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In the story of Adam and Eve we see that "they were both naked, the man and his wife, but they were not ashamed." Bereishit 2:25 Then after they eat the fruit they become aware of their nakedness and are ashamed:

And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves and made themselves girdles. And they heard the voice of the Lord God going in the garden to the direction of the sun, and the man and his wife hid from before the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called to man, and He said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I am naked; so I hid." And He said, "Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
Bereishit 3:7-10

Nakedness specifically seems to be the focal point of them hiding and their sin. God even takes it upon himself later to make them clothing. But is it just plain and simple nakedness (that being naked in itself is a sin, something shameful) or is there more meaning we are supposed to glean from this?


On a bit of a tangent, what exactly is nakedness in this context? What parts of the body must be covered to be not naked (eg. genitals, buttocks, breasts, etc.).

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    I'm not sure if the clothing tag is used correctly here. – fredsbend Dec 31 '14 at 9:35
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I once heard this idea, I believe quoted from R' Moshe Shapiro:

Being naked is not something that should be intrinsically shameful. The body, which is the purely physical component of man, is meant to be subservient, and compliment, the spiritual component of man. It is only when the physical is no longer in line with the spiritual mission that it becomes shameful. Then, displaying the physical is embarrassing.

When Adam and Chava had not yet sinned, they were naked and not embarrassed - there was nothing to be embarrassed about. After they sinned, the ramifications of their sin was manifest in the disconnect between their physical and spiritual components. This is why clothing, the purpose of which is to hide the body, is called a בגד, with the same letters as the Hebrew word for traitor - the clothing is meant to mask the betrayal of the body of its spiritual purpose.

For this reason, our Sages teach us that Adam and Chava had כתנות אור, hides of light, before they sinned, which were replaced by כתנות עור, hides of skin. Before they sinned, their bodies were a portal through which the light of the soul shone through. Afterwards, they had bodies which hide and block the light of the soul.

There is a Kabbalistic idea that the difference between א and ע is that an א does not have its own sound, while an ע is a guttural letter with a sound - the א represents something ephemeral while the ע represents something more tangible. Thus, there transfer from אור to עור was the body going from something ephemeral to something more thick and physical in nature.

Thus, the nature of their sin was expressed in the realization, and shame, of their nakedness - it was the departure of their physical existence being in sync with their spiritual purpose.

  • Ive heard the א/ע thing from Rav Moshe Shapiro as well. The first half of the answer is a pretty common explanation, found in Meshech Chochma, Beer Yosef, etc. – הנער הזה Dec 31 '14 at 22:56
  • "Sages teach us that Adam and Chava had כתנות אור, hides of light, before they sinned" Is this like a clairvoyance of some kind? – fredsbend Jan 1 '15 at 1:07
  • Is this "light of the soul" indicative of righteousness? I'm looking more into this and found a decent article. And this looks promising after reading the first ten paragraphs. – fredsbend Jan 1 '15 at 2:09
  • @fredsbend "light of the soul" is indicative of the spiritual and lofty nature of the soul. Not of the righteousness of any particular individual or soul. – Y     e     z Jan 1 '15 at 3:45
  • @YeZ So how exactly did the fall make the soul less spiritual and lofty? I'm trying to understand the logic behind this. Or rather, why did the fall hinder the light of the soul from shining through the body, or otherwise hinder our perception of it? – fredsbend Jan 1 '15 at 20:22

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