It was the most dramatic historical transformation, and only two people noticed. (Okay, maybe four.) Eve bit into the Fruit of Knowledge, and all of humanity changed forever.

It’s hard to imagine that the simple act of eating a fruit can have such major repercussions. But G‑d was very protective over this particular Tree of Knowledge, warning Adam, Eve’s other half, that he could eat from any other tree in the garden, but definitely not that one. In fact, G‑d said they would die if they ate from that tree. That sounds like a good enough reason not to eat from it.

But the serpent convinced Eve that it was not the lethal danger that G‑d was concerned with, but rather that it was the mind-expanding qualities that this fruit contained. It was that power, he said, that would give them a whole new perspective on life, and even uplift them to the status of angels. It Eve bit into the Fruit of Knowledge, and all of humanity changed foreverseemed to be these cognitive shifts, the broadened consciousness, that appealed to Eve as she went ahead and took the risk. She ate the fruit, and then she went on the share it with Adam.

And then what? What happened next? They didn’t die (although they did become mortal beings). G‑d did seem pretty disappointed with them. He relocated them out of the Garden of Eden, never again allowing anyone to enter this exquisite garden. But did they experience the psychological shift that the snake promised them? Was it all hype, or was it worth it?

The Torah does mention one change. Immediately after they ate the fruit, and before G‑d even confronted them about it, the Torah tells us that “Adam and Eve realized that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves . . .” (Genesis 3:7). That’s the only internal change we know of. After all that allure, the one eye-opening experience was the recognition of their nudity and the shame that consequently led them to put on some makeshift clothing.

Contrast this to the one description given about Adam and Eve before they took this life-altering bite from the Fruit of Knowledge: “Adam and Eve were naked, and they were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). That is all that the Torah tells us about them. Not their take on their new universe, not their relationship with one another. The sole glimpse that we get into their persona is that they were naked but apparently not bothered too much by it. They didn’t even notice. And somehow, the shame kicked in instantaneously once they ate this miraculous fruit.

The obvious, albeit shocking, inference from this whole story is that being naked is ideal, and shame (rectified through clothing) is a consequence of their mistake. So . . . if they did the right thing, would we all be walking around nude? Is modesty, a quality that takes up so much space in Jewish writings, a de facto virtue?

Lets go back to their original nakedness: “They were naked, and they weren’t ashamed.” Rashi tells us that this tidbit is not a random description but a very important piece of the saga. They weren’t just naked, says Rashi, quoting the Talmud. They were having an intimate relationship, and they weren’t modest about it. They didn’t try to find a secluded, dark space to be together; they were naked, intimate and unembarrassed. And it was only after they sinned that something clicked inside of them, and they became aware of the need for modesty in dress and sexual relations.

Rabbi Obadiah Sforno, a 16th-century Italian Torah scholar, explains this unusual phenomenon of their nakedness. Why does the Torah share this with us? Because it gives us incredible insight into the way they looked They were naked, intimate and unembarrassedat their own bodies. In his words, “All of their actions and all of their limbs were used for the exclusive purpose of serving their Creator, and not for their personal pleasure at all—to the extent that the act of intimacy was similar to eating and drinking, and they viewed their reproductive organs in the same way that they viewed their mouths, their faces and their hands.” All of their body parts and bodily functions were equally selfless and spiritual.

And all that equality came tumbling down after they ingested the Fruit of Knowledge. For the first time, they viewed their sexuality as something personally pleasurable, and their body as pleasurable to others. They were ashamed, because it’s embarrassing to be selfish and vain. No one wants to be caught looking at themselves in the mirror. And they covered up, because when you have something that other people want, you need to protect it. So, the snake was right. They did have a mind-altering experience. They suddenly were able to see themselves independent of G‑d. For the first time, they were conscious of themselves.

There is also another reason why they covered up. After they ate, their perception of each other became much more visual. The body became so attractive that it was hard to look past it. Before they ate, the body and the soul were like one organic unit. Physical intimacy and spiritual bonding were fluid. The Torah describes their union by saying, “Adam knew Eve, and she became pregnant” (Genesis 4:1). Adam understood who Eve was through intimacy. But that doesn’t happen naturally anymore. Nowadays, casual intimacy can severely stifle the process of getting to know someone.

Although the human body is intensely holy and G‑dly, in the post–Fruit of Knowledge era the body can become vulnerable to unholy, parasitic energies that utilize the body’s innate holiness for alternative means. With this mirage, the body is the greatest distraction from the soul. The body can take up so much attention that a true connection with the person inside the body doesn’t seem that interesting anymore. You want it, not her. Sometimes the more you see of someone’s body, the less you know them. Which is why people naturally dress more conservatively for job interviews. We wouldn’t want the employers to think, G‑d forbid, that we are looking for attention to our body. We want them to recognize our intelligence.

The media has capitalized on the post–Fruit of Knowledge schism in a brilliant way. If the body is so distracting, then do everything you can to distract! Call attention to yourself. Be alluring. That is the key to success. If I have something that you want, then I have the power. And it’s If I have something that you want, then I have the power.all true, especially for us women. But there is nothing personal about that attention. In fact, it stifles the process of developing a real knowledge of one another.

So, how do we fix this mess, this body-soul competition? It shouldn’t be like that. After all, G‑d created our bodies. In His image! Adam and Eve found a solution: they got dressed. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (Torah Ohr, Bereishit) explains that their clothing played an interesting role in rectifying the relationship between the body and soul. And it also gave us a brand new way of connecting to G‑d.

In the pre–Fruit of Knowledge era, G‑d gave Adam and Eve a body and a soul. Both were gifts that worked together in perfect unison. We were G‑d’s creation, a manifestation of His infinite light. But that all changed pretty quickly. In the post–Fruit of Knowledge era, we still had a radiant soul, but also a body that effectively blocked and distracted the light of the soul. Next came the opportunity for this new self-conscious being to proactively express his or her soul identity. Clothing became the new tool for self-expression, and—used effectively and creatively—clothing could merge the body and soul identities once again.

An outfit can say, “I don’t need you to be visually stimulated by my body, because I am too dignified for that. I have an intriguing personality, and a soul that is infinitely valuable.” And that, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, creates a reflective light, one in which we partner with G‑d to reciprocate the gift that He gave us. He gave us a soul, but we shine it further than He originally intended.

Through our modest clothing, we allow our soul to shine through and illuminate this lowest world. And that is a greater brightness than the light of the Garden of Eden.