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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 writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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Mario Lerario Phila, Pa. December 16, 2016

After the Fall After the Fall, when we decided we wanted to be like G-d, and so, ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, we became aware of our nakedness.
See, wanting to be like G-d means we are putting ourselves in His Place instead of praising and serving Him, our Creator. Now Ego-centric, we see ourselves from a new perspective and see we are naked. Whatever we do from now on, we do for ourselves. Sex, for example, is done to please ourselves, not to necessarily procreate. And when we sin, we do not take the blame ourselves. That would not be "egocentric". Interestingly, Adam blamed G-d for his failure, the very One he wanted to be like. Reply

Mario Lerario Phila., Pa. December 7, 2016

Why would G-d with-hold knowledge from Adam and Eve? Mervyn. Adam and Eve did not need knowledge. You are looking at their situation from your own perspective, through your own experience and needs. In the Garden, before the Fall, Adam and Eve had everything they needed. All they had to do was praise G-d, trust in Him and enjoy His Life in each other's company. They did not have to know how to grow food. They did not have to know how to ward off predators. They did not even have to know they were naked. Only until sin entered the world did such knowledge become necessary. Ironically, in that sin, they wanted to be like G-d. See. This is when knowledge becomes necessary. When we wish to take over the creation process. Problem is, we are doing it for ourselves. When G-d creates, it is an unselfish act. So, with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in their belly, they can go out of the Garden and fend.
Reply

Anonymous Catonsville, MD December 6, 2016

Mervyn - I believe G-d was and is more than willing to share knowledge. It's the process by which the knowledge is gained we should focus on. G-d came in the cool of the day to walk with Adam and Eve. If they had a question what would He withhold? Just like today, I can come to Him in prayer and ask Him to reveal the Truth of a matter and show me in His Word what I need to know. Do I choose relationship with the Creator or relationship with the created?

I believe the reason Adam and Eve did not eat from the tree of Life was due to the fact that Life Himself came to speak with them in the cool of the day. Why partake of the lesser when they found their life in Love and Obedience to His Abiding Presence, Daily direction and Tangible affection? What need could arise when there is no barrier to G-d at all? Reply

Mervyn Kersh UK November 23, 2016

You did not reply to my question: Why would God forbid man to have knowledge? (it is a similar word in Eyptian: "da'at".
Not to have knowledge would have left man like an animal. Reply

Mihai USA November 21, 2016

I was a period of time, since Adam and Eve lived in Eden. God told them to eat from all trees from the garden as they please. Who can say that they have not eat from the tree of life, and why? Reply

Mario Lerario Phila, Pa October 30, 2016

Two Worlds, Two Creations, Two Trees I suspect the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of which Adam was instructed not to eat, was that part of creation that made the Earth possible. G-d, of a Spiritual Nature, in creating the material Earth, began by planting the Tree of Life and all G-d's Glory to give the Spiritual mass; and through which the Tree of Knowledge was then created (taking a branch from the Tree of Life??) and through this Tree, the material of Earthly delights is possible. This is a necessary phase of the Creation Process. Man, created with a Free Will, was then presented with the choice: Live in and dominate this Delight-filled land, and if you prefer Me and the Spiritual aspect of Creation, then I know I have something here. Reply

Anonymous May 22, 2016

They might have, but it doesn't have any effects, as stated in point 1. If it indeed makes the eater live forever, whatever effect it had on them was lifted/canceled by the curse of their sin. Reply

Geoffrey Jacks Lakewood, CA. February 13, 2016

Re: Shaul Thank you Shaul...Great Take on it.

"L'Chaim 5776!" Reply

Shaul Wolf Chabad.org January 15, 2016

Re: Mervyn The same question can be asked on anything that is forbidden in the Torah: Why did G-d create certain foods if He was to forbid them from being consumed? Why did G-d create man with certain tendencies if He was to forbid them from being acted upon?

Consider this idea:

G-d created forbidden foods so that that we should refrain from eating them. G-d created forbidden drives so that that we should restrain ourselves from acting upon them.

In order for dedication to be fully expressed it is not sufficient to engage in acts of love, rather one must engage in acts of restraint. It is only when one restrains themselves out of their devotion to another that the depth of their relationship is fully expressed. Reply

Mervyn Kersh January 14, 2016

Shame that there were no useful discussions on my own comments/queries.
Mervyn Reply

Mary E Starr Lithonia Ga January 14, 2016

I thought the same thing, the serpent knew if Adam ate from the tree of life he would live forever. Like you said the serpent plans were to get Adam to sin! Reply

John Culatto Europe January 11, 2016

Dear Baruch,
thanks for at least trying... any clarification is better than none.
Shalom,
John Reply

david malekum Charlottesville 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. Reply

Mervyn London UK 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. Reply

maggie Leveratt 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. Reply

Geoffrey Jacks Lakewood, CA. 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! Reply

david malekum Charlottesville 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. Reply

jay 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. Reply

Mervyn 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. Reply

Thomas Noss 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. Reply