Shaya Cohen -


What Did Chava/Eve Want?

We know that Chava (Eve) ate the forbidden fruit. And the Torah tells us why she did so:

Here is the verse:

וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה כִּ֣י טוֹב֩ הָעֵ֨ץ לְמַאֲכָ֜ל וְכִ֧י תַֽאֲוָה־ה֣וּא לָעֵינַ֗יִם וְנֶחְמָ֤ד הָעֵץ֙ לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל וַתִּקַּ֥ח מִפִּרְי֖וֹ וַתֹּאכַ֑ל וַתִּתֵּ֧ן גַּם־לְאִישָׁ֛הּ עִמָּ֖הּ וַיֹּאכַֽל׃

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to XXXXX, she took of its fruit, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.

The first two reasons (it would be good to eat, and was pleasant to the eyes) are obvious enough. But it is the third word that may not be quite so obvious. That word, in the Hebrew, is לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל, and it is almost univerally translated as having something to do with wisdom. This would make sense as the tree is called “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Surely knowing good and evil is a form of wisdom?

But this only works if the word לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל actually means “wisdom” elsewhere in the text. And, to my great surprise, this meaning is very hard to discern. Here are all the examples of the root word in the text, with the translation of the root word highlighted:

[Isaac says to Jacob] until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from there: why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?

[Jacob says to Laban] This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.

And Jacob their father said to them, You have bereaved me of my children: Yosef is not, and Shim῾on is not, and you will take Benjamin away: all these things have come upon me.

and G-d Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release to you your other brother, and Binyamin. If I be bereaved of my children, then I am bereaved.

And Yisra᾽el stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Efrayim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Menashshe’s head, changing his hands; for Menashshe was the first-born.

None shall miscarry, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.

I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle…

Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.

The sword bereaves, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs.

O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

So in all of these verses, the root word meaning “understanding” or “wisdom” is found only once (and in that case, dealing specifically with death). But for the dominant use in the text, the word clearly refers to losing children.

So what on earth was motivating Chava?

The answer is found by understanding that words in the Torah can mean one thing – or its polar opposite. The word for “holy” for example, is thrice found to be its diametrically-opposite noun: a prostitute. (holiness elevates the physical toward spirituality, while prostitution degrades the spirit by devoting it to animalistic desires).

In which case, Chava’s desire may not have been understanding or wisdom: what if she ate the fruit because she desired the opposite of bereavement: Chava wanted to have children?!

This might even put her actions in even more of a positive light: G-d had commanded Adam and Chava to be fruitful and multiply, but at the time of the story of the forbidden fruit, neither of these had yet happened. Maybe she saw the eating of the fruit to be a way to fulfill this other divine commandment?

We see from the consequences of eating the fruit that G-d even seems to grant her wishes:

in pain thou shalt bring forth children

Maybe Chava was right that the fruit indeed led to children. And G-d then tells her of the cost of having children – a cost that may not have been there had she not eaten the fruit. We don’t know the counterfactuals – we cannot know what would have happened if she had not eaten the fruit. But we DO know that Adam only names her after she ate the fruit and G-d told her about childbirth. Adam’s reason?

And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all life.

So based on the above analysis it seems possible that there is indeed another motivation for why Chava decided to eat the fruit, a motivation that seems consistent with the rest of Chava’s actions, as well as with the Torah as a whole. Chava ate the fruit, in part, because she wanted to be a mother.

[an @iwe, @susanquinn and @blessedblacksmith work]

Comments are welcome!

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