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Why did Adam and Eve become aware of their nakedness only after they sinned?

Why did Adam and Eve become aware of their nakedness only after they sinned?

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Question:

I'm studying to teach my children about the bible and creation but I can't seem to get past Genesis 2!

In Genesis 2 it says that Adam and Eve were both originally naked, "but they were not ashamed." After they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, we are told that "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked."

Here is my question: Was the act of being naked a sinful thing? Why would G‑d have allowed them to walk around naked to start with if it was sinful? And if it was originally fine, how did their disobedience cause their nakedness to not be so good?

What am I missing?

Answer:

Your perceptive question is addressed by almost all the biblical commentaries… On the second verse you quote, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked," Rashi, the primary commentator on the Torah points out, "even a blind person knows when he is naked." So what was it that they realized here?

Little children are notorious for trying to shed their clothes and run around naked. This is done with total innocence; the two-year-old does not see any difference between his face, his knees, and the parts of his body which we adults insist that he cover. Only adults feel that certain parts of the body must be covered. Why? Because those are connected with physical lust and passions, and should not be exposed.

Prior to their sin, Adam and Eve knew good from bad, right from wrong, but they had not internalized an evil inclination. So they could choose to do right and wrong, and were held responsible for their choices, but the urge to do evil did not come from within. This urge was represented by the serpent—the external tempter. Since the evil did not reside within them, they were "naturally" good, and their nakedness was innocent and in no way sinful. They saw no difference between a hand, whose purpose was to give charity and to do good deeds, a mouth with which one praises G‑d and says kind words to others, and the parts of the body which are used to "be fruitful and multiply." With every organ they could fulfill the will of G‑d or vice versa, so no organ was shameful, nor did anything need to be covered.

When they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, the evil inclination became a part of them. No longer did they need an external tempter to incite them to sin—now, that tempter resided within their psyches. And specifically, sexual passion – a passion which is much stronger than the desire to give charity or praise G‑d, a passion which is much more encompassing and has the potential to be seriously misused – became a part of them as well.

Hence the abovementioned verse. "The eyes of both of them were opened" – they became aware of physical lust "and they realized that they were naked" – and only now it was inappropriate for them to be unclothed.

I hope this has been helpful.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg,
Chabad.org

Chaya Sarah Silberberg serves as the rebbetzin of the Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, since 1975. She also counsels, lectures, writes, and responds for Chabad.org’s Ask the Rabbi service.
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Discussion (39)
September 18, 2016
Adam and Eve
I had the same question and read your response but am struggling with the meaning. Sexual desire is from nature. I am not following where "be fruitful and multiply ends" and sinful sexual passion begins.

your commentary is much appreciated
Anonymous
New Jersey
July 3, 2016
Hmm
Could naked simply mean naked of everything? Look at how far we've come as a civilization, we started with absolutely nothing. We realized we were 'naked' and wanted more? Just a thought.
TJ
May 9, 2016
thanks for this
I was looking for the source of Rashi's comment that even a blind man knows when he's naked. I have the Rosenbaum chumash with onkelos and Rashi and in parenthesis it has "midrash rabbah". Is that only for the conclusion about turning a deaf ear to the commandment? I have a digitized midrash rabbah with a search function, and when I search on ha-suma, I don't get a midrash that talks about the first part of Rashi's comment. Thanks
Pat
March 31, 2016
the shekina factor
Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness. Perhaps they became aware that the glory that had covered them had been stripped from them and they were ashamed . however the book says they were naked already (perhaps no shekina factor at play) and were not ashamed. They were not aware of their nakedness before they sinned, perhaps their perception did not include that concept. Certainly Adam was aware of Eve at her creation as his own flesh and bone but not necessarily the exposed vision they had after their sin and thus they became aware and were ashamed.
Anonymous
crofton
March 23, 2016
So let me get this straight... if they followed G-d's orders, I would see everyone naked and not care? I think they did the right thing in many ways.
bean
March 20, 2016
My thinking perhaps was all wrong until I read what Anonymous from Los Angeles wrote. How nice it would be to never again feel shame, fear, anxiety, frustration in true righteousness. These emotions are most likely being naked.
Anonymous
March 17, 2016
Adam and Eve had no idea about right and wrong until after they ate from the tree that gave them the knowledge of both. You cannot put things in that book that simply are not there. They had no clue about death either and therefore, god's threat of them dying was meaningless. They did not understand because they had absolutely no knowledge of good and evil.
John
West Chester
January 25, 2016
So wouldn't that mean those who can be naked with others with out constantly being intimate are right it in the eyes of the lord?
troy huyser
nantucket
December 22, 2015
The implications of this are interesting, because it said, that God said, now they have become like us, knowing good from evil. So if eating made them inherently evil, and God said eating made them like Him, then is God inherently evil too? Well we know good and evil come from God, since there is no other source for any phenomenon in all of existence. So I do not think this is the Answer. I think that we used to all live in harmony with God, and that God's will was done, because we all flowed with God, it said they walked in the Garden with Him, like they were on the same plane of existence. But then the knowledge of Good and Evil, meant we didn't naturally do God's will, we saw other options, had our own will, with this knowledge of good and evil, problem with that is, is that humans cannot ultimately know what is Good or evil, because we cannot see down the road far enough to understand the consequences of our choices. So we run from suffering thinking that is Good, and
Wendy
July 5, 2015
Then why do people in Africa and in the Amazon still run around naked and feel no shame?
Anonymous
Chilliwack