2. The Belzer Rebbe, R' Sar Shalom, has a wonderful psychological insight based on a careful reading of the pesukim. When Hashem commanded Adam not to eat from the eitz ha'da'as, He specified the tree by its exact name -- "M'eitz ha'da'as tov v'ra lo tochal mimenu," "Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil." However, when Chavah told the snake what Hashem had commanded, she does not name the tree, but instead only obliquely refers to it, saying that, "M'pri ha'eitz asher b'toch ha'gan... lo tochlu mimenu," she could not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden (3:3).
Chavah was torn between the temptation to eat from the tree and the knowledge that Hashem had referred to the tree as "tov v'ra," as good and evil. This created a horrible feeling of cognitive dissonance that Chavah tried to escape by avoiding naming the tree. It was no longer the source of "tov v'ra," but just another tree in the middle of the garden.
The snake recognized the significance of Chavah's inability to name the tree and immediately capitalized on the situation. He told Chavah that once she ate, "V'hiyisem k'Elokim yod'ei tov v'ra," she would possess knowledge like G-d himself (3:5). He reduced Chavah's cognitive dissonance even further by explaining away the troublesome phrase of "tov v'ra" as not being a description of moral confusion that would result from eating, but rather a description of the potential knowledge that Chavah would come to possess. Chavah could now persuade herself that there was in fact nothing really wrong with eating and give into temptation.
Most of us know what's wrong is wrong, but we want to do it anyway, so we also work out our cognitive dissonance by avoidance, by explaining things away, and all kinds of other defense mechanisms to avoid facing reality. Things don't change much in the battle with the yetzer ha'ra.
3. I apologize for most of the blogging being reduced to short stuff on the parsha -- I just don't have much time, so hopefully this is better than nothing. I haven't had time to write an amazing pshat in a Rambam that R' Naftoli Jeager, Rosh Yeshiva of Shor Yoshuv, said in his leil hoshana rabbah shiur, but I want to mention something else he related which is easier to write over. He said that once visited R' Elyashiv and the person he was with told R' Elyashiv a story about the Nachalas Dovid (I have heard the same story told about R' Chaim for whatever that's worth). Someone quoted a chiddush from a Tosfos to the Nachalas Dovid, but the Nachalas Dovid insisted that Tosfos said no such thing. No matter how much the person protested that he remembered the Tosfos, the Nachalas Dovid would not listen. Finally, they got a gemara and checked and sure enough the Nachalas Dovid was right. The Nachalas Dovid told the person that he should not think that he, the Nachalas Dovid, knows every Tosfos in shas by heart. What he does know is how Tosfos thinks. Therefore, he was certain Tosfos could never say what this person was putting in Tos mouth.
RavElyashiv said that he does not believe this story is true. It is impossible for us to fathom the depths of how a Tosfos thinks, how a Rishon thinks, how an Amora thinks, how a Tanna thinks. A person can never be 100% sure that they know what went on in Tosfos' mind and therefore say it is impossible for Tos to have said something. All we can do is try to analyze what we know they do say and try to arrive at some understanding of their words.
R' Jaeger went on to give an example from a sugya in Sukkah of a gemara that is nearly incomprehensible on a level of pshat to illustrate how the amkus of Chazal is simply on a level that we cannot fathom. No matter how sharp a person is, there is always something more that is unknown, proving that ultimately we fall short of truly thinking like the giants of the past.
If this is true of the Nachalas Dovid, if it's true of R' Elyashiv, need I say this is true for lesser folks as well?
4. Looking ahead to Noach: I haven't really looked around too much yet, so this is just thinking out loud. I don't know why the Torah tells us that Shem and Yefes placed the garment they used to cover Noach on their shoulders when they walked backward towards him to cover his nakedness (9:23), but what really bothers me is the hey hayediya in that pasuk -- they took "ha'simlah," the garment. Is there some particular garment the Torah is referring to? Why not a garment -- why the garment?