The Hizkuni on Bereshies 3:3, where Chava tells the serpent that they can't TOUCH or eat from the Eitz, writes

ולא תגעו בו. לאכלו, כמו ובנבלתם לא תגעו (ויקרא יא ח), לפי הפשט. והאמת כל המוסיף גורע, ולא זה סייג לתורה הואיל ואמרה שהקב”ה אמר לא תגעו בו

I admit that my Hebrew isn't perfect, and I can't find an English translation online, but my understanding of this commentary is:

"And don't touch it." For eating, as in "Do not touch their corpses". That is the pashut. But the truth is that everyone who adds, subtracts. And this isn't a fence around the Torah since she said that HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to not touch it.

What does he mean, he who adds, subtracts? Does he mean that adding to the Torah takes away from its intent?

Even more, though, the last sentence: Other commentators (see Rashi there; see Avos d'Rabbi Nosson, Ch. 1) suggest that either Adam or Chava were, in fact, making a fence around the Torah by saying to not touch the tree. But, that this ended up being a bad thing, because the snake touched the tree and said "See, you won't die..." How does the Hizkuni see this? What is he trying to say?

On a broader level, I'm trying to figure out what is different from this case and the case in Vayikra (and last week's parasha) of not touching the neveilim of non-kosher animals? If in the case of Chava, adding that extra precaution was a bad thing, then why does the Torah add it in the case of kashrus? Isn't it a comparable situation - both involve an ikkar of not eating something? What is different that it is theoretically ok to touch the fruit in Gan Eden, as long as you don't eat it, but it isn't ok to touch the non-Kosher animals? (To be fair, at least by the mention of this in Devarim, Rashi says that it only applies on the regalim).

  • FWIW When he discusses כל מהוסיף גורע - whoever adds subtracts, he’s quoting an Avos d’Rav Nassan, towards the beginning. I could have sworn that that part of this question was asked already here, but I can’t seem to find it at the moment.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 0:28
  • Hmm. It was learning Avos d'Rav Nassan that led me down this rabbit hole in the first place, but I don't remember it saying כל מהוסיף גורע. Maybe it is in a different girsa. Do you have a more specific pointer to where it is in ARN? Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 16:07
  • There is some discussion of this question here, but I didn't think it went deep enough into my question. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 16:09
  • @SteveScher It’s dependent upon which version of Avot d’Rabbi Natan you are looking at. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 20:48
  • @SteveScher If you look at the Schneur Zalman Shachter edition of Avot d’Rabbi Natan, it has both versions. Version 1 has additional text which says exactly what I say in my answer. The addition came from Adam, not Chava. He added to the Torah & caused the Torah to be diminished (weakened). Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


Chizkuni is offering two different, mutually exclusive explanations of this verse:

  1. Eve says the truth: that God said not to eat from the tree. The word "touch" here actually means "eat", as it does in Leviticus.
  2. Eve says that God had said not to touch the tree. This is adding which, in the long run, is subtracting (i.e. it turned out badly), because there was no demarcation between God's command and the extra "fence". That is, "this isn't an [appropriate] 'fence' for the Torah because she said God had said 'don't touch it'". [He doesn't compare it to cases where God said not to touch something, but if any such exist they're different from this in that they were commanded by God. Likewise, "fences" built by the rabbis over the years are different from Eve's case in that the rabbis clearly state what's of divine origin and what's theirs.]

The end of Rashi's comments to Vayikro 11 (8) are:

If so,] what does Scripture mean by, “you shall not touch their carcasses”? [It means that Israelites may not touch animal carcasses] on the Festivals [since at those times they deal with holy sacrifices and enter the Temple]. This is what [the Sages] said: A person is obligated to cleanse himself on Festivals.

From here we see that the prohibition of touching the carcasses of non-kosher animals has nothing to do with kashrus and is a separate mitzvo to ensure people were in a state of purity on Yomim Tovim so that they could visit the Temple.

The English translation of the Chizkuni can be found here

My understanding of the Chizkuni is interposed (in italics):

ולא תגעו

neither must you touch it. (Part 1 of Chizkuni) This is the plain meaning of the verse. (This is not surprising since:) We find that the Torah does forbid (touching) something that is forbidden to eat, i.e. a carcass that did not die through ritual slaughter. (Compare Leviticus 11,8, where the halachic meaning is that it must not be touched when the purpose is to eat it.) (I do not understand this part because it is after all forbidden to eat it! and we have the Gemoro quoted by Rashi which explains that the prohibition of touching is for purity on Yom Tov)

(Part 2 of Chizkuni) The truth is that when one adds a restriction to G-d’s commandment, instead of improving it, one causes harm to it, makes it less effective instead of more effective. Seeing that the additional restriction had not been issued by G-d directly, it is less than useless. (Compare Sanhedrin 29).

In the case of Chava and her addition of her own idea not to touch the forbidden fruit – it is the fact that it is her addition that lead them to sin. If Hashem Himself adds further prohbitions, there's nothing to argue against.

Summary: Your questions:

Q What does he mean, he who adds, subtracts? Does he mean that adding to the Torah takes away from its intent?

A Yes when done by a human intellect.

Q How does the Hizkuni see this? What is he trying to say?

A He agrees to “ he who adds, subtracts” in his Part 2.

Q not touching the neveilim of non-kosher animals

A As you say, this is a separate mitzvo to ensure people were in a state of purity on Yomim Tovim so that they could visit the Temple.

  • @Avraham Yitzchok There is nothing in Chumash or commentaries that says Chava originated anything about touching the tree. The Nachash pushed her against it to prove his argument that it wasn't forbidden. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 13:54
  • And concerning Rashi's comment to VaYikra 11:8, he says, "Is it possible Israel was warned about contact with Nevelah? Talmud says, 'speak to the Kohanim, etc.' Kohanim are warned and Yisrael are not warned. How much more so now?! The fact that Tumat Meit is more severe and there was no warning except to Kohanim, Tumah of animal carcass is less severe, isn't this how much more so? And how the Talmud says 'Don't touch', pertains to the Festival. (And this is what they said, 'A person is obliged to make themselves fit for a Festival.') Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 14:03
  • The Siftei Chochamim suggests that Rashi is referring to the Yisrael who brings an Olah to the courtyard of the Temple to be offered. But Rashi doesn't say that explicitly. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 14:26
  • Rashi just points out that there is a separate obligation pertaining to the Festivals to make oneself Tahor. He doesn't say who it applies to. But from his comments earlier in the paragraph, he points out that the warnings about Tumah and Tahara are aimed at the Kohanim, not Yisraelim. That is in keeping with the idea that the warning is non-specific about time. The plain meaning is that it applies at all times, not just for Festivals. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 14:26

The translation with implied punctuation would be:

"And don't touch it: To eat it, like, "and in regard to their carcasses, don't touch... (VaYikra 11:8)", [The expression don't touch it is intended] according to the plain meaning of the text (נגע to touch or strike). And the true [meaning is], all who add [to the commandments], diminish (יגע to weary or to cause trouble to) [the whole Torah]; and this [addition of not touching found here] is not a fence for the Torah since she said that the Holy One, blessed be He said, "don't touch it."

This is referring to the prohibition of being a Ba'al Toseph, one who adds to the mitzvot of the Torah which is found in Devarim 4:2. The Torah as given by Moshe is perfect and is G-d's will. If one adds anything to it, it is no longer perfect and no longer G-d's will, meaning it is diminished.

Chava did not add anything to the Torah. She only repeated what she was taught by her husband, Adam. The commentaries and Midrash emphasize that this extra prohibition of not touching the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was instituted by Adam. Because Chava was not present as a separate individual when G-d gave the commandment.

Only Adam was present (See Bereshit 2:16-17 and 2:20-24). She had yet to be built from Adam's body and soul. According to the Torah teaching about reincarnation, when a soul is incarnated into a new body, that new body prevents the soul from having knowledge of the previous incarnation.

The building and formation of Chava was a parallel of the diminishment of the Moon, which was originally the same as the Sun in size and luminosity. (See Bereshit 1:3 which states in the beginning of creation, on the first day, there was a single, unified light [אור], like Adam HaRishon. In Bereshit 1:14-15 it says that on the the fourth day the two great luminaries [מארת, מאורות] were created, like the building of Chava from the original unified Adam HaRishon. The defective spelling suggests that this divided structure of Adam and Chava was less than the original, unified form. But the Mem prefix [מ-אור] also emphasizes that they were from the single unified light. It also indicates that because it can be understood as a verb, that Adam and Chava have the potential to be sources of light to the world. And then, in Bereshit 1:16, the second light was diminished and made into a 'Kli', a vessel that would receive its light from the greater light of the sun. And that is what was done to Chava in Bereshit 3:16.)

And after G-d built Chava from the original, first man, Adam HaRishon, G-d told Adam that he was to teach her, like the Moon receives its light from the Sun. And Adam did not think Chava could be trusted to keep the simple prohibition of not eating, so he taught her not to eat from it, nor even to touch it. She believed that this was what G-d had commanded because Adam told her this. And that error on Adams part, gave the opening to the Nachash to cause Chava to transgress because the Nachash was also present before Chava had been built and formed from Adam HaRishon. It knew what G-d had actually commanded and challenged her on what she said was the prohibition about touching. And when she touched the tree and didn't die, it created a doubt in her mind about the prohibition in general. Her doubt, which was the consequence of Adam adding to G-d's prohibition, precipitated and allowed the sin to occur.

This is what the Chizkuni is discussing, as are all the other classical commentaries you mention.

Concerning your last question about the relationship between the citation in Bereshit and that from VaYikra, it is only about the word usage about touching (נגע). There is no additional meaning. The citation from VaYikra is discussing two ideas. The prohibition against eating (לא תאכלו) those non-kosher animals and the second prohibition about not touching (לא תגעו) the carcass of the non-kosher animal and becoming Tameh.

Like the commentaries mention there, the warning about not becoming Tameh was intended only toward the Kohanim (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 369 and 373. Although some suggest that it may be applicable to all Jews at specific times (the three Festivals), as contrasted with the Kohanim, because the Yisraelim are supposed to go to the Temple at the time of the three Festivals; the constant warning against becoming Tameh (The prohibition mentioned in VaYikra 11:8 is undifferentiated as to when it applies. That means on the simplest level that it means continuously, just like the prohibition against eating non-kosher animals is understood to be continuous.) only applies to Kohanim because they were involved with Temple service constantly.

This concept about Tumah as it applies to Yisraelim (particularly in the present) is discussed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in volume 3 of his Igrot Kodesh, page 374-375 beginning at paragraph 3.

And that detail, that this warning in VaYikra 11:8 about Tumah is intended for the Kohanim, is found in the Oral portion of the Torah which was also given by Moshe Rabbeinu. It is not an addition to the Torah.

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