Is there support in the Talmud or later rabbinical literature to interpreting the Torah term "eitz," commonly translated as "tree," to also mean "thought". This of course, is a common usage in Yiddish, where Eitzos (plural of Eitz) refers to "ideas". If there is such support then could it be that the Bereshis 2:17 (Genesis 2:17) episode in Gan Eden where Adam is instructed to avoid the Eitz Hadas ("tree" of knowledge) really means that Adam was instructed to not "eat" (i.e., imbibe, engage, or believe in) thoughts which apparently differentiate between "good" and "evil". In other words, the Torah may be relating that such conceptual discrimination led to the expulsion from Gan Eden (Paradise)?

Is there support in the Talmud or later writings to this interpretation?

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    Sounds like a question for @RHirch!
    – Double AA
    May 21, 2012 at 1:41
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    Hersh, while your question intrigues, note that if you meant it just as you asked it then you're laboring under a misapprehension. Etzos isn't the Yiddish plural of etz: it's the plural of etza, as in Hebrew. And while I'm far from being a Yiddish expert, I suspect that, as in Hebrew, etzos in Yiddish means "suggestions" or "pieces of advice" rather than "ideas". Etz (as in gan Eden) is a wholly different word. That said, I called your question intriguing, because of what Dan & DoubleAA mention, that similar words sometimes are related, whether etymologically or in drasha.
    – msh210
    May 21, 2012 at 4:24
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    The Yiddish Eitzos doesn't mean ideas. It's also not Yiddish. It is Hebrew, and it is the plural of 'Eitzah, which means advice.
    – Seth J
    May 21, 2012 at 15:56
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    @SethJ I don't know about this case, but the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.
    – Double AA
    May 21, 2012 at 21:11
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    @SethJ What's the "right" question, and what makes it so?
    – EEE
    May 21, 2012 at 22:14

3 Answers 3


Here's one:

When the Alter Rebbe was still in Vitebsk he once expounded on the verse "You stand..." (Deut. 29:9). Taking eitz (wood) as an idiom of eitza (counsel), he interpreted "choppers of wood" to mean that one must chop out "the many thoughts (counsels) in the heart of man."

(Hayom Yom, 19 Elul)

  • Alex - thank you- OT -- the full quote from Tanya Ch.1 includes "Those who draw water," he interpreted - one must drain out the water that "makes all enjoyments grow."3 Maybe that's why Moshe Rabbeinu was named so -- Min Hamayim Mishisehu - Moshe was pulled from the water (Even more OT... water "Mayim" in Torah may be refering to what in the east is called "Maya" or illusion/delusion... Moshe was free off Mayim/Maya :)
    – Hersh
    May 22, 2012 at 14:35

According to the Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, עץ is dervied from the verb עצה which means "to close the eyes . . . Arabic also to be hard, firm." This is also where the word spine is derived from.

"Thoughts," as described above, is separate, and not part of the etymology.

  • do you have a link to the book? if not to the actual text, then to the book on amazon or the like?
    – Menachem
    May 22, 2012 at 0:44
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    PDF of entire text. Indispensable resource.
    – EEE
    May 22, 2012 at 4:03
  • @Seth- I really don't know where to go with the re-write suggestion as Alex's quote is good enough for me (i.e., it gives precedent for infering Eitz to be interpreted as "thought (counsel)"-- Beyond that, it may be far-fetched to say the story in Gan Eden is about the relationship between pure perception (Eden) and evaluative or interpretive thinking (Das Tov v'Ra) but that's the connection this mind makes and I'm happy to be the only person seeing it this way :)
    – Hersh
    May 22, 2012 at 14:42

The basis of the question is a misconception of the roots of the words.

Eitz means tree, and its plural is eitzim.

Eitzah means advice, and its plural is eitzos.

Both words are Hebrew.

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