Don’t Worry, You’re Not Going to Die

In the previous issue of The Shoemaker Report, in the article entitled The Primordial Criminal Mastermind we explored the essence of the sin of Adam ha-Rishon [אדם הראשון, Primordial Man] and discovered that he relied on his “superior” intellectual prowess to try to out-think Hashem. Instead of obeying the explicit command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad, he reasoned himself into a corner and concluded that Hashem’s greatest delight would come only if he were to eat from the tree. In this article, we will explore the other side of this foundational sin, i.e. the sin of Adam’s wife. (Although she is not given the name Chavah until after the sin, we will refer to her as such in this article for the sake of convenience.)

Chavah’s part in the story begins in Bereshit 3:1: וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְיָ אֱלֹקִים וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה אַף כִּי־אָמַר אֱלֹקִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן (And the serpent [Nachash] was the most subtle/shrewd/clever living creature of the field that Hashem G-d made, and he said to the woman, ‘Did G-d really say: Don’t eat from any tree of the garden?’) It sounds like a fairly innocuous question, but it’s not. We are warned in the narrative that the Nachash is really shrewd, so we should read what he said many times until we really get what was going on. First of all, the Nachash asked incredulously, “Did G-d really say…?” In other words: Did G-d really say such a crazy thing? Of course, Hashem never said such a thing, but with those words, the Nachash implanted confusion, doubt and fear into the mind of Chavah. She must have thought something along these lines, “How can it be that in this perfect and idyllic existence this creature doesn’t know what Hashem said?” She was immediately put on the defensive and did her best to correct the record (3:2-3): וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה אֶל־הַנָּחָשׁ מִפְּרִי עֵץ־הַגָּן נֹאכֵל׃ וּמִפְּרִי הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר בְּתוֹךְ־הַגָּן אָמַר אֱלֹקִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וְלֹא תִגְּעוּ בּוֹ פֶּן־תְּמֻתוּן׃ (And the woman said to the Nachash, We can eat from the fruit of every tree in the garden, but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, G-d said, ‘Don’t eat from it and don’t touch it, lest [pen] you die’).

We can start by identifying at least three errors on the part of Chavah. First, she made a mistake by saying that Hashem commanded them not to touch the tree, but Hashem did not prohibit them from touching the tree (see 2:16-17). Second, she seriously downplayed the consequences of eating. Hashem said (2:17): לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכׇלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹת תָּמוּת (Do not eat from it, for the day of your eating from it you will surely die [mot tamut]). Now, there is a big difference between mot tamut and pen. The word pen (lest) means, “for there’s a possibility or concern that…” In other words, in Chavah’s mind, death was not a guaranteed consequence; it was one possible outcome. Perhaps they would die; perhaps not. Third, she responded by giving an answer to the Nachash in her own words and then only afterwards did she attempt to quote Hashem. She should have just quoted Hashem and kept quiet; better yet, not to have engaged with the Nachash at all.

But it is the second reason above that opened the door for the ‘kill shot’ from the Nachash. Since she did not understand the absolute nature of the consequence of eating, the Nachash was able to get away with saying (3:4): לֹא־מוֹת תְּמֻתוּן (You’re not going to die). The Nachash gave a reason why Hashem didn’t want them to eat (3:5), a reason which suggested that Hashem had an ulterior motive, i.e. jealousy, but that’s not really the main point. The main point for her (and for us) was the simple statement, “You’re not going to die.”

What did the Nachash mean by these few words? Chavah expressed her concern that there might be a negative consequence, i.e., death, if they ate. The Nachash then reassured her that no such consequence would take place. Why not? Because, as people say today: “I got your back; don’t worry about it.” This was the real deceit in the Nachash’s lie. It wasn’t just that it accused Hashem of not having their best interests in mind, or even that it accused Hashem of outright lying to them, but rather that it would take care of any negative consequences and protect them from any harm. To put it succinctly, the Nachash inserted itself into the intimate relationship between G-d and the pinnacle of His creation, i.e. mankind, and conned them into trusting it instead of their Creator.

All of this may be interesting, but what is its relevance for us today? The truth is that we continue in this sin every time we fail to put our trust [ביטחון, bitachon] in Hashem. Here are a few examples as fuel for thought. How am I going to pay the bills if I quit my job and start my own business? We can’t have children now because we don’t make enough money. How are our children going to be allowed to attend school if they don’t “get the jab”? We’ll be able to retire in just a few more years because then we’ll have enough money in our pensions. I can’t make aliyah because… If the reader is willing to hear truth in his heart, he will find his own area(s) to work on.

But what does David ha-Melech say (Tehillim 23:4)? גַּם כִּי־אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת לֹא־אִירָא רָע כִּי־אַתָּה עִמָּדִי שִׁבְטְךָ וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ הֵמָּה יְנַחֲמֻנִי (Though I walk through the valley of death’s shadow I will not fear evil because You are with me; Your staff and Your rod comfort me). To give an example here in Israel, ‘Even though I walk through Shaar Shechem to take the most direct road from the north to the Western Wall, I will not be afraid of anything or anyone…” This is bitachon. To one degree or another, everything less is trusting in the Nachash, which is ultimately a form of slavery because a lack of bitachon leads to enslavement. It starts in the prison camps of our mind; it ends in the prison camps of our overlords.

R’ Nachman expounds on the deeper significance of what actually happened when Chavah accepted the advice of the Nachash (Likutei Moharan 7:3): וּכְשֶׁמְּקַבְּלִין עֵצוֹת מֵרְשָׁעִים הוּא בְּחִינַת נִשּׂוּאִין בַּקְּלִפָּה. הַנָּחָשׁ הִשִּׁיאַנִי–לְשׁוֹן נִשּׂוּאִין עֲצוֹת הַנָּחָשׁ שֶׁקִּבְּלָה הוּא בְּחִינַת נִשּׂוּאִין וְעַל־יְדֵי נִשּׂוּאִין הֵטִיל בָּהּ זֻהֲמָא (And when we receive advice from the wicked it is an aspect of marriage with the peel [klipah]: ‘The Nachash deceived me [hishi’ani]’—this is the language of marriage [nisu’in]. The advice of the Nachash that she accepted was an aspect of marriage and through this marriage it put filth into her). When Chavah accepted the advice or counsel of the Nachash, she (and ultimately, her descendants) became children of the Nachash, not in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. But R’ Nachman further explains that all of this was reversed initially when Yisrael received the 613 commandments of the Torah at Mt. Sinai which resulted in a marriage from the aspect of holiness [קדושה, kedushah]. But we became contaminated once again with the sin of the golden calf. In the end, however, we will become purified eternally, and this is the meaning of the prophecy in Hoshea 2:1 which describes a time in the future when Yisrael will be called בְּנֵי קֵל־חָי (sons of the living G-d), not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. Because we are children of whom we trust. If we trust the Nachash, then we are its children (רַחֲמָנָא לִצְלַן); if we trust the living G-d, then we are His children. But why is bitachon connected with being a child? It is because bitachon is the most basic feature of a child’s relationship with its parents. A child trusts its parents to provide it with everything it needs: food, clothing, shelter, cleanliness, love, etc. It never worries about the present, and certainly not about the future.

In summary, when we now put together the sin of Adam ha-Rishon and the sin of Chavah, we are able to identify the two fundamental flaws that we as a nation, and by extension, all of the nations of the world, must rectify. Adam’s sin was a flaw in emunah. He didn’t really believe that everything Hashem does is for our utmost good; therefore, he thought he knew better and acted based on his finite (and hence, inherently flawed) logic. And Chavah’s sin was a flaw in bitachon. She didn’t trust in Hashem; rather, she trusted that the Nachash would take care of her. Simply put, emunah is mostly focused on the present and our response to what happens to us, whereas bitachon is mostly concerned with the future and what we have in our power to choose to do or not to do.

It falls upon us to rectify these two flaws. They’re not beyond our reach. We just need to prioritize them and not to pretend that they don’t exist; to be courageous enough to face the truth and through the truth, do teshuvah out of love and beg Hashem to help us eliminate these twin deficiencies and achieve the conclusive victory over the Evil Inclination.

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