Midrash on Bereishit
Adam, Chavah, and the Nachash (Serpent)
Rabbi Jeremiah ben Eleazar said: When the Holy One created Adam, He created him hermaphrodite [bisexual], as is said, "Male and female created He them . . . and called their name Adam."(Bereishit 5:2)
Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman said: When the Holy One created Adam, He made him with two fronts; then He sawed him in half and thus gave him two backs, a back for one part and a back for the other part.
Someone objected: But does not Scripture say, "And He took one of his ribs (mi-tzalotav)" (Bereishit 2:21)?
Rabbi Samuel replied: Mi-tzalotav may also mean "his sides," as in the verse "And for the second side (tzela) of the mishkan." (Shemot 26:20)
"And man became an animal being" (Bereishit 2:7). Rabbi Judah said: These words teach us that He first provided him with a tail like an animal, but then removed it from him for the sake of human dignity.
"And Hashem G-d created man "afar" (dust) (Bereishit 2:7). Rabbi Judah bar Simon said: Read the word "ofer" "a young man;" Adam was created as a young man, in the fullness of vigor.
Rabbi Eleazar son of Rabbi Simeon added: Chavah also was created fully developed.
[Even more precise], Rabbi Yochanan said: Adam and Chavah were created as at the age of twenty.
"But for Adam there was not found a helpmeet for him." (Bereishit 2:20) For G-d had caused all cattle, beasts, and birds to pass before Adam in pairs [male and female].
Said Adam: Every one has a mate, yet I have none!
And why did G-d not create a mate for Adam at the beginning?
Because the Holy One foresaw that Adam would bring charges against Chavah. Therefore He did not create her until Adam expressly asked for her. As soon as he did, at once "G-d caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept." (Bereishit 2:21)
Rabbi Eleazar further stated: What is meant by the Scriptural text, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh?"
This teaches that Adam had intercourse with every beast and animal but found no satisfaction until he cohabited with Chavah.
A Caesar once said to Rabban Gamliel: "Your G-d is a thief, for it is written, 'And Hashem G-d caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and He took one of his ribs.'" (Bereishit 2:21)
Rabban Gamliel's daughter said, "Leave him to me and I will answer him."
[Turning to Caesar], she said, "Send me a police officer."
"Why do you need one?" he asked.
She replied, "Thieves came to us during the night and took a silver pitcher from us, leaving one of gold in its place."
"Would that such a thief came to us every day," he exclaimed.
"Ah!" said she, "was it not Adam's gain that he was deprived of a rib and given a wife to serve him?"
Rabbi Judah ben Tema used to say: Adam reclined in the Garden of Eden, while ministering angels, hovering over him, roasted flesh and strained wine for him. When the serpent looked in and saw the honor bestowed on him, he became envious.
"For G-d knows" (Bereishit 3:5). Rabbi Judah of Sichnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: The serpent spoke slander against his Creator, saying to Chavah: Our Creator ate of this tree and then created the world. And because every craftsman hates to have a rival in his craft, He said to you, "You shall not eat of it," so that you might not create other worlds.
[The serpent also said to Chavah]: Whatever was created after its companion dominates it.
Now, Adam was created after all creatures in order to rule over all of them. So make haste and eat [of the tree] before G-d creates other worlds which will rule over both of you.
Then the serpent touched the tree with his hands and feet, shaking it until its fruit fell to the ground. The tree then cried out: Villain, do not touch me; "Let not the foot of pride overtake me, and let not the hand of the wicked shake me." (Tehillim 36:12)
The serpent said to the woman, "Look, I touched the tree, yet I did not die. You, too, if you touch it, will not die."
Right away, he pushed her and she touched the tree.
When she saw the angel of death coming toward her, she said, "Woe is me! I am as good as dead, and the Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam."
Immediately, "she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate" (Bereishit 3:6)
Rabbi Aibu said: She squeezed grapes and gave the juice to Adam.
Rabbi Simlai said: She came at him with her answers all rehearsed, saying to him, "What do you suppose: that I will die and another Chavah will be created for you?
[There will be no new Chavah]: `there is nothing new under the sun.' [Kohelet 1:9].
Or that I will die and you will have no obligations?
'He created it not a waste, He formed it to be inhabited.'" (Yeshayahu 45:18)
But our masters maintained: She raised her voice in howling at him, as is said, "Because you have hearkened to the [loud] voice of your wife." (Bereishit 3:17)
["And she also gave to her husband" (Bereishit 3:6).] The word "also" is a word that suggests she also gave the fruit to others to eat, to cattle, beasts, and birds.
All obeyed her, except for a certain bird named hol (phoenix), of which it is said, "I shall die with my nest, yet I shall multiply my days as the hol." (Iyov 29:18)
The school of Rabbi Yannai maintained: The hol lives a thousand years. At the end of a thousand years, a fire issues from its nest and burns it up, yet of the bird a piece the size of an egg is left; it grows new limbs and lives again.
But Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Simeon said: At the end of a thousand years, its body dries up and its wings drop off, yet of the bird a piece the size of an egg is left; it grows new limbs and lives again.
What kind of tree did Adam and Chavah eat of?
Wheat, according to Rabbi Meir. When a man has no understanding, people say of him: He has never put bread made of wheat [the source of wisdom] into his mouth.
(Rabbi Samuel son of Rabbi Isaac put the following question to Rabbi Ze'era: "How can you say it was a grain: wheat?"
"Nevertheless, it was so," Rabbi Ze'era replied.
Rabbi Samuel argued: "But Scripture speaks of a tree."
Rabbi Ze'era replied: "[In the Garden of Eden] stalks of wheat were like trees, for they grew to the height of cedars of Levanon."
[Adam ate] grapes, according to Rabbi Judah bar Ilai, for Scripture says, "Grapes of gall, they have clusters of bitterness" (Devarim 32:32); those grape clusters brought bitterness into the world.
According to Rabbi Abba of Acco, it was the etrog, for it is said, "And the woman saw that the tree [its wood] was good for food." (Bereishit 3:6)
Go forth and see what tree there is whose wood, like its fruit, may be eaten. You will find none but the etrog.
Rabbi Yose said: They were figs, as may be inferred from the context.
A parable of a king's son who disgraced himself with one of the maidservants. When the king heard of it, he deprived his son of high rank and expelled him from the palace.
The son then went about to the doorways of the other maidservants, and none would take him in.
But she who disgraced herself with him opened the door of her house and received him.
So, too, when Adam ate of that tree, the Holy One deprived him of lofty status and expelled him from the Garden of Eden.
Adam then went about among all the trees, but none would receive him. (What did they say to him? They said, so Rabbi Berechiah taught, Behold the thief who sought to deceive his Creator. "Let not the foot of pride come to me" [Tehillim 36:12]; the foot that stepped forward in pride toward its Creator; "and let not the hand of the wicked shake me" [Tehillim 36] to take even one leaf from me.)
But the fig tree whose fruit Adam had eaten opened its doors [so to speak] and received him, as is said, "They sewed fig leaves together." (Bereishit 3:7)
"And the woman said to the serpent" (Bereishit 3:2). Now, where was Adam during this conversation?
Abba bar Guria said: He had fallen asleep.
But the Sages said: At that time the Holy One was taking him around the entire world, saying to him: Here is a place fit for planting trees, here is a place fit for sowing cereals.
Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai said: By what parable may what happened to Chavah and Adam [at that time] be illustrated?
By the parable of a man who had a wife at home. He went and brought a cask, and put a certain number of figs and a certain number of nuts into it. Then he caught a scorpion and put it at the mouth of the cask, sealed the cask with a tight-fitting lid, and put it in a corner.
"My dear," he said to her, "everything I have in this house is in your hands, except this cask, which you may not touch at all because there is a scorpion in it."
When her husband left for the marketplace, an old woman came calling on her, like those who drop in to borrow a little vinegar.
The woman asked, "How does your husband treat you?"
The wife replied, "My husband treats me wonderfully. He has given me authority over everything he owns, except for this cask."
The old woman said, "Very likely all his precious jewels are inside it. And he didn't tell you that, because he intends to marry another woman and give them to her."
What did the wife do then?
She proceeded to open the cask and put her hand into it. Whereupon the scorpion stung her. She stepped back and collapsed upon her couch.
When her husband returned from the marketplace, he asked, "What is this?"
"I put my hand in the cask," she replied, "and a scorpion stung me, and now I am dying."
"Did I not tell you in the beginning" he cried out, "everything I own in this house is in your hands except this cask, which you may not touch at all?"
He grew angry at her and no longer thought of her as his wife.
Rabbi Judah said in the name of Rav: Adam's body reached from one end of the world to the other.
But after he acted offensively, the Holy One laid His hand upon him and diminished him, as is said, "You have hemmed me in behind and before, so that You were able to lay Your hand upon me." (Tehillim 139:5)
Rabbi Berechiah said in the name of Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman: Though all living things [such as white figs] came into being in the fullness of their growth, they shriveled up as soon as Adam sinned and will not return to their perfection until a seed of Peretz [the Mashiach] comes.
After Adam sinned, the Holy One deprived Adam of six things: splendor of visage, lofty stature, life without death, perfection of the earth's fruit, the Garden of Eden, and brilliance of the luminaries in heaven.
In the time-to- come, the Holy One will restore them.
Rabbi Yochanan b. Hanina said: The (sixth) day (of creation) consisted of twelve hours.
In the first hour, his [Adam's] dust was gathered; in the second, it was kneaded into a shapeless mass. In the third, his limbs were shaped; in the fourth, a soul was infused into him; in the fifth, he arose and stood on his feet; in the sixth, he gave [the animals] their names; in the seventh, Chavah became his mate; in the eighth, they ascended to bed as two and descended as four (birth of Kayin and Hevel...); in the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he sinned; in the eleventh, he was tried, and in the twelfth he was expelled [from Eden] and departed, for it is written, Man abides not in honor.
Our masters taught: When Adam on the day of his creation saw the sun sinking in the sky before him, he said, "Woe is me! Because I acted offensively, the world is darkening for me and is about to return to darkness and desolation indeed, this is the death that Heaven has decreed for me."
So he sat down to fast and to weep throughout the night, while Chavah wept beside him.
But when the dawn began slowly rising like a column, he said, "Such is the way of the world..."
Rabbi Yose said: There was the thought [in G-d's mind] that fire be brought into being on Shabbat eve.
In the event, it was brought into being at Shabbat's outgoing. At Shabbat's outgoing the Holy One gave Adam knowledge that partook of the knowledge that is above, and he procured two flints which he struck one against the other. From these issued fire, and over it Adam uttered the blessing:
Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam bore me'ore ha-esh
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who creates the illuminations of the fire."
Thus, the first use of light was for Havdalah, ending the Shabbat.
Return to Parsha Index