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I've long been somewhat troubled by the episode with the tree in the garden, because it seems like it was necessary for man to acquire knowledge (how else could we enter a covenant and accept the yoke of torah?), yet Adam and Chava clearly disobeyed God, which is problematic.

In a class tonight I heard a new-to-me idea in a passing comment: that if they had just waited a few hours, God had intended to permit them to eat from that tree on Shabbat (so knowledge would have been given, but at God's direction rather than theirs). Is that so? What is the source for this?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

The Lubavitcher Rebbe brings this idea in Likkutei Sichos (vol. 36 pg. 75 - free translation):

The ultimate purpose in creating the Tree of Knowledge was not merely to serve as a test to Adam HaRishon that he should not eat from it, but rather for man to transform the Tree of Knowledge and elevate it above the concept of death. It is explained in seforim that if Adam Harishon would have waited three hours until Shabbos, he would have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge and there would not have been a concept of death at all. This is because Shabbos is likened to the life of the World to Come..

In footnote 56 he quotes as a source the Pirush HaShach on the Torah (Parshas Kedoshim).

The Ohr HaChaim (Bereishis 1:26) brings this as an explanation for how Hashem could have said, "I have given you .. every tree that has seed bearing fruit; it will be yours for food," if man was not permitted to partake from the Tree of Knowledge - he quotes Chazal as saying that it was only a temporary ban, and if he would have waited till Shabbos he would have made Kiddush on (its?) wine.

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take a fruit from a tree on shabbat? –  juanora Jun 16 '13 at 6:28
    
@juanora He could have picked it before Shabbos and not eaten it until Shabbos. –  Michoel Jun 16 '13 at 6:59
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http://tora.us.fm/tnk1/tora/brejit/ec_hdat.html וכן גם כותב החתם סופר: "... ואחר שאכל מזה, (מעץ החיים) ונתקדש, ראוי לאכול מעץ הסמוך: 'הדעת טוב ורע' ר"ל לומר שבו יבין הטוב באשר הוא טוב, והרע באשר הוא רע, ויבחר בבחירה בטוב ולא יטה אל הרע, אומנם באוכלו מעץ ההוא (עץ הדעת) טרם אוכלו מעץ החיים יתחבר גשמיותו אל הרע … כי מצא מין הרע את מינו הגשמי וניעור" [15]. לפי החתם סופר האדם הראשון היה צריך כן לאכול מעץ הדעת אבל רק לאחר שאכל גם מעץ החיים (וגם זה היה צריך להיות בשבת) ואז הצד הגשמי שבו היה מתחבר אל הפן הטוב בעץ הדעת אבל כאשר אכל מעץ הדעת לפני שאכל מעץ החיים "מצא מין הרע את מינו הגשמי וניעור". נמצאנו למדים מכאן שעץ הדעת הגשמי אינו בהכרח שלילי, הוא יכול לעורר את הצד הגשמי החיובי באדם ואז לגרום טובה בעולם ולא רעה כמו שאכן גרם.

The question was, would they have been permitted if they had waited? According to the chasam sofer and others, he was supposed to have waited till shabbos and first eaten from the eits hachaim and only then from the eits hadaas. I am not too clear about his reason, but he seems to say that he first should have obtained ruchnious by eating from the eits hachaim before obtaining 'daas' from the eits hadaas. Because in the gashmius state that he was, the 'daas' would have made him 'bad'.

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