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Exposition of Genesis, Part 2

September 22, 2013

“Man” represents those people who are capable of intellectual and artistic pursuits, the leaders, whereas “woman” represents those incapable, the followers.

והנחש היה ערום מכל חית השדה אשר עשה יהוה אלהים ויאמר אל-האשה אף כי-אמר אלהים לא תאכלו מכל עץ הגן:

As in numerous other Biblical and Talmudic sources, the snake represents the inclination toward evil and the angel of death, etc. Thus said Hazal. After all, considering everything we know about the snake in this story (that he is sentient, interested in man’s downfall, knowledgeable of G-d, according to the Midrash has a thing for Eve, walks upright, is responsible for his actions, and capable of all sorts of tasks), we would have said that were it not for him being called “snake”, we would have assumed that he is another person!

The snake represents the evil inclination, whereas the tree represents the opportunity, both of which are necessary for a sin to take place. Hazal said that the point of the tree was to merely provide a test. A theme of Genesis is that mankind failed, but the Hebrew patriarchs passed their tests, e.g. Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Judah, and that firstborns fail and younger brothers replace them. Seth, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all have older brothers, Reuven is rejected and has his birthright divided among three younger brothers, and the firstborn in Exodus are replaced by the Aaronite Kohanim and Levites. Aaron succeeds, but he is not a firstborn, whereas his two older sons are replaced by his two younger sons.

ב ותאמר האשה אל-הנחש מפרי עץ-הגן נאכל: ג ומפרי העץ אשר בתוך-הגן אמר אלהים לא תאכלו ממנו ולא תגעו בו פן תמתון: ד ויאמר הנחש אל-האשה לא-מות תמתון: ה כי ידע אלהים כי ביום אכלכם ממנו ונפקחו עיניכם והייתם כאלהים ידעי טוב ורע: ו ותרא האשה כי טוב העץ למאכל וכי תאוה-הוא לעינים ונחמד העץ להשכיל ותקח מפריו ותאכל ותתן גם-לאישה עמה ויאכל:

The woman knew it was wrong, but she in essence lost sight of that. Instead, she was distracted by how nice it looks, etc. That is the way that the innocent are often brought to sin. They are made blind to the bad aspects and bombarded by irrelevant enticements.

ז ותפקחנה עיני שניהם וידעו כי עירמם הם ויתפרו עלה תאנה ויעשו להם חגרת

See above. Suddenly, there were new considerations, that ideally, should not have been. This does not mean, however, that man should literally walk around naked. Rather, it is a metaphor for his relationship to intimate matters. That is, post sin, people are squeamish about these matters. The sexual license prevalent in the west in the last generation and that existed in various societies in the past was not, however, a reversion to the ideal state, but rather an orgiastic free for all of promiscuity, whereas pre-sin man had no reason to be squeamish about proper, exclusive, monogamous relationships.

: ח וישמעו את-קול יהוה אלהים מתהלך בגן לרוח היום ויתחבא האדם ואשתו מפני יהוה אלהים בתוך עץ הגן: ט ויקרא יהוה אלהים אל-האדם ויאמר לו איכה: י ויאמר את-קלך שמעתי בגן ואירא כי-עירם אנכי ואחבא: יא ויאמר מי הגיד לך כי עירם אתה המן-העץ אשר צויתיך לבלתי אכל-ממנו אכלת: יב ויאמר האדם האשה אשר נתתה עמדי הוא נתנה-לי מן-העץ ואכל:

Those who should have known better blamed the common people for leading them to sin instead of acknowledging their own accountability.

יג ויאמר יהוה אלהים לאשה מה-זאת עשית ותאמר האשה הנחש השיאני ואכל:

יד ויאמר יהוה אלהים | אל-הנחש כי עשית זאת ארור אתה מכל-הבהמה ומכל חית השדה על-גחנך תלך ועפר תאכל כל-ימי חייך: טו ואיבה | אשית בינך ובין האשה ובין זרעך ובין זרעה הוא ישופך ראש ואתה תשופנו עקב:

See Onkelos. The verse is not saying that men will literally tread on snakes and that snakes will bite men’s heels, but rather that there will be a lasting grudge between the “snake” and mankind. The snake will only eat dust, i.e., those who sin will, in the long run, always lose. Man will forever live with the evil inclination הוּא יְהֵי דְּכִיר לָךְ מַה דִּעֲבַדְתָּ לֵהּ מִלְּקַדְמִין and the fear of death וְאַתְּ תְּהֵא נָטִיר לֵהּ לְסוֹפָא.

טז אל-האשה אמר הרבה ארבה עצבונך והרנך בעצב תלדי בנים ואל-אישך תשוקתך והוא ימשל-בך

As our sages pointed out, in the first chapter it says that man was seemingly created male and female simultaneously, i.e., total equals except for with regards to gestation, but post sin, the realities of the struggle for livelihoods, politics, and competition make men dominant, but when the world returns to its ideal state, for example, as that described by Maimonides at the end of the Yad,  ובאותו הזמן לא יהיה שם לא רעב ולא מלחמה. ולא קנאה ותחרות. שהטובה תהיה מושפעת הרבה. וכל המעדנים מצויין כעפר. ולא יהיה עסק כל העולם אלא לדעת את ה’ בלבד. ולפיכך יהיו ישראל חכמים גדולים ויודעים דברים הסתומים וישיגו דעת בוראם כפי כח האדם there will once again be no reason for many of the usual forms of female subservience.

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