The Torah is the true remedy for the above sickness, not only weakening it and diminishing its strength, but also removing it and causing it to depart entirely. For it is in the power of the Torah to transform the essence and the nature of the animal soul to good as explained above. Nevertheless, we find that on the verse: 1 “This is the Torah which Moshe placed [before the children of Israel],” our Sages (Yoma 72b) comment: “If a person merits, [the Torah] becomes an elixir of life for him. If a person does not merit, it becomes a deadly poison.”

On the surface, this is an incredulous statement: How can the Torah which is the source for healing, and “a tree of life to those who hold fast to it,” 2 become deadly poison, not only serving as a source of healing, but rather, becoming the direct opposite.

To understand this phenomenon, we must preface the teachings of the Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis, ch. 19), on the verse: 3 “And they sewed fig (t'eina) leaves.” Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai comments: [They chose the] leaves which brought grief (to'anah) to the world.” This follows the opinion stated by Rabbi Nechemiah (Berachos 40a) that the Tree of Knowledge was a fig [tree].

Explanation is necessary. The Oral Law is compared to a fig tree, as it is written: 4 “He who plants a fig tree will eat its fruits.” And our Sages state (Eruvin 54a): “Why are the words of the Torah described with the analogy of a fig tree? A fig tree produces fruit throughout the entire time that a person pays attention to it (i.e., it does not produce its fruit only at one time; instead, today, some, tomorrow, some. At any time, it is fitting to partake of it). The same concept applies to the words of the Torah. Whenever a person meditates upon them, he will find value in them.”

Similar concepts are stated in the Bamidbar Rabbah (Parshas Naso, ch. 12, p. 48d) which states: “Why is the Torah compared to a fig tree? Because [the fruits of] most trees are harvested at one time, while that of a fig tree is harvested a little at a time.” (For this reason, there is no obligation to set aside [pe'ah from a fig tree], as stated in the mishnah, Peah, ch. 1: “A general principle was stated with regard to Peah: “[Peah must be set aside] from any [produce] which is eaten... and harvested at one time.” [The latter phrase was included explicitly for the purpose of] excluding fig trees, for they are harvested little by little.) Similarly, [the Midrash continues with regard to] the Torah. “Today, one learns a little, the next day, a lot. For it cannot be studied in a year or two. Concerning this it is said:161 ‘He who plants a fig tree...’”

And the Talmud Berachos 57a) states: “When a person sees a fig tree in his dreams, [this is an omen that] his Torah study will be preserved.” ([The above stems from the fact that] a fig tree is an analogy for the attribute of Malchus (Sovereignty), and Malchus is identified with “the mouth, it is called the Oral Law.”) 5 Since the Oral Law is described with an analogy of a fig tree, how could it possibly be said that the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree?

The concept can be explained as follows: The Zohar (Vol. I, p. 221) [identifies] the Tree of Life with the attribute of Tiferes (Beauty) and the Tree of Knowledge with the attribute of Malchus, commenting on the verse: 6 “And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat” [as follows]:

When the Holy One, blessed be He, created Adam,... He desired that he cling to Him so that he would be found in unity with one heart, in the place of singular unity, so that there would be no change, nor transformation forever. This is intimated by the verse: 7 “And the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden.”

After they swayed from the path of faith and left the singular tree, the one which is sublime above all other trees, they came to cling to the place of change...

(The Mikdash Melech states: “This is what Rav Chayim Vital wrote in Parshas Emor with regard to this: ‘The secret of the Tree of Knowledge is the feminine attribute.’ Based on this, we can comprehend the statement of the Zohar, Bereishis, that the sin was that they did not eat from the Tree of Life before eating from the Tree of Knowledge, or that they did not eat from them both together.) which changes from color to color, from good to bad, and from bad to good. They descended downward, clinging below to a place [which is characterized] by numerous changes....

Then [man’s] heart was changed, becoming like that attribute, [changing constantly,] sometimes to good, sometimes to bad, sometimes to mercy....

The Holy One, blessed be He, told man: “You abandoned life, and clung to death. Life, as it is written: ‘The Tree of Life in the midst of the garden.’ It is called ‘life’ for one who clings to it will never taste death at all.

“You, [however,] clung to the other tree, certainly death is before you, as it is written: 8 “Her feet descend to death.” And it is written: 9 “I find a woman more bitter than death.” Certainly, you have clung to the place of death, and abandoned the place of life....

[This caused a change in all existence.] For when [the other created beings] saw that Adam bowed down to that place and clung to it, all of them were drawn after him, and this brought death upon the entire world.

This caused man to change to several colors, at times to strict judgment, and at times to mercy.

The Zihorei Chamah 10 explains that Malchus is identified with the Tree of Knowledge because of its enclothement in Metatron ([an angel] in the World of Yetzirah) who is called “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” i.e., from its half-way point and below, it is evil because of the kelipos which are attached to it. It is also called the Tree of Death, because the enclothement in kelipah brings death to the entire world. Heaven forbid, however, that Malchus itself [should be identified with death,] for it is [one of the attributes] of Atzilus, and is [identified] entirely with life and goodness.

[One might ask:] The verse: “Her feet descend to death” [is identified with the level of Malchus, apparently indicating that Malchus shares a connection with death], means that its outgrowths and derivatives descend and enclothe themselves in death. (The intent is [to] contrast [Malchus with] Tiferes which is referred to as “the Tree of Life.” Even the outgrowths [of Tiferes] do not descend and enclothe themselves in death.) Note the maamar entitled Lachein Emor in Torah Or with regard to the level identified with “the Holy One, blessed be He.” [It is explained - that] even a ray and the glory of this level cannot enclothe themselves [in death]. The level identified with “the Holy One, blessed be He” is the attribute of Tiferes as is explained with regard to the concept: 11 “the Holy One, blessed be He, prayed.”

[The Zihorei Chamah continues:]

On this basis, we can understand the statement: “Certainly death is before you.” [G‑d was telling Adam:] Since you are connected with death, it is certainly “before you,” as it is written: 12 “Sin crouches at the opening.”

“When... Adam bowed down to that place...,” i.e., to that place [Malchus], and did not desire the attribute of Tiferes, and indeed, separated it from the attribute of Tiferes, taking grain from its owner, enclothing it in the Tree of Death. Then “All of them were drawn after him, and this brought death upon the entire world.”

These statements raise a question: What is the sin in clinging to the attribute of Malchus? [Malchus]is one of the holy Sefiros, one of the attributes of Atzilus! [Indeed,] the Sefer HaBahir as quoted in the Pardes, Shaar HaKinuim, ch. 4 states; that the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to endow the Patriarchs with this attribute and they refused it, as alluded to in the verse: 13 “The stone which the builders spurned.” And David was a medium for this attribute, [and David is not associated with death. On the contrary,] we say: 14David, King of Israel, is alive and endures.”

Also, the statement of the Zihorei Chamah that [Adam] separated Malchus from Tiferes requires explanation. The Zohar states that Adam refused the attribute of Tiferes. Where, however, is it stated that [Adam] separated the two, heaven forbid? We find that the Patriarchs “refused the attribute of Malchus.” They did not, however, separate it from the other attributes. Why is it said in this context that when Adam attached himself to the attribute of Malchus, he “separated it”? Also, the statement of the Zihorei Chamah “taking grain or son away from its master or her husband, enclothing it in the Tree of Death” implies that the two clauses “taking grain...” and “enclothing it...” are dependent one on the other. This requires explanation.

Synopsis: Questions are raised with regard to our Sages’ statement that the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree. [This is difficult to understand, because] the fig is used as an analogy for the Oral Law [which is identified with the attribute of Malchus].

And [a question is raised with regard to the statement that] the sin of Adam, the first man, involved his attaching himself to the attribute of Malchus and separating it from the attribute of Tiferes.