The Rambam in his More Nevuchim (Guide to the Perplexed) almost at the start of the book asks a question about the sin in the Garden of Eden:
נמצא חוטא נשכר!
It seems that the sinner has gained from his sin!
Adam and Eve were placed in a Garden where there was a Tree of Knowledge which G-d has forbidden to eat from, threatening that he whom shall eat from it would suffer death; and that’s a great punishment, bearing in mind that Adam & Eve were immortal at that stage.
But, as we know, they did eat from it, and indeed were banished from the Garden of Eden into our known immortal world.
But wasn’t it worth it?
Isn’t Knowledge something worth dying for?
Upon further examination, we may also ask:
If indeed before eating from that tree Adam & Eve were devoid of knowledge, how could they be blamed for any sin? They were just dumb, stupid!
All this is of course nonsense.
The Rambam gives a different explanation, but for me this is what has always worked:
The tree in the Garden of Eden was not a tree of knowledge.
In Hebrew the word Da-at means knowledge, but also: connection, adherence, and even mating.
So the real meaning of Eytz Hada-at Tov ve-Ra, wrongly translated as “The Tree of Knowledge”, is really “The Tree of mingling with Good and Evil“, the tree through which, upon eating, a great confusion between Good and Bad enters the soul.
Because before the sin, Evil was external – a reptile slithering in the Garden. But from then on, Evil became a part of Humanity:
The Serpent had cast his filth and desecration into Hava (Midrash),
And now we, her offspring, must delve deep into our spirits, to try and differentiate between the two tendencies: the Good and the Evil. And it’s not so simple. Because we can’t accept that we do wrong. We tend to justify ourselves, and convince ourselves we’re just ok. Because we’re no longer clear as to what is good or what is bad, and it demands of us hard work to differentiate between the two – all because of that fruit.
Indeed, right after that sinful eating, when Adam and Eve were interrogated by G-d, and Adam was questioned:
Did you eat from the tree I forbade?
The wife you gave unto me gave me the fruit…
And when the woman was asked, she said:
The Serpent had seduced me…
So we see them, right away, trying to justify themselves, and instead of accepting responsibility for their actions, they just thrust it upon others.
That’s the great loss in eating The Fruit, and so the Rambam’s question is resolved:
No sinner has profited from his crime.
On the contrary, great suffering has come to the world, and we suffer from it too, until the End of Time.
But the act of confession, is the exact opposite of the harm done by that Tree. Because in confessing, we take responsibility upon ourselves, and especially, when we utter it out loud, it’s as if we expel and drive away the sins from our souls.
But recognition must come first, and Eytz HaDa-at makes it difficult.
But imagine, just imagine, that when you do something wrong, like talking slander, Loshon Hara, some external sign would suddenly pop on your skin, like spots and patches on the skin, leaving no room for doubt, saying: this was improper conduct…
Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t that mean that the Evil in you had been separated from the Good, and bubbled up to the surface, leaving you in a clear state of mind?
Isn’t that a paved road to the correction of the Primordial Sin and real redemption?
That was indeed the case, in the times of the Glory of the People of Israel, when the sickness of Tzara-at (byblical Leprosy) was “available” for making some order in the mess Humanity has inside.
And still we await…
Rambam pic courtesy
spots picture courtesy