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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 (44)
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.
Paul Victor
India
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!!!
Will
Ga
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.
Mario Lerario
Phila, Pa.
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.
adam griffin
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.
Anonymous
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