They heard the sound of G‑d, Almighty G‑d, walking in the garden in the direction [which the sun sets every] day. The man and his wife hid from G‑d, Almighty G‑d, among the trees of the garden.

-- Breishis 3:8

Classic Questions

When did the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge occur? (v. 8)

Rashi: The verse states that they heard G‑d's voice in the "direction of the day." This refers to the direction in which the sun sets, which is the west. For towards evening the sun is in the west, and they sinned in the tenth hour [of daylight].

Talmud: The day on which Adam was created consisted of twelve hours. During the first hour his dust was gathered; the second hour it was made into a shapeless mass; the third hour his limbs were stretched out; the fourth hour a soul was placed in him; the fifth hour he stood on his feet; the sixth hour he named the animals; the seventh hour he was paired with Chava; the eighth hour they had two children; the ninth hour he was commanded not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge; the tenth hour he sinned; the eleventh hour he was judged; and the twelfth hour he was banished from the Garden of Eden and went on his way (Sanhedrin 38b).

The Rebbe's Teachings

When did the Sin Occur? (v. 8)

Rashi's commentary is not a mere anthology of Talmudic and Midrashic teachings. Rather, as Rashi declares himself, his commentary was written exclusively to "explain the literal meaning of scripture" (comment on Bereishis 3:8). Consequently, when Rashi does cite a Talmudic teaching, it would be a mistake to assume that he is citing the words in the same context that they are brought in the Talmud itself, for the Talmud does not confine itself exclusively to literal interpretations. In fact, the large body of Talmudic and Midrashic commentary on the Torah is predominantly allegorical and non-literal. Thus, even when Rashi uses a Talmudic phrase, he does so in the context of his own literalist commentary, which was not necessarily the intention of the Talmud.

In our case, Rashi writes that man sinned "in the tenth hour," which at first glance would seem to refer to the Talmudic teaching that he sinned in the tenth hour of the sixth day of creation (see Talmud). However, at the literal level of Torah interpretation to which Rashi always confines himself, it could not possibly be argued that man sinned on the sixth day, for a number of reasons:

  1. At the end of the sixth day, the Torah states, "G‑d saw everything that He had made, and look! It was very good" (1:31). Now, if the sixth day had been witness to man's sin which brought to the world a) death, a) the labor of childbirth and c) the toils of earning a living (see v. 16-19, below), G‑d would surely not have said, "It was very good"?

  2. It is reasonable to assume that Adam and Chava were of sufficiently strong moral caliber not to have stumbled in sin as soon as they were created, and the serpent would surely have taken some time to persuade Chava to eat from the tree. So at the literal level, it is extremely unlikely that all the events described here in chapter three occurred in the space of a few hours.

  3. Furthermore, the story is recorded after the story of creation has been completed, and Rashi gives no indication that it occurred beforehand, on the sixth day.

Thus, when Rashi encountered the Talmudic teaching that Adam and Chava sinned during the afternoon of the sixth day, he accepted the first premise (that they sinned in the afternoon), for this is indicated by scripture in verse 8; but he rejected the second premise, that they sinned on the sixth day, which is not indicated in scripture at all and, on the contrary, is incompatible with a literal rendering of the verses.

Instead, Rashi understood that the sin took place at some later date.

(Based on Sichas Shabbos Bereishis 5749)