In Avos d’Rebbi Nassan 1:5, as quoted and linked by DanF here, when Chavah told the snake that Hashem commanded them not to touch nor eat from the Etz HaDa’as, the snake touched the tree, saying, “Touching it isn’t lethal - eating from it won’t be, either.”

As seen in the comments there, I thought I was going insane based on this Braisa. I could have sworn that the Braisa said that the snake pushed Chavah into the tree, rather than touching it itself. After searching, I found that Bereishis Rabbah 19:3 records my version of the story, and I don’t need to go on any medication.

Jokes aside, is there any significance to this distinction? Why does one version of the story say that the snake touched the tree, while the other says that Chavah did?

  • 1
    You're asking a Medrash against another Medrash? That's not allowed. :-) Seriously: The same Medrash will often contradict itself. See the Ramban's pre-conditions to his Great Debate - he refused to answer questions relating to the Medrash. Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 9:41
  • not putting this as answer as I can't remember if I saw it or imagining, I think I once saw an explanation that the snakes sin was pushing Chavah (based on the question of why it was punished for doing its job if you learn that it was meant to act as the evil inclination)
    – user15253
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 12:00

1 Answer 1


Based on the Ohr Hachaim on those verses. (Not sure he really says this, but the idea came from perusing his explanations.)

By touching the tree, the snake proved that there was nothing lethal or Holy (as in untouchable) about the tree.

However, there was the personal aspect.
Pushing Chava into the tree then proved that she was allowed to touch the tree.

So possibly the 2 Midrashim complement each other.

  • Can you direct me to which passuk he says this on? I see he uses the version in Bereishis Rabbah to explain 3:4, but I don’t see where he says anything close to what you’re saying.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 16:06
  • What gave me the idea was in 3:4: עוד ירצה באומרו לא מות תמותון, לפי דבריהם ז''ל (ב''ר פי''ט) שדחפה והוכיח שלא מתה בנגיעה, לזה כפל הרשע לומר כשם שלא מתה בנגיעה שאמרה, גם לא תמות באכילה. והנה הוכחה זו ישנה לא' מהב' טעמים שאמרה האשה כמו שפירשתי למעלה שהמיחוש הוא שהעץ מצד עצמו ממית ישנה להבחנה זו שאם העץ ממית בנגיעה הרי נגעה ולא מתה, אבל למה שנתכונה לומר גם כן כי יראה היא מאלהים המצווה אותה פן יפגענה אין הוכחה ממה שלא מתה בנגיעה כי עדיין ישנה בעונש אשר גזר עליה, וחוזרים אנו לטעם שפירשנו למעלה Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 12:32
  • So, to clarify, he doesn’t actually say this. I don’t see anything in there where he says anything close to this. You say this is based on what he says, but I don’t see anywhere in there where you’re basing this on.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 18:05
  • @DonielF - have it your way; I will gladly take responsibility for this idea, but the inspiration came to me while reading the Ohr HaChaim Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 9:13

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