Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

Rabbi Odess was talking about the Garden of Eden, and it got me thinking - seems to me the whole thing was a necessary set-up. That is, eating from the tree was necessary to complete the creation of Mankind.

Think about it - how could Eve have chosen differently? She didn't have judgment yet. Judgment, the ability to choose between right and wrong action, only comes from knowing the difference between them, between what is good and what is evil. Adam and Eve could only do what they what they had been told most recently (I used to have a boss like that). So Eve was told by Adam, "don't eat, and don't touch". The snake said, "touch", so she did. Then "eat", so she did. Which means she had no way to distinguish between the quality of Adam's command over the snake's command.

Only after eating from the tree, did they gain knowledge of good and evil, and thus the ability to choose between one and the other. Thus they truly became free-willed. And isn't that what God wanted? To create another intellect similar to His own, with the ability to will things and do them? Or, according to Kabbalah, to receive God's goodness - how could they appreciate that God's goodness was ipso facto good unless they could distinguish between good and bad?

So the whole thing was a setup. Perhaps there was a lesson in there to demonstrate that there are consequences to one's actions, such that afterwards, they could understand that their punishment was the result of a choice. But they didn't even have the freedom to choose beforehand. So it's a setup, with a moral lesson for those of us who have a choice.


micha said...

M says their freedom was between truth and falsehood.

REED says that they had temptation, and choice the way we do, but with one major difference -- temptation was externalized. IOW (my words), the walking talking snake turns into the yeitzer hara with the eating of the fruit.

I think also that the internalization of evil had to be through an act of disobedience. Not for mystical reasons; for psychological ones. It's disobeying the first time that is difficult; after that, the wall has been broken. Perhaps the whole bit about the tree and the fruit was secondary, and the whole point was for them to have a mitzvah they could violate.


thanbo said...

But without the choice to violate it, where's the responsibility that engenders liability to punishment? If all they can do is follow the instructions of the last intellect to command them, why should Adam or God be any more reliable than the snake? With no experience, and no judgment, there's no way to judge.

micha said...

I once argued that M only really works if his position is similar to REED's. A person with no evil inclination would have to ascertain the truth of the claims of an external tempter.

But I think your question is a variant of one raised by RAM on Avodah -- where does culpability for a baby's first real decision come from? And if he isn't fully to blame for the first decision, because he is just responding to how he was made, then how is the 2nd any different?

Switch from a baby's first decision to humanity's and it's your question.

We ended up simply saying it's part of being in the Divine Image, to have a bit of Divine Mystery as well.