The Tree of Knowledge

Question

Hi Rabbi, why did God command for Adam and Eve to not eat from the tree of knowledge — since He knew in advance that they would not obey? Thanks.

, 6 months

Answers

  1. The answer to your question has one “trunk” but two “branches.” Meaning, there are two legitimate — but very different – approaches. Unlike the choice of whether or not to eat the fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” you may choose either approach, or both if you like — or feel free to share with me a third explanation if you see one.

    Approach one: God foresaw and therefore intended that Man would sin. Why? This was part of God’s plan for enabling His prime creation to perfect itself through free-will decisions, ultimately attaining “God’s image” via the circuitous route of history as we know it.

    Approach two: This approach is presented by most Torah commentaries, and is considered the “classical approach.” God intended for them to perfect themselves by overcoming this single directive to not eat from the tree. If they had obeyed, the intended scenario would have been as follows: Although created in God’s image, possessing the potential for perfection, Adam and Eve still needed to actualize their potential through their own efforts. Choosing correctly would have two significant and positive results. First, they would be able to completely cleave to God, having reached their state of perfection. Second, they would be deserving of the reward for achieving that closeness to God — since they accomplished it themselves.

    This means that if they had just observed that initial commandment, they would have perfected themselves, realizing their God-like potential, and would have lived eternally with their purely begotten offspring in an eternal Eden in the presence of their Creator. In fact, the mystical teachings of Judaism explain that if they had just elevated themselves on that first Friday, they would have ushered in their first Shabbat in a state of near perfection. The holiness of Shabbat would have successfully completed their reaching a state of perfection. And, after having reached that state of holiness and purity, which would have enabled them to understand God on the highest levels, He would have then allowed them to partake not only of the Tree of Knowledge, but also of the Tree of Life.

    But, having failed the test, rather than perfecting themselves, Adam and Eve incorporated within themselves the venomous toxin of rebellion against God. This was in turn commuted to their offspring — humanity — and initiated the contingent plan of world history, and arduous and circuitous path to perfection we are still striving for today. Until the Knowledge of God is attained through our own self-perfection, the elusive, esoteric elixir of Eternal Life is hidden in Eden.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team