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Accordingly, the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno concluded The Tragic Sence of Life, with the words: “. . . and may God deny you peace but give you g1ory!”330
According to the common reading, ve-etz ha-da-at tov ve-ra is to be understood as “and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” According to our reading, this phrase is to be read, “and the Tree of Knowledge; consequently both good and evil.” According to the common reading, Eve and Adam “sinned” when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. According to our reading, Eve and Adam did not sin; they “contravened a caution,” which is a crucial step below “sin.”
The common reading of the Garden of Eden saga is actually predicated on an internal contradiction. If Adam and Eve only gained knowledge of good and evil as a consequence of eating from the fruit, how can they have “sinned”â€”an act which presumes some understanding of good and evilâ€”in the prior partaking of the fruit?331 Furthermore, the Hebrew phrase describing the tree should then be ve-etz da-at tov ve-ra, “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” not ve-etz ha-da-at tov ve-ra, “the Tree of Knowledge; good and evil.” There is a “superfluous” heh in the text if we employ the common reading.
On what level is the Garden of Eden tale to be understood? Did the first man and woman determine the course of untold billions? Was my destiny charted by one or two primitives?
We would posit that First Adam was not simply the literal “first man.” One must rather posit that he was a shaliach,332 a representative on behalf of mankind to come. In a cosmos predicated on potential and containing elements of circularity, First Adam, in concert with inexorable thrusts of the cosmos, chose the Tree of Knowledge/Potential.
The essential choice in the Eden saga was made by Eve, the mother of mankind, and not by its father. The one who bears the child and suffers the pain in childbirth, chose to set her children along the more arduous, but hopefully more rewarding, path of Tree of Knowledge/Potential.333The one who carries and gives life chose the path which also ultimately abrogates life334 because this same treacherous path also yields a fuller life.335
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330 Miguel de Unamuno, cited in Lamm, Faith and Doubt, p. 34.
331 Abravanel challenges in parallel: “A command is not given to animals or one lacking intelligence. With his intellectual faculty man differentiates between truth and falsehood, and this was possessed by him [prior to partaking of the tree] in his pristine perfection and purity.” As cited in Leibowitz, Studies in Bereshit, p. 18.
332 Parallel to some kabbalistic formulations of Adam Kadmon.
See Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 265. “The decisive point is that according to this [Lurianic] doctrine, the first being which emanated from the [Divine] light was Adam Kadmon, primordial man.” Note to reader: Although there are parallels between Lurianic “primordial man” and our Primal Man, according to many interpretations of Adam Kadmon, there would be very major differences. See complete discussion in Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism and related sources.
333 Erich Fromm asserts that man’s humanity begins when he leaves Eden.
334 See Wiesel, The Fifth Son, p. 71. “In our [Jewish] tradition it is the woman who represents continuity: it is she who carries and projects the future of our people. And that is how it should be. Don’t you agree?”
335 Tishbi on the Zohar posits that e-lana d’mavsa (the Tree of Death) is embedded in the Tree of Knowledge.
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