Why did Adam and Eve sin?
Question submitted to “Ask the Rabbi” by:
Name: J. Levi
“If good and evil exist because of free will, I would like to know this:
Rabbi Tully Bryks responds:
Many commentators have grappled with the question of Adam and Eve sinning. After all, unlike you and me, they had just heard G-d speak and He specifically commanded them not to eat from the tree of knowledge. To make matters worse, they ate from the tree just one hour after they had received the prohibition. Furthermore, this was only a temporary law, designed to last a mere 24 hours! If we were in their shoes, wouldn’t we have lasted longer?
As you pointed out, G-d attests to the fact that they were VERY good people. And in many respects, moral dilemmas were even easier for them. Prior to their sin, the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination) was an external force, as represented by the snake. As an external force, you are correct that they clearly knew exactly what was right and what was wrong. We, on the other hand, have a Yetzer Hora within us, so it is easier for us to be manipulated and blur the lines of right and wrong. Eating from the tree of knowledge, which they would have been instructed to do the very next day, creates the transformation of internalizing the Yetzer Hora, thereby making free will a much more challenging endeavor.
So why would they have done it? One of the answers is that they actually did it because of their desire to get closer to G-d. There is a general principle that the harder a Miztvah (commandment) is to observe, the closer we connect with G-d by observing it, as we have to invest more of ourselves in the relationship. As such, the one downside with all of the clarity in the Garden of Eden was that it wasn’t as challenging to be good. Adam and Eve had such a strong desire to connect to G-d, that they wanted to make His commandments more challenging for themselves. By eating from the tree of knowledge and incorporating the Yetzer Hora into themselves, they hoped to become even closer with their creator by overcoming the added challenges in their new state of reality.
However, despite the best of intentions, they were not yet ready for these added challenges, as evidenced by their post-sin behavior of blaming others for their mistake. G-d had understood that they were not yet ready, which is why He had commanded them to refrain to begin with.
Perhaps one of the many lessons for us is to recognize that even when we think that we know better and even if we have the best of intentions, G-d is one who unequivocally knows exactly what is best for us. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
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