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How Sin Started

How Sin Started

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Why did Eve do it? Why does anyone mess up?

In truth, there is a certain nobleness to sin, something essential to our humanness that makes us more precious than the angels. As soon as any transactional relationship is set in place -- as in, "You do this, I will do that. If you don't do this, then..." -- our impulse is to break free. We are humans, there is a person inside, we want to relate as people. Not as what we do, but as who we are.

So it is with our spouse, with our children, with friends. We are always testing each other, testing to see just how deep this relationship extends. Testing to see: Are you interested in me as I know myself? Or are you interested in what you can get from me?

So, too, when it is a relationship with the Inner Mind of the Cosmos. We want to relate to Him from our inner being, from our humanness, not just from our behavior. Such was the test we put Him to when we built a golden calf. With that rebellion, we asked, "Even if we break these rules You gave, do You still love us then?"

Such was the test of Eve. With the story of Eve ends the story of G‑d's creation -- His top-down management scheme -- and begins the story of humanity. The story for which He created the universe to begin with. The story of real, live people who succeed and fail and pick themselves up and succeed again. And whose lives are valuable for that alone.

If so, if sin is so beautiful, perhaps we should continue to sin?

No, because in the sin and separation there is only darkness and ugliness. In sin itself there is no beauty, but only in its resolution.

This is the other aspect to the story of Eve: Eve's loss. Her plunge into a world of madness and distorted roles, into exile. In particular, the loss of female supremacy.

Initially, it was most natural for man to follow woman. Read the story: If Eve was convinced to eat of the Tree of Knowledge through dialogue with a talking snake, what convinced Adam? Quite simply, nothing at all. As he himself admitted, "The woman you put here with me gave it to me and I ate!" If Eve told him to do something, Adam understood he was bound to listen. After all, hadn't she been put here by G‑d as a "helpmate"? What else could that mean?

And so, writes Nachmanides, (the "Ramban," 1194-1270) the logical consequence: From now on, the roles would be reversed. Adam would dominate Eve. A curse, truly, for both of them -- for how much of a helpmate can you be when you are dominated?

Until Sarah. Sarah was the first, the Zohar says, to begin to heal the catastrophe of Eve. And so, G‑d tells Abraham, "All that Sarah tells you, listen to her voice" (Genesis 21:12). And so it will be for all of us once the moshiach arrives: The feminine will once again dominate in the world, as it was in the garden before the fall.

This is what was missing in Eve's story: the resolution. In all the instances where her story reoccurs -- with her firstborn son, Cain; with the making of the golden calf; with David and Bathsheba; with the destruction of the Temple -- in all those sins and betrayals, the story continues and resolves. There is remorse, return and a deepening of the relationship. The contractual agreement is renewed -- but now with a deeper foundation, an intimate one based on the inner person and an Inner G‑d.

But Eve's sin, the first separation from which all other fissures stem, remains unresolved. This is our job, to heal the chasm created by Eve, between body and spirit, woman and man, humankind and G‑d. And so to create that inner relationship with the Divine, that relationship which Eve was desperately seeking.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Shirrah Las Vegas NV September 27, 2017

Thank you Reply

Anonymous April 27, 2017

Listen, Adam never stood a chance; Eve told him "if you don't eat what I give you, I don't want to know you!" Reply

M. Diane Flushing April 10, 2016

Eve should have woken her husband and asked for clarification of G=d's prohibition (even considering that A&E were "one"), Eve was not created when G-d gave the prohibition about the Tree of Knowledge. So, when Eve related the rule to Satan, she got it wrong by saying G-d prohibited even the touching of the fruit, not just the eating. Satan knew it wasn't true that if they touched it they would die. And when Satan was proven not untrustworthy about that point, apparently Eve felt confident to eat. But on a question so important as what G-d has prohibited, and what will bring His displeasure and our death/banishment, why wasn't she more careful? Adam was napping nearby and she could have quickly consulted him and deferred to his recollection; and, if he were not absolutely sure, G-d was available to ask. Please, someone explain it to me (gently), what is undesirable about a wife who sees the benefit of turning to/consulting a righteous husband with superior knowledge/experience who may be able to instruct/direct/lead? In the case of A&E, would G-d have minded repeating the rule? Reply

Anonymous March 20, 2016

Perhaps the loving Father truly did want us to become like Him. If my understanding is correct in "knowing the *difference* between good and evil", then He knows what evil is, but it is not a part of Him. So too for us; is it possible that we can have the choice to know what evil is, and *always* choose good? Reply

Anonymous March 20, 2016

I liked this comment from Francis Yates below in her fourth paragraph: "From being unaware, to full awareness of her self!" As I posted to another discussion at Chabad.org, I often tend to look at and see these matters as through the eyes of a child. That is, Adam and Chavah being as children of their Father.

So, I compare them with children. Although able to give names to the animals, we do not really know from the scriptures their height of intelligence. A very young child can spout off a name. [Is it proven in Hebrew that the names that were given to specific animals are one and the same as what they are?] But toddlers and young children love to run around naked. They have no awareness of themselves (as seen in the eyes of others). All they know is that it feels good and is nice. Most children would continue to go naked (weather permitting), would they not?, if they were not told that it was not acceptable, and if all others were naked as well. Reply

Phil July 30, 2015

Adam forsook his role as the head of his household by eating the fruit. Maybe both would not have been sent away or, even if only Adam could stay in Eden, mankind might not have lost its special grace. I like that article on sophistication. Because people like to get sophisticated, laws are needed to say what we know, in our hearts, is right and wrong. The simple-hearted are more real and can usually become sanctified, but it helps for them to know what the sophisticated are up to. Reply

Melinda July 9, 2017
in response to Phil:

If Adam stayed and Eve left the garden none of us would be here today Reply

Tzvi Freeman February 26, 2015

For Anonymous Genesis 4:2 says "Abel was a shepherd of flocks, and Cain was a tiller of the soil." Nothing there about a hunter.

Concerning your questions about clothing, this is addressed in the narrative of chapter 3, and elucidated by all the classic commentaries. You can read Genesis with the classic commentary of Rashi on our site at this link

As for the marriage of Cain and Abel, they both had sisters who they married. See Genesis 5:4 where it states clearly that Adam had sons and daughters.

Yes, there are many questions. The best way to find the answers is to join a study group, and to study from the classic texts. Or get your own private Torah coach through chabad.org/Jnet Reply

Anonymous February 11, 2015

Adam's son was a hunter|: how did he know how to kill an animal or how to make a spear of sorts? What did he know of death anyway? The other son was a tiller of the soil. How did he know even to turn the soil, let alone plant seeds which would grow? That is knowledge. Why did Adam and Eve clothe themselves? What made them feel that nakedness was "wrong"? Every animal around them was naked. Was Eve cloned from Adam as stated in one version of Genesis, or was she created alongside Adam as stated in another verse?
Was their knowledge an acquired, slow awakening or were they taught by someone else - as the Egyptians believed.
Why wasn't Adam created perfect?
After Cain murdered Abel and left the family to wander in Nod, who did he marry?
So many questions and never any answers. Reply

Andy Brisbane Au August 27, 2014

I disagree here, my understanding of those verses is that Adam blamed God for giving him a wife, Eve simply followed her husbands lead and blamed the serpent. In reality, they both ate of the TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Therefore, they must have both known what was right to do, unfortunately, the guilt and shame of sin entered their thinking (where all sin starts it's process) and they 'fell' into excuses rather than taking responsibility and thus the 'blame game' began and has continued for the next 6 millenia. I believe they could have repented right there and then and sin would be no more, however, as the command to go forth and multiply was in effect, so too has sin been multiplying ever since. Cain killed Abel, later a man killed 2 men, such is the human race called Man today. This is what God taught me, forget religion, we all are called to a relationship, Israel is chosen, we are invited, praise God Reply

Bea WNY December 6, 2013

Chuvvah - חַוָּה Eve? I would much rather read an article with Chavvah rather than Eve. Chavvah from the root word meaning "breath". Chavvah got the whole plan of G-d going! I wonder if that breath of G-d breathed into Adam's nostrils is what Adam, once separated in half, called Chavvah? We know the breath of G-d, Hey, creates G-d's Will.

The Torah taught me that sin is what mankind calls evil. G-d calls it part of His plan. You have to know who you are NOT before you truly know who G-d is..

If you are busy seeing sin rather than G-d's plan perhaps your too caught up in what YOU see rather than in what G-d sees.... man sees darkness when he takes his eyes off G-d.

Teshuvah is a glorious time for me, after I realized I missed the target of staying on target, my miss brings me closer to G-d: to Hashem: like a child in the arms of her Father. Chavvah owned up to what had happened... teshuvah... then Sheth whose name means "the fixer came to be; Chavvah restored - again HUMBLE mother and daughter of G-d. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 30, 2011

Rabbi Tzvi, does this mean there IS ... Original sin? Sin that is passed down from father to child and the child is born from sin and into sin? Isn't this a Catholic concept? Christians use this idea to justify trying to save Jews from sin. Reply

Mark R Reston, VA August 23, 2009

man or woman Indeed, for me as well, it doesn't matter much what role was played by the man and by the woman in the story; to me this is not at all indicative of the roles men and women might play today. Except perhaps that women still tend to (on average!) do more of the cooking and thus feeding the men..

For example if a man and woman robbed a bank, while it might be interesting to pay some attention to which role was played by Bonnie or by Clyde, I would much more focus on how did they both come to these actions and choices. Reply

Anonymous Calgary, AB August 22, 2009

getting in step This story is always a problem, because no one can let go of the "in charge" mindset. Adam was not in charge, nor Eve. Same as today, we are not in charge. This desire to be in charge has global misery thoughout history following it.
We should learn to let it go. Some things simply aren't that good for us
Like a dance partner, let the Lord lead. Reply

Mark R Reston, VA August 14, 2009

why did they eat? I never understood Adam and Eve's choice... G-d said, if you guys eat this fruit, you will definitely die.

Then a serpent says to them, noo, you won't die, don't worry about it. Ok, so who would you listen to? G-d or some serpent?

I'm also curious, did Adam or Eve know what death means? If every being in the garden of Eden was just recently created, so none of them had died yet. Adam and Eve also had no idea what "good" and "evil" was.

So basically, they were told, if you eat this fruit, you will have knowledge of something you have no idea about (X), and something else you have no idea about (Y) and then something quite bad will happen to you, of which you have no understanding (Z).

Then a talking animal comes along, and says, nah, Z won't happen, but X and Y are pretty cool.

I like to think that I'd still listen to the Boss.. as in, "umm I don't get any of this, but maybe He has His reasons"..

But it's too easy to judge people in the hindsight. Reply

Anonymous Calgary, AB July 19, 2009

eve Here's a thought. Adam 'needed' a helpmate. Alone, he wouldn't cut it. Eve saw the fruit as a huge question mark in her mind.The question mark would not go away. She eats the fruit (like the king's food taster), nothing happens! So....she gives it to Adam...it seems safe. Oh boy, very big mistake! Adam freaks out, probably punches a few trees (no house walls in those days), and goes on about 'evil & naked'. Eve, alarmed and concerned he might hurt himself, goes along with him, hoping to calm him down. You see, G-d knew something Eve didn't, an altered Adam is not a good thing. To drive the point home, she is cursed with the altered male rule. (history proves that point) Perhaps, from hitting trees, it goes quick to hitting people. Hence the first murder? Maybe this is what the diminishing of the moon is all about. Maybe G-d repents? Reply

Shoshannah Raleigh, NC December 21, 2005

response to sivan I don't think the order of creation necessarily indicates the degree of authority. For instance, my company has just grown to the point where we've needed to hire a sales manager. He's the newest employee, yet he's the leader of the sales reps, many of whom have been employees for many years. He was the best choice to lead the sales team because of his skill set, not because of longevity with the company.

Much of the new sales manager's job is to "help" the sales reps. If he's not helping them be productive, he's not doing his job, yet his "helping" role carries higher-level authority than the job of sales rep. Reply

sivan November 3, 2005

eve If Eve was meant to lead the couple in gan eden then why is she created second as a help for Adam? This implies Adam's headship not Eve's. Eve was to Adam what an assistant manager is to a manager, yes? Reply

Francis Yates Rochester, NY December 15, 2004

Sin vs Knowledge ...I find your interpretation of sin and its origin very frighteningly similar to that of the Puritans. This, I must admit, came as quite a surprise to me as I did not realize that Jewry was subject to the same antifeminist politic of the Christians. This is a story who some (most) interpret as watching the left hand, but paying little or no attention to what the right hand is doing. The left hand being the mistaken idea of sin and the right hand representing the actual knowledge that Eve obtained and passed along.

The story of Eve eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge seems to always be slanted towards the sin side of the story. Yet, was it not the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that she ate? And by doing so, did she not pass down along to the generations to follow something more powerful than sin? Did she not pass along: Knowledge?

And exactly what was this, knowledge, this tremendous and most powerful force that she passed along to the following generations? Was it only the cognition of self, (self-awareness) and wondering about her place in the universe? Or was it something else? Might it have been simply and yet most probably the genetic knowledge contained in the DNA structure of what was to become; human?

Was Eve, the beginning of that particular genetic knowledge which made her the genetic link from beast to human: From being unaware, to full awareness of her self! (Her nakedness) Should we not praise Eve, and like wise praise Sara, for her particular and advanced genetic traits? For was it not Sara (a toe head light skinned with blond hair and blue eyes, according to oral traditions) who after mating with a particular individual, also of advanced genetic background, produced the progeny (Isaac) of the future Jewish Nation!

And dont forget the story of Jacob and Esau. How Jacob was smooth skinned, with less hair and small boned, not as brutish as Esau. Take a moment or two and re-read the Torah as one might do as a geneticist. After all, the first book of the Torah is called, Genesis; meaning origin. Just another way of looking at things. Reply

Anonymous Santa Rosa, Calif. USA June 8, 2004

Eve's Deception: Adam's Unselfishness Eve was deceived by satan (the murderer) to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. Adam looked at his dying wife ("for on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die"), and had a choice to make: either to remain in communion with HASHEM G-d, or to choose death to be with his wife. Adam chose to take on sin by eating of the fruit, that he might have communion with his wife Eve. This gesture points to the Mitzvah of the Parah Adumah. "The person who burns the cow helps purify someone else, but, at the same time, he himself becomes impure". ("Daily Mitzvah (Maimonides) 113: The Red Cow). Adam loved his wife enough to give his life for her, but it took G-d to cover their sin by blood, when G-d clothed them with garments of skin. Only Mashiach is able to complete this Mitzvah for Eve to resolve the separation of humankind and G-d. Reply

Charlotte Huber Ambler, PA via thechabadcenter.org May 16, 2004

How sin started Was Adam not accountable for anything? Did this happen in a vaccum? Perhaps he could have been stronger in his ability to support his partner rather than placate her. I think the message(s) may be several (as always!) Why would Eve be totally accountable for all of mankind? Had Adam responded from a place of strength and personal conviction, things may have turned out differently. It is quite possible to disagree with your partner without alieniation, while reassuring them. I think Adam's lack of strength is just as much of a life lesson, as assigning the overwhelming blame to Eve for How Sin Started.

Perhaps, we are too concerned with assigning blame and who dominates. A stronger focus on living and supporting all of mankind will not only lend to better relationships but will guide our children (male and female) in continuing the legacy we have been given. Reply

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