What skin color did adam and chava have? I learned that if all people indeed came from them at least one of them had to have a dark skin color.

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    I think there is a midrash that says that when Cham laughed at his father aftere the mabul, Hashem made him a darker color. So it doesn't necessarily mean Adam and Chava were.
    – Dani
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 18:16
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    @Dani Sanhedrin 109a is what you’re looking for – חם לקה בעורו. As Turk points out, many are of the opinion that Midrashim are meant metaphorically, in which case we need to work out what the Gemara really means, but Rashi definitely takes it at face value by identifying Chan’s son Kush as being the one through whom the curse was carried out.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 18:38
  • @DonielF I remember someone in shul back in late 2019 telling in the Parshah lesson that there was also an involvement of a crow. Didn't quite comprehend that part (we're Russian speaking Jews and my Russian definitely isn't as fluid and good as his) but it was something like '[...] So as the crow was cursed and became black, so did Ham became black like the crow'. May I request a link to the full tractate in English language?
    – user16556
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 20:07
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    @Ilja My mistake – it’s actually 108b. Your memory serves you well. The context is that three violated the ban on intercourse in the Ark: Cham, the raven, and the dog. Perhaps in a parallel Midrash it says that the raven was punished through its coloring, but not in this version; here the raven and dog were punished in the manners in which they have intercourse. (I’ve always heard עורב translated as a raven, but it’s entirely possible others translate it as a crow. Whatever it is, it’s a non-kosher bird of prey.)
    – DonielF
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 22:09
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    If you consider the idea that the form of the first human being paralleled the structure of the Mishkan/Mikdash, then perhaps the best way to conceive of this is that the skin was like that of the Tachashim. According to Midrash, this skin was similar to hummingbird feathers and was actually multicolored. Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 6:23

3 Answers 3


R. Abraham Viterbo deals with this in Ma'amar Chamishi of Sefer Emunat Chachamim (bottom of page 40a). He begins by mentioning the idea that dark skin was a result of Noah's curse to Canaan. In that case, he says, we would have to assume that all the physiological differences between people of different skin colors occurred at the time of Noah's curse, and not due to the heat of the lands they lived in. He supports this by noting that when northern people with light skin move to the southern locations where it is hot and the people have dark skin, their skin does not turn dark – nor does the skin of their descendants change even after several hundred years.

However, he then argues the reverse that it is indeed because of the heat that their skin became dark. In response to the aforementioned objection, he explains that skin color is not a binary choice; rather there is a continuum ranging from very light to very dark. Skin color proceeds along the continuum from one country to the next, and changes very slowly over hundreds of years as the heat enters their bodies. If we accept this approach then Adam and Eve would have had light skin and dark skin evolved over a very long period of time.

  • Tiferes Yisrael to the last mishna in Sanhedrin Ch. 4 says just the opposite. When the Mishna marvels that mechanical creations all come out the same, but nature has variety, Tiferes Yisrael says that doesn't mean races, as those evolved over time; it means the wide variation of people's looks within a race. Ergo -- Adam and Chava's skin color is kind of moot.
    – Shalom
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 23:31

We don't know. Racial traits evolved later, hence the premise of the question is called into question:

Tiferes Yisrael writes on Sanhedrin 4:5

ומלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא טבע כל אדם בחותמו של אדם הראשון ואין אחד מהן דומה לחבירו: לא לבד במראה שיש שהם שחורים כפחם ככושי ונעגער והאטענטאטען, ויש לבנים כשלג, כגון זאמעידען ואלבאנוס, ויש אדומים ביותר כגון תושבי אמעריקא, ועוד הרבה מצבעים שונים, די"ל דע"י שהם זה אלפים שנה באקלים ההוא נשתנה טבעם וצבע עורם ונקראו מחז"ל כושי לווקן גיחור [כברכות נ"ח ב'], אלא אפי' הנולדים באקלים אחד אין אחד דומה בתוארו לחבירו:

(Mishnah: A human makes one mold, and all the coins produced are the same, but God minted one human, and none are just like another): Not just in appearance, that some are black as coal, like the Ethiopian, Negro, and Hottentot; some are white as snow, like the Samoyeds and albinos; and some are really red, like the dwellers of America; and many other colors -- as we could say that because they were in those climates for thousands of years, their innate skin color changed ... rather, the Mishna means that even those born in the same climate, none look alike.


Tikkunei Zohar #64 seems to suggests a reddish or raisin hue.

תקונא שתין וארבע:

BRASYT BRA ELKY"M. There you find AYSh (man) and there you find AShH (woman) with the Hei in Elokim [Din - associated with red]

בראשית ברא אלקי"ם, תמן איש תמן אשה עם ה' דאלקי"ם,

About them it's said (Song 2:5), "Sustain me with raisin cakes" - AShYShOT - with AYSh and AShH, man and wife. And who caused this? It's because Adam and Chava put off the garments of light (AUR), hence "Sustain me in raisin cakes," with the "garments of skins ('AUR)," which correspond to, "and skins of rams, MADMYM" - ruddy.

ועלייהו אתמר סמכוני באשישות, באיש ואשה, ומאן גרים דא, בגין דאתפשטו מכתנות אור אדם וחוה, ובגין דא סמכוני באשישות, בכתנות עור דאינון לקבל ועורות אילים מאדמים וכו':

Note that AeDoM, red, has the same root as ADM, man, and Adamah, earth.

Also on daf 39b a similar thing is said:

Of them it's said, "refresh me with apples." What are these AShYShOT (raisins), these are the two Esh, fires, which are Ish and Ishah, white fire and red fire, for there you find father and mother, which are Y"H, and they are the face of judgement and face of kindness.

ועלייהו אתמר רפדוני בתפוחים, ומאי ניהו אלין אשישות, אינון תרי אשות, דאינון איש ואשה, אשא חוורא, ואשא סומקא, דתמן אב ואם, דאינון י"ק, ואינון אנפי דינא ואנפי דרחמי:

  • This seems to say that their garments were reddish, not their own skin.
    – Harel13
    Commented Mar 28 at 20:07
  • @Harel13 if so then why does he bring AShYShOT - with AYSh and AShH, man and wife, .. this seems to say their very selves doesn't it? Commented Mar 29 at 2:18
  • I'm not a Zohar expert but it seems to me that the איש and אשה were connected to אשישות to show it was relevant for both. And what happened? They removed their garments of light and put on garments of skins (leather).
    – Harel13
    Commented Mar 29 at 5:04
  • @Harel13 The essence of T. Zohar is everything in the word BRASYT. 70 explanations. The key is man and woman are ESh that are in that word, Ish and Ishah as it explains. What kind of ESh, fire? White and red, man and woman. Commented Mar 31 at 23:51
  • Also recall that the white parts of a man are from the father and the red are from the mother, that's a Gemara I think Commented Mar 31 at 23:52

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