Rabbi Sokol spoke on Shabbat Bereshit, bringing us the words of Harav YB Soloveitchik zt”l, on the effects of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is abstracted from an essay in the book Yemei Zikaron.
Gen. 3:7 - Their eyes were opened, both of them, and they knew they were naked; and they made holes in fig leaves, and made for them loincloths.
3:21 - God made for the man and his woman, coats of leather - and clothed them.
What is the significance of the clothing? Of God clothing them? Of the different types of clothing? What does it mean that God made them clothing of leather (Rebbi Meir in the Gemara emends the text to “Or” with an aleph - clothes of light.)
The Zohar speaks of two kinds of souls, the naked soul and the clothed soul. The naked soul is the soul unadorned, lost, perpetually in crisis. The clothed soul is clothed in faith, in learning, in a lifetime of experience.
The naked soul is always questing, always questioning, unsure, lonely. It bounces from crisis to existential crisis. It knows not where it is or where to go. The clothed soul, by contrast, is grounded, it knows its place in the cosmos, it is secure in that knowledge, it has a solid context for living a full life shaped by its spiritually full life that it still lives.
This becomes particularly important in old age. While one is young, striving for better jobs, more money, better life for one’s children, the distinction seems unimportant. There is external stuff to fill up even the life of a naked soul. But as one ages, retires, ceases to strive for better things, and gets even older, one’s friends die off, one’s spouse is no more – there’s nobody to talk to. There’s no way to relate, and one just closes in, goes nuts, or gives up.
But the clothed soul has a full life context that continues, even after the externals are gone. R’ Sokol’s uncle died on Rosh Hashanah. Even as he was about 90, he was getting up in the morning, praying with a minyan, going to Daf Yomi – being in religious society because his life was shaped by religious society. He has a social and spiritual context, a coat of faith, that he carries over from earlier life. That coat of faith is the coat of light of which Rebbi Meir spoke.
When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, which is widely considered to have been a fig, the fruit brought knowledge without context. It elevated their souls to consciousness, but naked, without spiritual context. So they made clothing out of the fig tree, the source of their downfall. This is the clothing of deception, of falsehood. It’s what you might think might help, but doesn’t really. God then gave them the clothing of light, gave them a spiritual context to shape their lives, in charging them with the commands and existential curses upon leaving the Garden.
Then their souls were truly clothed. May we all develop a coat of faith, to sustain us through life.