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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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Joey Norristown, pa August 15, 2017

It was now inappropriate for them to be naked, because of why? Because they were not married? because isn't it only a sin of sexual desire if a couple isn't married? So was the sacrament of marriage needed at that exact same time of the fall to sin? Can someone answer this? Reply

Chaya Sarah Silberberg Michigan June 14, 2017

Yes, G-d is absolute and unchanging... but people change. Circumstances change. And G-d's law is tailored to people in all situations and under all circumstances. So that which was totally appropriate for Adam and Eve before they sinned, became inappropriate afterwards. Intimacy, which is inappropriate between two unmarried individuals, is a very important - indeed sacred - part of marriage. Bread, which is a fine food throughout the year, becomes totally verboten on Passover. Work is important - six days of the week. And on the seventh day we are enjoined to rest...

There is a time and place when nudity is appropriate. However, since it is a condition that can lead people to sin (after the sin of Adam and Eve), outside of the context of marital intimacy (and in individuals beyond the age of toddlerhood) it is inappropriate. Reply

Mario Lerario Aldan, Pa. June 13, 2017

I agree. God does not change. But man does, and his relationship with G-d changes as he assumes he can survive without G-d's direction. Nakedness in and of itself is not sinful in G-d's eye. But when man looks to other people to fulfill himself, the sight of nakedness causes him to sin. Reply

Desu June 3, 2017

Not to be rude but her very first statement/question was avoided entirely and not answered. She asked if nudity is a sinful thing, and if so, why did god originally let them walk around naked. I'm assuming we can all agree that god is unchanging and that he creates morality and rules based on his will, not on people's wants. So if nudity was not a sin before the downfall, how could it be a sin after the downfall if god is unchanging and creates the rules based on his will, not peoples? Reply

Religulous San Jose, CA February 25, 2017

Why do indigenous tribes people not feel this shame? Or do they feel it and simply ignore it? Reply

Joey Norristown August 15, 2017
in response to Religulous :

I've wondered this too. Can anyone explain this to us? Reply

Paul Victor India February 19, 2017

Really Good! The way you have explained it is really good. But the knowledge of knowing good and evil was only after eating the fruits. They were innocent but not ignorant. As we grow learning things they were too to learn things, the only difference between them and us is they were to learn only good things but we and they learn and learned good and evil things after their disobedience. Or G-d's plan for humans to gain the knowledge of good and evil may be after they gained enough self-control, so that even after acquiring the knowledge of knowing good and evil humans can win the temptation of doing evil as per the standard of G-d. Reply

Will Ga January 19, 2017

The part we are all missing is that eventually we would become aware, but in a much slower pace,(so we would obtain a felling of truth that is better understood)... To desire righteousness for life's sake with out trying to over step our yung Way's (not old enough in the Way's of the universe),.we have ideas with out proof. Dangerous!!! Reply

Mario Lerario Phila, Pa. January 3, 2017

How to describe this nakedness idea to children Chaya Sarah Silberberg, of Chabad org. draws a very spiritual and insightful picture of the idea of Adam and Eve's nakedness in Genesis. But for children to understand, as the questioner is concerned about explaining it to his/her children, I would tell them this: that before the Fall, Adam and Eve did not need clothes because they were wrapped in the protection of G-d. After the Fall, when Adam and Eve decided they do not need G-d, they became aware of the the chill in the morning air and of the afternoon wind. And when they went to hide in the bushes, they were scratched by thorns. So, they realized then, they were naked. Reply

adam griffin October 30, 2016

Over complicated? The saying is "ignorance is bliss". They ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it's safe enough to assume that before they did this they didn't have knowledge of good vs evil. I can see that many biblical scholars don't agree with this but it seems obvious enough to me. Adam and Eve were ignorant and quite happy in their paradise because they knew nothing of good and evil, right and wrong. They never anguished if something didn't go their way. They never suffered because they believed "bad things" were happening to them. If you have no knowledge of good vs bad, or even good vs bad, you simply don't have the faculty to think that being naked is shameful. You don't have the ability to think that anything is bad. Everything just is the way it is. They would have accepted the world, all that it involved, including their nakedness, and this would have been a happy, contented life. God didn't need to punish them, the knowledge was it's own punishment. They exiled themselves. Reply

Cole b Chicago July 8, 2017
in response to adam griffin:

Great Great Reply

Mario Lerario Phila., Pa August 24, 2017
in response to adam griffin:

I agree with you, Adam. Still, I must add that Adam and Eve were in friendship with G-d. Under the Creator's protection, man did not need knowledge. It was only his desire to get knowledge and so, be on a par with G-d, did sin and suffering enter the world. Reply

Anonymous October 13, 2016

where's the forgiveness ? I cannot understand why Adam and Eve were not forgiven for their first 'sins'. After all, anyone can make a mistake. Reply

Anonymous New Jersey 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 Reply

TJ 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. Reply

Mario Lerario Phila., Pa August 24, 2017
in response to TJ:

I see what you are getting at, TJ. But we did start out in a friendship with our Creator. That is everything. Without a friendship with G-d, all else is dross. Civilization, technology, market place, everything consumes us.

The only good that comes of Knowledge is we become aware of what we lost. Thankfully, the Bible shows us how to restore ourselves. Reply

Pat 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 Reply

Anonymous crofton 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. Reply

bean 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. Reply

Anonymous 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. Reply

John West Chester 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. Reply

troy huyser nantucket 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? Reply

angel April 24, 2017
in response to troy huyser:

Right Thats What I Want To Know Troy Reply

Wendy 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 Reply

Anonymous Chilliwack July 5, 2015

Then why do people in Africa and in the Amazon still run around naked and feel no shame? Reply

Clinton n/a November 5, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

People become numb towards sinfulness or ignorant towards it by continual exposure or practice of it. Even terrorism if experienced or commited often enough causes people to become numb towards. Does it make it more acceptable or right at the end of the day? Not in the eyes of the Holy One. Reply

joshua Olumide Abeokuta November 15, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

That's because of their perspective and that's why God said "My people perish because they lack Knowledge "Hosea 4:6 .I'm sure some of them are not convenient with that after maturity but maybe due to Cultural issues some of them might choose to keep it that way. Reply

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