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What if Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Life first?

Posted on כ״ה בתשרי ה׳תשע״ד (September 29, 2013) | in Bereishit | by

In this past week’s parsha, Bereishit, we read about Adam and Chava’s sin in eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. After listing the punishments of Adam, Chava and the snake, the Torah portion describes their expulsion from the Garden of Eden:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ, לָדַעַת, טוֹב וָרָע; וְעַתָּה פֶּן-יִשְׁלַח יָדוֹ, וְלָקַח גַּם מֵעֵץ הַחַיִּים, וְאָכַל, וָחַי לְעֹלָם

And the LORD God said: ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever.’ (Gen 3:22)

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden was not a punishment; it was just a preventative measure to make sure Adam and Chava didn’t also eat from the Tree of Life.

But what if they had eaten from the Tree of Life before eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Before eating from the Eitz HaDaat, eating from the Eitz HaChaim was permitted!

The Or HaChaim answers this question by saying that HaShem didn’t need to prevent Adam and Chava from eating from the Eitz HaChaim. Firstly, before eating from the Tree of Knowledge, they had no desire for the eternal physical life the Tree of Life would have provided. Secondly, HaShem realized that if He had forbidden consumption from both the Eitz HaDaat and the Eitz HaChaim, the snake would likely have convinced Adam and Chava to eat from both trees. By only forbidding the Tree of Knowledge, HaShem ensured that they wouldn’t end up tempted to eat from both.

The Radak gives a different answer. He says that the Tree of Life does not grant immediate immortality. Rather, whenever one eats from the tree, it makes them live a little longer. So continually eating from the Tree of Life would extend their lives indefinitely. Since the punishment from eating from the Tree of Knowledge was death, Adam and Chava had to be kicked out of the garden to prevent them from continually eating from the Tree of Life and avoiding the punishment. However, before they sinned, there was no problem with them eating from the Tree of Life and slightly extending their lives.

I would like to suggest two more answers.

Whenever we read from the Torah, we say:

עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר

It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and those who draw near it are fortunate. (Prov. 3:18)

The Tree of Life is not a regular tree – it is the Torah. If Adam and Chava had first “eaten” from the Tree of Life, and fully internalized all of the Torah’s messages, it would have been impossible for them to sin.

Perhaps we could even say that had Adam and Chava first “eaten” from the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil wouldn’t have been forbidden at all. If they had first internalized the messages of the Torah, and then eaten from the Eitz HaDaat, they would have understood the differences between good and evil through the lens of the Torah. After eating from the Tree of Knowledge, however, they would have instead learned the Torah through their own understanding of good and bad, which could end up in a corruption of the ultimate truth the Torah contains. This is why Adam and Chava had to leave the Garden of Eden after eating from the Eitz HaDaat.

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