Why was it forbidden to take knowledge of rah if HaShem created rah, or created the tree of knowledge tov v'rah?

Why wouldn't HaShem allow the first human beings to take knowledge of rah, because from a human view it would seem that this understanding could help us to do the good/right thing?


3 Answers 3


I once heard that the isur was to eat of the eitz hadaat before eating of the eitz hachayim. But once eating from the eitz hachayim, it would have been ok for them to eat from the eitz hadaat. Kind of saying: first learn Torah so your perspectives will be in order and then learn secular subjects. Everything you will learn, you will conform to your Torah viewpoint and not the other way around.


Maimonides opens his Guide to the Perplexed explaining that before eating from the tree, there was only pure, rational, objective, "true and false." The continuum of "good" to "bad" is a sliding scale of subjectivity. That's what changed. It used to be that morally-wrong things were just as obviously "not so" as 1+1=4; it became "eh, I feel like that's bad ..."


There is a medrash (from memory) that had they refrained from eating as they were commanded, they would have been allowed to eat after Shabbos. That is, since it was still the sixth day, it was still part of creation. As a result the fruit of the tree of knowledgs was not ripe. Had they waited, the decision to refrain would have been their own free will decision and would have become part of creation. Then, once creation was complete, they could have eaten the "ripe" fruit, digested it and made it part of their lives as an integrated whole.

It was the premature eating that "spoiled" creation and set us on the difficult path of trying to reach our potential.

For example

This was the dilemma that Adam and Chava faced and of which the snake took advantage. The commentators are bothered about how it was possible for Adam and Chava to have transgressed G-d's word if they were lacking ra and free choice. They were rational, needing only to determine truth and falsehood - yet at the Tree they met their Waterloo, the paradox of their very existence. One part of their essence declared they were subjects of G-d, to follow His Will. One part of their essence, created by G-d, was that they were to be like G-d, determining their own will. It was His Will that they make their own decisions yet it was also His Will that they follow the decisions of G-d. And nowhere was this paradox more confusing then at the Tree, where G-d was telling these beings, created to make decisions, not to develop their ability to make decisions.

Adam and Chava knew that their state before the Tree was unacceptable, not their final destiny. How, though, do they solve the paradox, unite the decision-making of their wills with the decision-making of The Will of G-d? It was in how they responded to the Tree that they would find their answer, yet, on the surface, it was only a continuation of the dilemma. To not eat would mean to follow Hashem, but where was their own will? What about their own decision? To eat would mean to follow themselves, but where was The Will of G-d? What about His decision? What to do? How to answer the paradox, solve the riddle and reach the essence beyond?

The essence of Adam before the Tree had to change and, in truth, either decision was a path to the new level of man. If Adam and Chava would have followed the word of G-d, they would have achieved olam habah immediately. Their decision to follow G-d would have provided a point of integration[23]. They chose, however, the other way[24].

It was not that Adam and Chava benefitted from their transgression. It was not that G-d held back this special knowledge of tov and ra. The situation as it was, was not permanent. On this sixth day of creation, Adam and Chava would act, either in refraining from the Tree or partaking, thereby culminating the creation specifically of the moral universe. Whatever act was chosen would catapult man into the path whereby s/he would complete him/herself. This was part of creation. This path chosen would introduce the qualities necessary for the needed growth. Adam and Chava, perhaps unfortunately[25], chose the more difficult path.

[22]See also Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik's "Lonely Man of Faith", Tradition 7:2 for a different approach to this dichotomy of man. I believe that the thoughts presented in this article are inherently reconcilable with the words of the Rav.

[23]The concept that they were "naked in mitzvot", Bereishit Rabbah 19:6, may take on new meaning with this approach. It was this one mitzvah that would have solved the dilemma.

[24]Applying the Tanhuma, which implies that it was set-up for man to transgress, it would seem that this was the only way for man to move beyond the stage of before the Tree. For reasons that we will not investigate at this time, this was the method by which G-d created this aspect of creation. How, though, do we explain the act of disobedience? There is always the question of how to reconcile that all is performed through the Will of G-d, yet we have free choice even, unfortunately to do evil. Yet, in this case, this event may be less of a paradox since it occurred during the week of creation. Since this event shaped the very nature of free choice and reward and punishment, the greater direction by G-d over the actions of man may be accepted. Strangely, though, what is being said is that through an act which G-d knew man would, by nature, have to perform yet that G-d did forbid, the stage of the moral universe was created. This law that it was impossible for man to follow, a most unique creation, is the Tanhuma's explanation for the creation of this unique world where man can reach his unique goals - a most interesting concept that you are invited to further investigate. The approach in the body of the article - that man had a choice and made a mistake - is, however, more normative.

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