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In the Torah, Bereshit 3:16, all women receive the curse of a painful childbirth and their subservience to men. This is all because Chava made the choice to make Adam eat from the tree. Why should all women suffer for the choice of one woman?

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    What about 3:17-19? Or 9:25-27? Or 3:14-15, for that matter? So if you are asking why this sort of phenomenon happens, this question can easily be generalized to include classes other than women. (Unless you are instead asking about the significance of those specific consequences of Chava's behavior, in which case there is of course no reason to generalize the question). – Fred Jun 22 '15 at 5:28
  • Sort of similar to what @Mefaresh answered, you have to realize that Chava at the time WAS 'all women'. Her punishment was directed at her and her future generations, it just happened to be that all her future generations are all humanity (granted, the question could then be why would a child be punished for the sins of the father (somewhat addressed in this link) but that is another question altogether). – Salmononius2 Jun 22 '15 at 13:19
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    You can ask the same question about men (and animals) – Shmuel Brin Jun 22 '15 at 16:05
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    To clarify @ShmuelBrin, Adam's (male) descendents, and the snake's serpentine descendents were also punished; thus this is a broader issue than women. – mevaqesh Jun 22 '15 at 17:57
  • It seems to me that with women it's a special case, in that the curse on Man, to work for food, also applies to women. But the curse on women is solely reserved for women. Of course this can be part of a larger question: why should someone else suffer for your crimes? You can think of this as just one example of many. – Theman Jun 22 '15 at 22:31
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all humans must also die because of Adam and Chava. this is not a punishment but a consequence. If a couple has a venereal disease and the child also contracts it, he is not being punished but rather paying the consequences of his parents actions.

when chava was punished, her physical and spiritual makeup changed and she transfered this to her offspring

source Rabbi Uziel Milevsky audio class

  • Yes...but then again, Chava did not contract a disease. The curse was not a direct consequence of her action. The curse was literally a punishment, directly mete out by God himself, for her crime. A more appropriate analogy, I think, would be a father intentionally infecting his daughter with venereal disease for going to a party she wasn't supposed to. And its not as if God did not have choice in the matter. He could have given her a punishment that that didn't transfer to only her female offspring. – Theman Jun 22 '15 at 22:13
  • @Theman see the ohr hachaim which explains why all the curses chava got were corresponding to the sins she committed. these curses were corrective in nature not "punishment". since she transfers the flaws which causes her to sin so then her descendants also need these things – ray Jun 23 '15 at 10:44
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According to the Ariza"l, both Adam and Chava's soul were made up of all the souls of all generations - נשמה הכוללת - an all encompassing soul. This is because they were the progenators of the human race, and whatever defect they caused on their souls would be transferred and imprinted onto all future generations:

In the Lurianic systemisation of preceding Kabbalah, the anthropomorphic designation for Adam Kadmon describes its arrangement of the latent future sephirot in the harmonised configuration of man. However, Adam Kadmon itself is divine light without vessels, including all subsequent creation only in potential. This exalted anthropomorphism denotes that man is both the theocentric purpose of future creation, and the anthropocentric embodiment of the divine manifestations on high. This mythopoetic cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis enables the "Adam soul" to embody all human souls: the collective Yechidah ("singular") soul essence in Adam Kadmon, and the collective Neshamah ("soul") revealed soul in the Biblical Adam Ha-Rishon in the Garden of Eden.

Thus, when Chava caused Adam to sin, she caused damage not only to her soul, but also that damage became imprinted upon all future souls.

We find this concept in the Talmud:

The Gemara says in Shabbos 55a:

אמר רב אמי אין מיתה בלא חטא

Rav Ami said: "There is no death without sin"

The Gemara says in Bava Basra (17a):

תנו רבנן ארבעה מתו בעטיו של נחש

The Rabbis learned: "There were four who died only on account of the "Hit of the Snake"

Rashi explains:

בעטיו של נחש - בעצתו של נחש כלומר לא היו ראוין למות אלא שנגזרה גזירת מיתה על כל תולדותיו של אדם הראשון בעצתו של נחש בעטיו תרגום של עצתו כדכתיב (דניאל ו) אתייעטו כל וגו' וכן התיב עטא וטעם (שם ב):

The hit of the Snake: from the advice of the snake, meaning that really before the sin, Man was not meant to die, but it was decreed upon the progeny of Adam Harishon that they would be subject to death due to the advice of the snake.

Thus, with the Idea of the Arizal quoted above in conjunction with the Gemara passages with Rashi's commentary it demonstrates for us that the punishment of pain in child labor, just like death, would be applied not just to her, but to all future woman.

  • That doesn't really answer the question. You explained the mechanics, of how a curse to Chava affected future generations, but not the cosmic justice in such a thing. – mevaqesh Jun 22 '15 at 17:59
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    I completely fail to see how I didn't answer the OPs question: "why should all women suffer for the choice of one woman". The answer is that since she was a Neshama klelalis by making that choice to sin imprinted not only upon her soul but also upon the souls of all future generations that sin which it's punishment was labor pain. The punishment is for all times to cleanse that sin. Op didn't say cosmic justice you did. – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 22 '15 at 18:02
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    -1 for your final sentence. The rest of your answer does not imply that other women suffer these consequences as punishment for them. And I totally disagree with your comment about original sin, unless your definition is different than the generally understood Christian doctrine. cc @Sarah – Fred Jul 22 '16 at 3:56
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    @Mefaresh I didn't downvote because of your comment, though it's related to my problem with your final sentence (which doesn't follow from the rest of the answer). If a child gets no inheritance because his father gambled it away, the child isn't getting punished. He's just experiencing a consequence of his father's actions. Same for any consequence when someone else's actions affect a person in a negative way, whether through a natural or supernatural mechanism. The Talmud and rishonim reject the notion of completely innocent, righteous children punished for parents' deeds. – Fred Jul 22 '16 at 17:39
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    @Mefaresh That said, if a child suffers a consequence of his parents' actions, this likely coincides with some liability that the child independently incurred through sins of his own, and HaShem makes sure everything balances out fairly (see also B'rachos 7a "הא כשאוחזין מעשה אבותיהם בידיהם הא כשאין אוחזין מעשה אבותיהם בידיהם"). – Fred Jul 22 '16 at 17:45
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Rabbi Sorotzkin and others point out that the entire incident occured before the first Shabbos. Thus, this was part of the time of creation. That is "free will" was created and instituted then. Adam had free will to choose to obey or disobey Hashem and the usage of free will at this time established the nature of mankind for the future.

Had Adam and Chava not eaten, they would have been allowed to eat it after shabbos (when creation had been completed). Thus, the action and the results affected the entire creation which caused the rest of humanity to be on the level that continued.

See Rav Hirsch on 3:16

(From memory) I think that Rabbi Leibtag had a posting from Virtual Bais Medrash that discussed that what was done at this point established the "Laws of Nature" for the future. Thus, it was not that all women were punished for the chet, but that what happened established the normal process of the world. Since it was still within the "six days of creation", it was not a change in nature, but the completion of creation.

  • Could you elaborate a bit more on this? As it stands, I think the connection between this answer and the question is quite tenuous. – Daniel Jun 22 '15 at 14:23
  • When exactly was free will instituted? Don't they need free will to sin? – Double AA Jun 22 '15 at 14:43

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