pun was on the word "mekadesh". again, ;)

    i was having fun with both my comments...


  13. Tamir9:04 PM

    My problem with the sevara, that Adam refers to mankind, is that when God sentences Adam it say( Bereshit 3: 17): ul'Adam, suggesting it was his name( if it was a generic name it should have said: vela'Adam). Also, even when God speaks el haAdam( 3: 9) He uses the singular, and though both are present, Adam answers, in the singular.
    Moreover, if it were so, even though we don't have a "cat in hell's" chance of repeating the Aveyra, doesn't it mean that as descendants of Adam( sharing a part of him), we should count an extra Misvat Lo Ta'aseh of eating from Es haDa'at ?

    Regarding the Midrash's first suggestion, that Chava was Chayevet by virtue of sharing a rib, does that mean that a Goy can become Chayav beMisvot by virtue of receiving an organ( say a kidney) transplant from a Jew ?

    Regarding the second suggestion, it only shows Chava was forbidden to eat the fruit, but not who forbade her( it could have been Adam).
    It is interesting that only Adam( and in the the singular) is questioned by God about eating from Es haDa'at( 3: 11), and is subsequently sentences for it separately from Chava( 3: 17).

  14. >>>does that mean that a Goy can become Chayav beMisvot by virtue of receiving an organ( say a kidney) transplant from a Jew ?

    I did not think of that -- great point. You could distinguish and say that Chavah was a "container" which had the same level of kedusha as Adam -- she was just lacking a tzivuy. A nochri is a different type of container.

  15. Chaim, are you serious? Do you really have a hava amina that the organ is chayav in mitzvos? That would be a whole new application for chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin.