From the Desk - The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - Part II
Shalom Friends! This week, our thoughts are more than ever with our brothers and sisters in Israel as they defend themselves from the latest barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. More than 350 rockets have been fired on to Israeli cities. Our prayers are with the dozens of Israelis injured by the missiles and the more than a million Israelis who have been forced to seek shelter. I have downloaded the Red Alert App on my phone so that my phone buzzes whenever there is a rocket attack. The buzzing is annoying but it is nothing compared to what people in Israel are experiencing. We pray for their safety and that Hashem gives Israel’s leaders and forces strength and wisdom at this time. This Shabbat is the Shabbat Project, marked by hundreds of communities across the globe. I encourage each of you, regardless of whether you are usually Shabbat observant, to observe Shabbat this week. I also encourage you to join us in synagogue this week for a special participatory service and communal Kiddush in honour of the Shabbat Project. For those of you who are leaving (or have left) for Florida, we wish you Au Revoir and Bon Voyage! For those of you still here, don’t forget that you have a warm home in Beth Ora and we would love for you to join us in our services and activities throughout the Winter period! Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal with… the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Part II Last week, we tackled Barry Vininsky’s question as to why Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat from the tree. This week, we address his second question: What was the benefit to Adam and Eve once they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. I gather the question here is why Adam and Eve ate from the tree. They were allowed to eat from every tree in the Garden except for this one. Why did they eat from it. Perhaps a clue as to their motivation can be inferred from what the snake says to Eve when he tries to entice her to eat from the apple: “G-d knows that on the day you eat of [the fruit of the tree], your eyes will be opened and you will be like G-d, knowing good and bad.” It should be noted that the great philosophers Rambam and Ralbag viewed the knowledge imparted by the tree as a regression and that it didn’t enable Adam and Eve to be more like G-d. They translate the word “Elohim”, not as G-d, but in the secular sense of the word to refer to political leaders. But most commentators understand that the snake was claiming that eating from the tree would give Adam and Eve a Godlike knowledge. What could this mean? The commentator Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel explains that this verse refers to Hashem’s role as Creator. As we mentioned last week, Abarbanel understands that the fruit of the tree introduced sexual desire to mankind. Sexual desire leads to procreation, and in this regard, man is similar to Hashem who brings life to all. Many other commentaries explain these words according to their simple sense: the ability to choose between good and evil is a Divine trait. Last week we mentioned that Rabbi Dovid Zvi Hoffman understands that, after eating from the tree, universal concepts of right and wrong were instilled in mankind. It is this to which Rabbi Hoffman believes the snake was referring. In gaining this modicum of moral understanding, Adam and Eve became more like G-d and angelic beings.