The Creation Story: Adam & Eve, and the Fruit

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What’s the Forbidden Fruit? Mysteries of Adam and “Eve” Chava Unveiled.

In the vast tapestry of Jewish thought, few narratives capture the imagination as profoundly as the account of Creation, particularly the enigmatic story of Adam, Chava (Eve), and the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” This narrative, found in Bereshit (Genesis) chapters 1-3, has been subject to an array of interpretations by great Torah scholars, who have delved into its depths to extract eternal lessons for humanity. With a focus on HaShem, the Infinite One, this narrative serves as a lens to understand the complex relationship between mankind and the divine order.

What was the fruit that Adam and Chava consumed? The Torah leaves this detail ambiguous, inviting us to look beyond the literal and consider the metaphorical. Jewish sages across time have examined this elusive “fruit,” elucidating its abstract essence.

The Zohar, in Bereshit, section 1:35b-36b, offers an ethereal interpretation. The act of eating the fruit isn’t a simple disobedience but rather a disruption in the divine flow of spiritual energy through the sefirot. The Zohar suggests that Adam and Chava’s action disturbed the cosmic balance, rupturing the perfect unity that once existed. Ramban (Nahmanides) also sees this event not as a mere literal occurrence. In his commentary on Bereshit 3:8, he indicates that the fruit symbolized a certain realm of knowledge that was too potent for Adam and Chava to assimilate properly at that time.

Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, the Or HaChaim, in his commentary on Bereshit, chapter 3, perceives the fruit as embodying the Yetzer HaRa, the evil inclination. In his eyes, eating the fruit represents the human vulnerability to yield to temptation, clouding the soul’s purity. Ramchal, in “Derech Hashem” (The Way of God), section 1, chapter 3, echoes a similar sentiment. For him, the event is symbolic of the inner challenges and moral choices that mankind confronts throughout life. The Maharal of Prague, in “Gevurot Hashem,” chapter 4, adds another layer. He interprets the fruit as an abstract concept symbolizing disobedience, which leads to disconnection from HaShem.

The AriZal, in “Etz Chaim,” presents a Kabbalistic perspective. He associates the fruit with the notion of “Da’at,” knowledge, emphasizing how improper use can destabilize the sefirotic structure. Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 15:7 adds a unique twist. It suggests that the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life are, in fact, the same, presenting the idea that wisdom’s utility hinges on its application—either leading to life or estrangement from the divine.

In Me’am Lo’ez, a quintessential Sephardic work by Rabbi Yaakov Culi, the story’s allegorical nature is reiterated. He interprets the fruit as a symbol of moral ambiguity and marks the event as a spiritual turning point for humanity. Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 34, while discussing the prohibition against following one’s eyes and heart, implicitly links it to the Edenic event. The “fruit” here symbolizes the unbridled passions and desires that can lead one astray. Rabbi Bahya ibn Paquda, in his Chovot HaLevavot, specifically in “Sha’ar HaBechina,” Chapter 5, underscores that the event revolves around our cognitive and ethical faculties, rather than a mere act of consumption.

Finally, although a Chassidic source, Noam Elimelech resonates with the Kabbalistic concepts often discussed among Sephardic masters. Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk views the Tree of Knowledge as a blend of “mercy” and “judgment,” both attributes within the sefirot. This complex blend is indicative of the intricate relationship humans have with the Divine.


Jewish wisdom across generations and backgrounds converges on a vital point: the narrative of Adam, Chava, and the Tree of Knowledge transcends a mere story about disobedience. It is a spiritual and ethical allegory providing insights into human nature, the divine order, and the interconnectedness of Creation. Through the teachings of these great Torah scholars, we understand that the story invites us to ponder deeper questions about existence, morality, and our relationship with HaShem.


  1. Zohar: Bereshit, section 1:35b-36b
  2. Ramban (Nahmanides): Commentary on Bereshit (Genesis) 3:8
  3. Or HaChaim: Commentary on Bereshit, chapter 3
  4. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal): Derech Hashem, section 1, chapter 3
  5. Maharal of Prague: Gevurot Hashem, chapter 4
  6. AriZal: Etz Chaim
  7. Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 15:7
  8. Me’am Lo’ez: Commentary on Bereshit
  9. Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 34
  10. Chovot HaLevavot: Sha’ar HaBechina, Chapter 5
  11. Noam Elimelech

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