What caused Adam and Chava to sin; to do the wrong thing; to make the wrong choice: What was it in their human being, thats being called Tov me'od (Bereshit 1:31), that drove them into eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil while it was forbidden them to do so?

2 Answers 2


I heard an explanation, which was attributed to R' Moshe Shapiro, that basically said the following (sorry I don't have his sources, I heard it second-hand):

Adam was given a supremely spiritual and holy state of being, to the point that the angels wanted to praise him. Yet G-d told him to do a very small task - don't eat from this tree, for a few hours. He was given incredible spiritual potential, and instructed not to do anything with it except to not mess things up!

The challenge for Adam was to forgo participating in perfecting the world, to submit his own desire to activate his spiritual potential for the sake of doing what Hashem said. It was a case of doing what G-d said despite what you think would be best, with the added element of the humility required to not do what he knew he could do.

To put it differently, Adam wanted to "mess the world up" in order to use his great potential to fix it - to show that he could bring the world to its fulfillment through his own spiritual accomplishments. The problem was that G-d said not to.

So the challenge was having the humility to not exert his own abilities, and not to follow his own idea of what was right.

  • Great thinking here; So Adam needed to look beyond his own perspective of what was Tov (good) and accept the fact that HaShem told him that eating of the tree was rah (wrong)? But based on his own intellectual mind and heart chose wrong where he thought doing right?... Did I understand it right. P.s. What changed within the being of Adam after receiving the knowledge of Tov and Rah in opposite to his state before that knowledge?
    – Levi
    Feb 2, 2015 at 20:16
  • @user4762 You got it mostly, with the added point that the reason he chose wrong was due to the difficulty of negating himself. The answer to your p.s. is discussed here (along with another answer to this question) and here Feb 2, 2015 at 20:24
  • I once read a commentary that told that the part with the snake represented an internal dialogue inside the head of Chava. Could the the knowledge of truth and false be influenced some way that they chose wrong? That although they had the command not to eat from it, they thought rationally that they could eat from it (as if it was a truth)?
    – J.Levi
    Feb 6, 2015 at 9:54

The way the Yaavetz explains the Avos Drav Nosson, Adam made a safeguard for God's commandment. God said don't eat from the tree of knowledge, and Adam made a safeguard and told Chava not to touch the tree as well. However, he never told her that this was his addition so the plan backfired. The snake pushed Chava onto the tree and said you didn't die from touching it, you won't die from eating it. And so she ate from it.

It's interesting to note that the Avos Drav Nosson puts this on a list of safeguard enactments which were instituted over time as a way to bring the message of the mishna in Avos home: asei syag laTorah, make a safeguard for the Torah. What's interesting is this seemingly ignores the fact that this safeguard backfired! It might be though that this is the very lesson being taught. Some safeguards will backfire. But they are still necessary, and better than the alternative of trying to keep the commandments without them.

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    But Chava gave from the fruit to Adam and he also ate from it... besides this fact the question relais what it is that caused them to chose wrong. What was it in their human being that caused them to sin (besides any possible destractions and deceive from the outside)
    – Levi
    Feb 2, 2015 at 10:10
  • @user4762 he may not have known. The moral failing here was probably what you and I would call Gaava, being haughty. He should have told her that this extra safeguard was his own invention. At least that's how i look at it. But I'm sure this Avos Drav Nosson could be taken differently so that's why i didn't spell it out like that.
    – user6591
    Feb 2, 2015 at 10:18

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