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?
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,