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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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Discussion (40)
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.
Anonymous
February 13, 2016
Re: Shaul
Thank you Shaul...Great Take on it.

"L'Chaim 5776!"
Geoffrey Jacks
Lakewood, CA.
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.
Shaul Wolf
Chabad.org
January 14, 2016
Shame that there were no useful discussions on my own comments/queries.
Mervyn
Mervyn Kersh
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!
Mary E Starr
Lithonia Ga
January 11, 2016
Dear Baruch,
thanks for at least trying... any clarification is better than none.
Shalom,
John
John Culatto
Europe
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.