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Why didn’t Adam eat from the Tree of Life?

Why didn’t Adam eat from the Tree of Life?

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Question:

In the narrative at the beginning of Genesis, we read that G‑d planted the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the Garden of Eden (2:9). G‑d instructs Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (2:17). After Adam and Eve sin, G‑d banishes them from the Garden of Eden as a consequence of their sin—lest they eat from the Tree of Life and live forever (3:22).

Why hadn’t Adam eaten from the Tree of Life until then? After all, G‑d had forbidden him to eat only from the Tree of Knowledge?

Answer:

I did a bit of research, and found in the commentaries several answers to your question. Here are a few of them:

  1. The fruit of the Tree of Life was effective only when ingested by a mortal who would otherwise die, like a medicine that holds potency only for one who is suffering from an illness. As death was only decreed upon the human being after—as a result of—the sin, Adam had no reason to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life before that point.1
  2. An interesting answer suggested by Nachmanides2 gives much food for thought. He suggests that the name eitz hada’at, usually translated as Tree of Knowledge, would actually be more accurately translated as Tree of Desire, and he cites several biblical instances where da’at is thus translated.
    Prior to eating from the fruit of the tree, Nachmanides explains, Adam had no self-interests or desires—his sole objective was to serve his Creator.3 As such, he also had no motivation to eat from the Tree of Life, as G‑d had not instructed him to do so. Only upon Adam’s consumption from the Tree of Desire was G‑d concerned that he would have an urge to eat from the Tree of Life, and therefore took preventative measures to prevent that from occurring.
  3. Though he had no internal drive to deviate from G‑d’s command, there was an external evil influence, the serpent, that ensnared Adam and caused him to sin. The serpent, however, made no effort to entice Adam to eat of the Tree of Life, as his goal was to cause Adam to sin. And G‑d had not commanded Adam not to eat of the Tree of Life . . .4

Please let me know if this helps.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

FOOTNOTES
1.

Commentary of the Baalei Tosafot to Genesis 3:22.

2.

In his commentary to Genesis 2:9 and 3:22.

3.

Though he had no intrinsic inclination to do wrong, and was therefore devoid of the internal struggle that characterizes man ever since the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, Adam was still possessed of free choice: his ability to either resist or give in to the evil embodied by the serpent.

4.

Commentary of Ohr Hachaim to Genesis 3:22.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (34)
February 11, 2015
Seems to me God plants personal desire in us, which moves us out of paradise/Eden (out of the womb) and into the world of duality(Egypt/materiality) where over time we may acquire wisdom and enlightnment, which brings us back to the garden. But now we don't reach out for the fruits on the tree of life. Instead we meditate on the tree and become that tree with all its fruits to give to all.
david malekum
Charlottesville
February 10, 2015
Why would God plant two trees and then forbid Adam and Eve to eat from them?
Why did it need a serpent to corrupt Eve, and why was it necessary for it to be Eve, and not Adam himself, who finally ate from the tree? Why did God not want Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge (The same word "da'at" is in ancient Egyptian for knowledge)?
Why wasn't Adam designed to do only good and how would he know what is "good" without knowledge?
Would God have "punished" all future generations of mankind by introducing death for Adam's crime? If we all had lived, and still lived, eternally after so many generations, the world would be hugely overpopulated: hardly good planning.
Mervyn
London UK
February 10, 2015
I have just discovered this site...it is wonderful for me to read these comments thank you I will spend hours researching to increase my understanding.
maggie Leveratt
October 25, 2014
Re: Why didn't Adam eat from the tree of life?
Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for the insightful answers.

L'Chaim 5775!
Geoffrey Jacks
Lakewood, CA.
October 20, 2014
when God told Adam and Eve to eat everything and anything,from any of the trees in the garden -- except nothing "from this one tree," it's like mom and dad saying-- kids, we're going out for awhile, eat anything you want, but see that gold wrapped chocolate right there in front, eat anything you like but don't you dare eat anything in that gold-wrapped package, good night now.
so of course we kids sneaked in and tried the chocolate in the gold-wrap. It was all a set up from the start designed by God who fully intended for us to eat the forbidden fruit and get on with our journey out of eden and then coming back later, all wise and illumined.
david malekum
Charlottesville
October 15, 2014
Hello,
I think your answers are always very clear and have provided me some very interesting understanding and commentary on though questions.
Nonetheless, I don't really agree with that one concerning the nature of the tree:
Since G-d discovered their sin after they hide and wanted to cover their nakedness, they probably got an awareness of matters they didn't have previously.
jay
October 15, 2014
Why would God plant trees and then ban them For Adam and Eve? Why ban the tree of knowledge which would have brought skills to mankind? Why create a serpent with ability to deceive? Did it have legs before this incident?
Thwe whole story is spread all over the world long before Chistian missionaries spread the Hebrew Bible. So is The "water covered the earth" and the "mist covered the waters". Likewise the serpent guile and leading astray and the tree of knowledge, Exile and the brothers, one of whom killed the other and was driven away to wander abroad.
These themes are common to mankind suggesting common origin although the explanations vary greatly. Then there is a long line of ancestor all of whom lived hundreds of years before they were taught writing, agriculture and other skills by a god or foreign person.

It is a fascinating study.
Mervyn
October 14, 2014
Why didn't Adam eat from the Tree of Life?
As the 'Aytz Chayeem He' implies, the Torah is our Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is therefore a metaphor for walking in G-d's Way, according to His commandments. Instead of walking in fellowship and obedience to G-d, Adam and Eve deliberately chose to sin, just as we all have done. Thanks be to G-d, who made a way for us to return to Him and to eat from the Tree of Life.
Thomas Noss
May 8, 2014
answer to May 6, 2013 NY
Of course they knew where it was but had no interest in eating it, as explained in the above article. This article gives three very clear, accurate and easy to understand reasons, and I suggest you reread it and show it to your scholar from Jerusalem.
Aviva
Jerusalem
May 7, 2014
Could it be that he didn't want them eating from the Tree of Life because he told them they would surely die if they ate from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. He can't lie, so they had to die therefore they couldn't eat from the tree of life anymore..maybe they had been allowed to eat from the tree of life before they sinned?? just a thought..I just read about this now so I was curious myself
Anonymous
Canada
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