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What Sort of Fruit Tree was the Tree of Knowledge?

What Sort of Fruit Tree was the Tree of Knowledge?

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Question:

Someone has recently told me that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge eaten by Adam and Eve was not an apple. Is this correct?

Answer:

The Talmud1 cites three opinions:

Rabbi Meir says that the Tree of Knowledge was a grapevine—"for nothing causes more heartbreak than wine...."

Rabbi Nehemiah maintains that it was a fig tree. The Torah tells us that after the sin, Adam and Eve "knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves and made themselves girdles."2 Rabbi Nehemiah maintains that "that which caused their downfall, was then used to rectify them."

Rabbi Judah says it was actually wheat stalks!3 He bases his contention on the fact that "a child knows not how to call out to his father and mother until he has tasted grain." As such, the Tree of Knowledge was actually grain.4

The Midrash5 quotes another opinion, that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was an etrog (citron).

Another opinion cited in the Midrash6 is that "G‑d did not disclose the identity of the tree's species, and He never will." This in order to protect the honor of a species that would otherwise be tarnished—through no fault of its own.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg,
Chabad.org Editorial Team

FOOTNOTES
1.

Talmud, Berachot 40a.

2.

Genesis 3:7.

3.

The Midrash Rabbah (Genesis 15:7) asks on this opinion: "But it is stated that it was a tree?!" To this the Midrash responds that its stalks were as tall as the towering cedars of Lebanon, giving them a tree-like look.

4.

The Ben Ish Chai, in his commentary on Genesis, suggests that it was a unique fruit that contained the taste of all these three products—grapes, figs and wheat. He also explains the kabbalistic significance of the fruit integrating these three tastes.

5.

Midrash Rabbah, ibid.

6.

Ibid.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor, and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Chaya Mushka and their three children.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (16)
December 22, 2011
To Robert of Daytona, FL
To answer your question of why would a loving G-d put the tree there and then forbid Adam and Eve to eat it? Because G-d chose not to create a bunch of robots - he created mankind with the ability to CHOOSE. He gave them the option to follow Him or go their own way. He offered them direct communion with Him, and happiness. They chose for themselves the misery they received when they chose to eat of the tree. Even as He has the same offering for you - you can believe and follow Him and live a life with happiness in spite of the misery around you, or you can chose your own way and wallow in your own misery with no hope of happiness either here or beyond here.
Anonymous
Mesquite
August 28, 2011
What nonsense...
So Adam and Eve preferred not to lead a life of ignorant bliss. Good for them!

So why did this god put that tree there, tell them what it was, forbade them to eat of it and turned the alleged devil on them? According to the descriptions you all profess of this god, it knows the future. It knew they would eat of the tree a millenia, an epoch before it created anything...so why did this fickle god of yours even bother if it already knew? And you wonder why people are Atheist?
Robert
Daytona, FL./USA
June 6, 2011
It is knowledge!The reason why G-d did not want Adam to know good AND evil is because he was supposed to know only good.When you know of both you are not pure anymore:if you mix half a cup of coffee with half a cup of milk,is it still pure coffee?Therefore, we are supposed to only know good,which is from G-d.But the fall of Adam began at the moment of dialogue with the serpent,because this is when the knowledge of evil began.This is when the pride of 'self' was aroused when the serpent tempted Eve with equality to G-d.Thus she gained consciousness of independence from G-d. G-d being the source of life, by separating her 'self',she gained death,but couldn't know it till she listened to the serpent who enticed her to this self-awareness.The command from G-d was not to eat (learn) from the tree.G-d never mentioned any fruit.Eve added 'fruit',but many trees have roots , leaves, and flowers that can also be consumed. to eat is to ingest, to take-in. G-d said not to take in knowledge of evil
fab
ft laud, fl
June 5, 2011
To Bob Ray::
And what then did Adam and Eve eat?
Naftali Silberberg (author)
June 1, 2011
the fruit of the tree of knowledge
The fruit seems simple; the fruit of an apple tree is apples, the fruit of a lemon tree is lemons, why wouldn't the fruit of the tree of knowledge be knowledge? (of good and evil)
bob ray
maryville, tn
October 21, 2009
tree of knowledge: a parable. fruit=consequence
1. why a tree? because a tree has a trunk. the trunk is one, G-d is One! each branch is a branch of knowledge, some are good, some are evil. all knowledge comes from G-d. the sap is the knowledge. We are curious and want to know more and more. As the branch grows, it never ceases. As we get to know more, we discover there is more to know, the more we learn, the more we don't know, the further away from the other branches, the less we learn from them. the thinner the branch get, the more fragile it becomes, the fruit grows on the branch, then it falls. we fall. away from the trunk, from G-d.
2. where do you see the whole tree from? not above, not from the side: below, from the trunk. if you are the trunk you know the whole tree. cut the branch and new ones grow, cut the trunk and the tree dies. graft onto the trunk and you shall have life. The trunk is one, G-d is One, all knowledge is in G-d. if you want to know all, be one with Him, if you part, you shall live off your toil and die
fab
ft lauderdale, fl
October 12, 2009
Re: Nazarite vow
Ruhamah2,

I agree that the Nazarite vow is much needed today; perhaps especially so since the city established by G-d is visible only to the spiritually minded (Zechariah 2 :3-5).

I'd rather leave the discussion on alcohol content levels to sociologists and psychologists, if you don’t mind!

My underlying assumption is Truth, as it revealed eschatologically.

Blessings to you.
Steve
Malta
October 10, 2009
Nazarite vow
Dear Steve,
Sampson and Samuel were Nazarites. I do not know of any specific reason that anyone took the N. Vow. Both Sampson and Samuel were nazarites from birth as their mothers dedicated them as such because they were barren and G-d heard their plea for bearing offspring, blessing them with sons.

Has there been anything but national difficulties such as you have listed since creation??? If there ever were a time that we need the Nazarite Vow restored, it would be now.

You referred to "strong drink" - I am not sure what you were getting at with the comment - that none of the Isrealites drank wine? To be sure, history confirms that they drank wine frequently, though it was not necessarily "strong drink", it was much like table wines of today with a low alcohol content.

Could you share more about what you are getting at in regard to "underlying assumptions"? Thanks for the good dialogue.
Blessings
ruhamah2
MO, USA
October 9, 2009
Re: Ruhamah2
Ruhmah2,

If I may. My comments here are related not to the type of tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil might have been, but to the underlying assumptions.

Wouldn't the Nazarite vow have been taken in times of great national difficulty such as exile, impending exile, great persecution, idolatry such as the wearing of amulets as though they were tellifin (G-d forbid), etc?

Also, proverbs tells us that strong drink is only to be given (if at all) to those who are dying.

But yes you are right. Nazarites do die physically (eventually)!
Steve
Malta
October 8, 2009
Tree of Knowledge
I agree with Rabbi Meir that the Tree of Knowledge was the grape tree, as it's current state of crawling on the ground is consistant with a cursed state. More evidence that clearly supports this idea, is the Nazarite vow. One who took the vow could not eat or drink grape products. Also, not cutting the hair (glory) and not going amongst the dead both refer back to the Garden. (They ate the fruit, lost the glory, and died (eventually) as a result.
Shalom
ruhamah2
Salem, MO/USA
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