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Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann in his commentary to Bereishis 2:7 explains (thanks to AlHaTorah for making this available) that originally, it was the will of Hashem that man was going to learn knowledge of good and evil from Hashem directly. He was going to teach Adam and Chava that by Himself, as a tutor, says Rabbi Hoffmann.

However, G-d foresaw that humankind wouldn't obey G-d in every single detail, and thus gave them free will. He also says:

[...] Therefore He created the tree of knowledge, that eating from it would bring to man at least a partial knowledge of good and evil, so that he would not endanger the entire creation like this predatory animal. In the creation of man, two ways were therefore placed before him, one - that he allows himself to be guided by the will of G-d and fulfills the commandments of his Creator, and the other - that he allows himself to be guided by his own will or by desires that are contrary to the will of G-d.

Rabbi Hoffmann goes on to say that:

For these two roads, the two trees in the garden were also planted - the tree of life for the first case, and the tree of knowledge - for the second case [...] But in the event that man is tempted - by his own will or by other forces - to do against his will, for this case the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was created, so that there would at least be some knowledge of good and evil even for a person who turned from G-d, knowledge that would come to him in another, natural way , and for him to do the will of his creator at least indirectly.

What got my interest were the following words: "for this case the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was created, so that there would at least be some knowledge of good and evil even for a person who turned from G-d, knowledge that would come to him in another, natural way , and for him to do the will of his creator at least indirectly" - this somewhat means that if the human chose for getting knowledge by means of the tree of knowledge, instead of learning it directly from it's Creator, they would still learn some morallity, albeit indirectly from G-d.

Original words, partly, from Rabbi Hoffmann:

התשובה נמצאת בפרשתנו. בתחילה נברא האדם בלי דעת טוב ורע. אפילו הבושה להתהלך ערום, שהיתה סגולתם של כל בני קדם הידועים לנו, אף אותה לא ידעוה אדם וחוה. רצון הבורא היה, שהאדם יקבל ידיעה נכונה ושלמה על כל הטוב וכל הרע על ידי הוראה מאתו ית' בלבד, כי רק בדרך זו תובטח נכונות הידיעה ושלמותה. אך עם זאת ניתן לו לאדם חופש הבחירה לציית לצווי האלהי או לאו. ברם, משום שה' ידע מראש כי לא תמיד יציית האדם לציוויו, משום כך ברא הוא ית' את עץ הדעת, שהאכילה ממנו תביא לאדם לפחות ידיעה חלקית של טוב ורע, כדי שלא יסכן את הבריאה כולה כמו חיה טורפת זו. בבריאתו של האדם הושמו איפוא לפניו שתי דרכים, האחת — שהוא מניח להנהיגו על ידי רצת האלהי ויקיים מצוות בוראו, והשניה — שהוא מניח להנהיג עצמו על ידי רצונו הוא או על ידי רצונות המנוגדים לרצונו של ה'. בשביל שתי דרכים אלה גם נטעו שני העצים שבתוך הגן — עץ החיים למקרה הראשון, ועץ הדעת — למקרה השני. אילו היה האדם מסכים להיות מונהג כולו על ידי רצון הבורא, אילו היה — על אף חופש הבחירה שלו — הולך בדרך שהראהו בוראו, מבלי לסטות ממנה, כמו כוכבי לכת אלה שאינם סוטים ממסלולם, כך שיהיה למוד דעת טוב ורע מפי הגבורה ומודרך על ידי בחירתו החופשית, נצב כיצור יחיד העושה את רצון בוראו מתוך רצונו החופשי, או אז היה עץ החיים מזונו, מזון שהיה מעניק חיי נצח גם לחומר שבו, לגופו. אבל למקרה שהאדם יתפתה — על ידי רצונו שלו או על ידי כוחות אחרים — לעשות נגד רצון קונו, למקרה זה נברא עץ הדעת טוב ורע, כדי שתהא לפחות ידיעת־מה של טוב ורע גם לאדם שפנה מאת האלהים, ידיעה שתגיע אליו בדרך אחרת, טבעית, ולמען יעשה את רצון בוראו לפחות בעקיפין

When G-d said to Adam and Chava "Who told you that you were naked?" (Bereishis 3:11), Sforno comments:

מי הגיד לך, who revealed to you the difference between good and evil?

According to this comment, G-d was not amused that they got this knowledge at all, even some meforshim say this wisdom refers to the yetzer hara (evil inclination). It seems logical that G-d did not wanted the humans to have the evil inclination, but I find it hard to understand why the tree of knowledge of evil and good was forbidden for that particular reason. Even with the comments of Rabbi Hoffmann in mind, who said that the tree was to make sure that, if we deviate from Hashem's path (G-d forbid), we would still have some morallity in us.

So, what exactly was wrong with this tree and why did G-d forbid us to discern knowledge of good and evil?

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I think Rabbi Hoffman answers the closing questions.

Firstly, He created free will for the sake of both paths (not sure if I misunderstood you). This solves the problem.

Path 1

What Hashem wanted:

רצון הבורא היה, שהאדם יקבל ידיעה נכונה ושלמה על כל הטוב וכל הרע על ידי הוראה מאתו ית' בלבד

And says that this will produce this:

אילו היה האדם מסכים להיות מונהג כולו על ידי רצון הבורא, אילו היה — על אף חופש הבחירה שלו — הולך בדרך שהראהו בוראו, מבלי לסטות ממנה, כמו כוכבי לכת אלה שאינם סוטים ממסלולם, כך שיהיה למוד דעת טוב ורע מפי הגבורה ומודרך על ידי בחירתו החופשית, נצב כיצור יחיד העושה את רצון בוראו מתוך רצונו החופשי, או אז היה עץ החיים מזונו, מזון שהיה מעניק חיי נצח גם לחומר שבו, לגופו

He equates this path with the Tree of Life.


Path 2

Hashem foresaw that Adam wouldn't do what Hashem wanted:

ה' ידע מראש כי לא תמיד יציית האדם לציוויו, משום כך ברא הוא ית' את עץ הדעת

So for that He created the Tree of Knowledge.


Answer: So therefore, the reason why it is forbidden to eat the Tree of Knowledge is because that's associated with going down the path that Hashem didn't want, Path 2 and is an overall ban on taking away Hashem's Will of teaching us Good and Evil Himself. Going against His Will in general. It's a very unified concept, thanks for enlightening us with it. I hope Hashem will let us go back to learning Torah just from Him very soon!





As for your question about Yetzer Hara, I don't see it really come up in this text (I haven't read all of it, apologies) so I find it hard to know what Rav Hoffman would say about it in this context. However, indirectly, he brings up your example about nakedness, and says that it was a wonderful trait that we were always going to learn. We see that the tree of knowledge gave us the ability to know about that nakedness just by instinct, not having been taught it. I'm not sure it's the Yetzer Hara that causes us to feel ashamed that we are naked, although I am asking about that myself in this question.

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  • Thanks Reb Kaii. So, Rav Tzvi Hoffmann means that G-d forbade us from eating from the tree, because that would show that the man He created wouldn't follow His will directly from Him? But then why create the tree in the first place? What was the function of the tree after all? Does Rav Hoffmann explains that perhaps?
    – Shmuel
    Dec 24, 2023 at 15:09
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    @Shmuel I am not in this sugya anymore but it seems to clearly state that Hashem created the tree as a contingency plan in case Adam didn't perfectly submit to the will of Hashem. If he did do that, then Hashem would teach him about good and evil, and how to be good. If he didn't, then the tree would teach him (in an indirect way) about good and evil, and how to be good. Why was it created in the first place? Because Hashem was always planning on giving Adam free will, and therefore there was always the "chance" that Adam would rebel
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 24, 2023 at 16:32
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    @Shmuel thanks for the great question, and for teaching me about this Rav Hoffman which has been great. Thanks for accepting. Keep asking great questions
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 24, 2023 at 17:39
  • And thank you for answering :) Hatzlacha and keep shteiging!
    – Shmuel
    Dec 24, 2023 at 17:53
  • you might enjoy this, just stumbled upon it Da'at Tevunoth Ramchal
    – Shmuel
    Jan 14 at 14:51

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