Biblical Characters
Interpretations & Descriptions From The Sages


The Hebrew and Biblical word for man, and also for the progenitor of the human race.

Meaning of the name Adam - The only reason a human being is entitled to the description "adam" is due to his intellect and emotional life-force, not because of his body.  Were it not for intellect and emotional life-force he would be indistinguishable form the animals as we know already from Tehillim 49:13, "he is like the beasts that perish."

Talmud says that Adam was created as an androgenos, a creature half male and half female and that it was a 'side', not a 'rib' that G-d took from Adam to create Chavah.

Adam was king over the whole world (Zohar 2:150a).

Adam was the blood of the world, the pure challah of the world, the candle of the world (Yerushalmi Shabbat 2:6).

Adam was the firstborn of the world. When he offered his sacrifice, he wore the vestments of the high priesthood (BaMidbar Rabbah 4:8).

By the LIGHT with which the world was created, Adam was able to see from one end of the world to the other (Bereishit Rabbah 12:6).

Adam knew the Torah and bequeathed it to his son Shet (Zohar Chadash 22:2).

Adam was created on the eve of Shabbat so that he would immediately enter into mitzvot (Sanhedrin 4:9).

David compiled the Book of Tehillim, which had been written by ten sages, including Adam (Bava Basra 14b).

Some say that when Adam was created he was like a young man around twenty years old, and the same was true of Chavah. (Bereishit Rabbah 12; Yafeh Toar p. 252. Also see R. Eliahu Mizrachi, VeEtChanan; Rabbi Eliahu ibn Chaim (Raanach) on this verse).

Adam was circumcised when he was created. (Avot DeRabbi Nathan) But according to another opinion he was not created in a circumcised state. For this reason the expression, "it was good," does not occur in relation to the creation of Adam. Since he was not circumcised, he was not complete. (Yafeh Toar, p. 31)

Adam was created at sunrise on the sixth day. (Ramban, Bachya) This was the order of his creation: (Sanhedrin, Chapter 4)

In the first hour, earth was gathered.
In the second hour, it was kneaded [with water].
In the third hour, his limbs were formed.
In the fourth hour, a soul was breathed into him.
In the fifth hour, he stood on is feet.

G-d could have done all this in an instant, just like He created the rest of the world. But He wanted to show the angels that He considered man very important; therefore, He took His time in creating him. Similarly, when a person is working on something very valuable, he analyzes it and studies it carefully before beginning his task. (Yafeh Toar, Emor)

G-d gathered earth from all four corners of the world. This earth was of four colors. With green earth, G-d created man's inner organs. Blood was created from red earth. White earth was used to create his bones, sinews and blood vessels. The rest of his body was created from yellow earth.

Adam's head was created out of earth from the Holy Land. His torso was made from earth taken from Babylonia (Iraq). His hands and feet consisted of earth taken from the rest of the world. G-d then took water from all over the world and used it to knead the earth. (Targum Yonatan)

There is an important reason Man had to be created from earth taken from all over. When man dies, he must be buried in the earth. But if he had been created with earth from the east, and was buried somewhere else, the earth would not accept him. Because he was created out of earth from all over, the earth accepts him like a son no matter where he dies.

Adam was also created from the earth upon which the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) would be built. (Bereishit Rabbah 14; Zohar 1:34)

The Torah tells us that Adam was cursed in ten different ways: (Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer 14)

1. Adam was wondrously large when he was first created. After he violated G-d's commandments, the first curse was that his stature be reduced. (Zohar 2:33, 2:142)
2. The second curse was that he be weakened whenever he experiences an ejaculation. His face also changes.
3. The third curse was that the earth grow thorns and brambles.
4. The fourth curse is the anguish of earning a livelihood. This is very severe, and a man must work very hard to support himself. (Bereishit Rabbah)
5. If man had not sinned, the earth would have grown many beautiful things like those which grew in the Gan Eden. Now, however, the ground was cursed because of Adam that only grass would grow; G-d told him, "You shall eat the grass of the field." When Adam heard this, his eyes brimmed with tears, and he said, "Master of the universe! Shall I now be like any other animal? Shall I eat out of the same manger as my cattle?" G-d then substituted the sixth curse.
6. This curse is, "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread." Even though this set Adam's mind at ease, it is actually worse curse than the earlier ones. A person would certainly prefer to be at ease and eat bread and salt, rather than to have to work hard and eat roast pheasant.
7. When Adam was created, he was so handsome that no creature could look him in the face. When he sinned, this beauty was taken away. The difference was as great as that between a human being and an ape.
8. The fact that the serpent's hands and feet were cut off was a great loss for man. The serpent was very efficient and would have been man's servant. For example, since it was very fleet of foot, it could have been used to deliver merchandise and mail.
9. The ninth curse was that Adam was banished from Gan Eden. He also lost his status as master of the world.

Some say that after Adam was banished from Gan Eden, he lived on Mount Moriah [in Yerushalayim, where the Holy Temple would later be built]. This is where he was created, and it was where his children were born. (Bachya. This is also found in Targum Yonatan)

10. The final curse was, "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." This tenth curse implied that man's destiny is to die, to be buried in the ground, and to revert to the soil. This is something that no man can escape.

Man consists of all four elements: water, air, fire and earth. When man dies, each of these elements returns to its place. Still, since the main element of man's body is earth, it is appropriate to say, "to dust you shall return." Furthermore, the bones, which are of earth, are the foundations of the body. (Yad, Yesodei HaTorah 4)


She was called Chavah (life-giver) because she nursed the whole world (Avodah Zarah 43a).

The Holy One, Blessed is He, prepared and adorned Chavah like a bride and brought her to Adam (Bereishit 2:22) with myriads of ministering angels, with song and music (Berachot 61a; Avot d'Rabbi Nosson 4:3; Osios d'Rabbi Akiva Atbash).

Chavah added two things to G-d's command not to eat of the tree of knowledge: "But of the fruit of the tree which is in the garden" (Bereishit 3:3) which would include other trees, whereas she had only been warned concerning the tree of knowledge; and "You shall not touch it" (ibid.). The nachash touched the tree and said to the woman, "See, I have touched the tree and have not died. You, too, can touch the tree without dying." The woman touched the tree, whereupon she saw the Angel of Death coming toward her. "Perhaps now I will die," she thought, "and the Holy One, Blessed is He, will create another woman for Adam. I will therefore make him eat with me, so that if we die, we will die together" (Zohar 1:263b)

The Torah tells us that Adam named his wife Chavah because "she was the mother of all life," [and in Hebrew, "life" is Chai].

Actually, for this reason, Chavah's name should have been Chayah. But her name contains an allusion that she listened to the serpent; in Aramaic, the word for serpent is Chivya. (Imrey Noam. This is also in Zohar Chadash.)

Adam did not use the Hebrew word for serpent (nachash) because this was the name associated with their sin, and he did not want the angels to be able to understand it. He therefore alluded to the serpent in Aramaic, since this is a language that the angels do not understand. (Shabbat 12b)

Some give another reason for the name Chavah. Adam saw that great troubles came about through Chavah's speech, since she had talked him into eating the forbidden fruit. He therefore regretted that he had called her Ishah [since this name was associated with him]. He then called her Chavah, which comes from the verb Chavvah, meaning "speak." (As in Tehillim 19:3, Iyyov 13:17, 15:17, 32:6, 10, 17, 36:2) Adam explained this name saying that she was "The mother of all Chai." [Instead meaning "life," coming from the root Chayah, the word Chai here can come from the root Chavvah, and meaning "talkers."] The meaning of this verse is then that she "was the mother of all talkers." (Abarbanel)

Some say that Chavah and the serpent could speak all languages. Adam, on the other hand, did not have the power. When animals made noises, he could not understand their meaning, he would ask his wife. She was therefore called Chavah, because she declared (Chavvah) information. (As in Tehillim 19:3) It was she who taught Adam all languages. (Imrey Noam).

The Torah tells us that the woman deserved ten curses because she was seduced into following the serpent's advice. These are the woman's ten curses: (Eruvin 110b)

1. The discomfort of menstruation which she experiences monthly.
2. The bleeding of a virgin.
3. The discomfort of pregnancy during the nine months that a woman carries her child.
4. The anguish of miscarriage. Sometimes a woman gives birth prematurely and the child is stillborn. All of her previous discomfort is then in vain.
5. The pangs of childbirth
6. The anguish of raising children. She must nurse the child, dress it, rock it, carry it around, and clean it.
7. The fact that a [married] woman must constantly keep her head covered so that her hair should not be seen. She may not speak to any strange man, nor display herself before others. She should not even be seen at the window. When she sings her children to sleep, she must be careful not to sing loudly enough for the neighbors to hear her voice. All of this would not be true had Chavah not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge.
8. The woman is subjugated to her husband. She must cook his food day and night, and prepare his clothes. Her husband dominates her and she many not contradict his word.
9. A woman cannot testify as a witness [in a Jewish court of law].
10. The curse of death.

Since it was a woman who brought death to the world, woman must keep three special commandments: ([Shabbat, Chapter 2], Tikunei Zohar, p. 31)

1. Niddah.
2. Challah (the dough offering). This law is mentioned in BaMidbar 15:20
3. The Shabbat Candles.

If a woman does not keep these three commandments, the chances of her dying in childbirth are increased. When a woman keeps these commandments, she rectifies her soul and atones for the sin of bringing death to the world. She also receives ample reward for keeping these commandments.


Serpent. Nachash stems from the root that means "shining whisperer", "shining enchanter." In Shemot 7:9-15 the nachash is parallel to the tanin, the sea creature of Bereishit 1:21 and also related to the Liv'yatan of Yeshayahu 27:1.

The Angel of Death put great effort into a scheme to make Adam sin. If man sinned, he would die [and the Angel of Death would be able to perform its function]. This angel examined every creature, trying to decide how to disquise himself to seduce the woman. When he could not find any creature more intelligent than the serpent, who then walked on two feet like a man, he used its form as a disguise. (Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer; Zohar 1:35) When the other animals saw him coming they became terrified.

The serpent was damned with ten curses: (Bereishit Rabbah; Tikunei Zohar, p. 95)

1. The first curse was that angels descended and cut off his hands and feet. He screamed so loudly that it could be heard from one end of the world to the other. This was because he brought death to the world. When a person commits murder, it is because he is being dragged after his passions. The serpent was therefore punished in that he would have to drag himself on his belly.

2. Until this time the serpent did not eat regular food like other animals, but was nourished by spiritual "food." The second curse was that he should now eat the dust of the earth. Even if he were to eat the tastiest things in the world, he would taste only dust. He also cannot be satisfied unless he eats dust.

One should not think he can make do with any kind of dust that he finds. If this were the case, it would be a blessing; he would not have to struggle for food. The only dust that can nourish the serpent is that which comes from great depths, and he must dig down to reach it.

3. Before this, the serpent was very important; he was considered the king of all the animals. The third curse was that he be cursed by all the animals. [The word MiKall, which we have translated as "above all," is literally, "from all." This verse can thus be read, "Cursed are you from all the animals." (Tr.)]

4. The fourth curse was that the serpent would constantly be leprous. The white dots on his body are leprous spots. This was punishment because he slandered [G-d].

In general, leprosy is a punishment for slander and malicious speech (Lashon HaRa). The punishment fits the crime, since malicious speech causes people to become separated from each other. The punishment is leprosy, where the person must also be separated from all men. (commentary on Metzorah, MeAm Loez Commentaries)

5. The fifth curse was that the snake must shed his skin every seven years. He must find two very smooth stones, where he can squeeze between them, pulling off his skin. This produces excruciating pain. (Bereishit Rabbah. Cf. Tikunei Zohar 92b; Zohar, Sh'lach)

Besides this, the serpent must also remain skinless until he can grow a new hide. This punishment also fits the crime, because Adam was created with a beautiful shining skin. (Targum Yonatan; Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer) This skin shone like our fingernails do today. ([Rabbi Moshe] Alshikh, [Torat Moshe, Venice, 1601] p. 17) [By causing Adam to sin, the snake made him lose this beautiful skin.]

For this reason we gaze at our fingernails during Havdalah. All during the Shabbat the person has been like a king. He wore his best clothing, ate good food, and drank good wine. It is therefore very easy for him to feel self-important and to discuss weekday things on the Shabbat. Gazing at his fingernails, he should realize how much harm the sins [of pride and excessive speech] can bring, and repent. (Zohar, VaYachel)

6. The sixth curse was that there would be great hatred between the woman and the serpent. [The Talmud teaches that the serpent actually had intercourse with the woman, so she said that he "seduced" her.] When a man and woman sin with each other, they end up hating each other. A good example is found in the case of Amnon and Tamar (2Shmu'el 13:15) This hatred exists even today. People have an inborn loathing for snakes, whenever a snake is seen, people smash its head.

7. The seventh curse was that a human can smash a snake's head, but if it wants to retaliate, it can only bite a person's heel.

G-d told Adam that if his children keep the Torah, they do not have to worry about the serpent. It is not the serpent that kills, but sin. If they do not keep the mitzvot, authority is given to the serpent to bite them. (Tikunei Zohar, p. 10)

Here too, the punishment fits the crime. The serpent bites people on the heel because they are not careful with the mitzvot; they tread on them with their heels. (Targum Yonatan)

8. The eighth curse was that poison exists inside his mouth. This actually burns the snake's mouth.

9. The ninth curse is death. Since the serpent was the cause of death, he was the first to experience it.

10. In the ultimate future, when the Mashiach comes, all will be healed, great and small. In the case of the serpent, however, G-d said, "Dust shall you eat, all the days of your life." This is an allusion that he will remain this way even in the Messianic Age. (Zohar Chadash 18b) The same is true of anyone who speaks maliciously. He will never be healed unless he repents completely. (Targum Yonatan; Bachya; Zohar, Sh'lach)

It may seem that the fact that the serpent lost the power of speech should also be counted among these curses, since this was the worst of them all. But actually, since "dust is his bread" (Yeshayahu 65:25), the serpent's tongue became gross, and he lost the power of speech. (Toledot Yitzchak)


Yalkut MeAm Loez [Torah Anthology], Rabbi Yaakov Culi, Book One - Beginnings

•Torah Commentary by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher