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How did Chava ‘convince’ Adam to eat from the forbidden fruit?

How did Chava “convince” Adam to eat from the forbidden fruit?

What’s most surprising about the way Chava “persuaded” Adam to eat from the Tree of  Knowledge is what she didn’t say. We have no hint from the Midrash that Chava used the same arguments that the snake used on her. She didn’t promise that he would become “like a God.” The commentaries feel that these would not have worked because Adam heard the prohibition straight from God. Furthermore, according to the Midrash, the snake was able to gain credibility by pushing Chava into the tree after she declared that they are not allowed to touch or eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Of course, there was no prohibition against touching the tree. This turned out to be a very costly exaggeration on the part of Adam.

The first opinion in the  Midrash is that Chava disguised the forbidden fruit as juice:

אָמַר רַבִּי אַיְבוּ סָחֲטָה עֲנָבִים וְנָתְנָה לוֹRabbi Eiyvu said she squeezed the grapes and gave it to him.” (Bereishis Rabbah 19:5 & 20:8) (This coincides with the opinion that the Tree of knowledge was a grapevine). The implication is that Adam may have been tricked. He was only guilty of not being more vigilant about what his wife was feeding him.

According to the second opinion in the Midrash, the tone of the conversation between Adam and Chava was calm and rational. She told it like it is. Stark and pragmatic.

Playing upon the power of loneliness

Chava first said:

מַה אַתָּה סָבוּר שֶׁאֲנִי מֵתָה וְחַוָּה אַחֶרֶת נִבְרֵאת לְךָ

Do you think I’m going to die and a new Chava will be created for you?” (Ibid)

She told him that no replacement wives are coming off the assembly line. The commentaries explain that it is not in God’s nature to recreate something that God already created. We know how lonely Adam was before Chava came on the scene. He searched throughout the animal kingdom for a suitable mate. God Himself declared that. 

לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ “…It is not good for Man to be alone..”Bereishis 2:18). The commentary, Matnas Kehunah, added that, intrinsic to her argument, was the fact that because she is irreplaceable she probably won’t die. When God said:

כִּ֗י בְּי֛וֹם אֲכׇלְךָ֥ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת׃.” “Because on the day you eat from it (the forbidden fruit) you will die.”Bereishis 2:17) it only meant that they will lose their immortality. However, they will be able to live out their normal lives together. She made an emotional pitch to someone who keenly recalled how lonely he was without Chava. 

Turning a prohibition into a Mitzvah.

The next opinion in the Midrash is that Chava made a spiritual pitch. 

Chava asked Adam if he thinks that  אֲנִי מֵתָה וְאַתְּ יוֹשֵׁב לְךָ הַטְלִי “I (Chava) will die and you (Adam) will remain single.”(Ibid) That can’t be because it would not fit with God’s plan for humanity. God wants the world to be populated. Therefore Adam must join her on her journey, come what may. Of course, these two arguments are not mutually exclusive. She could easily have tried both the emotional and spiritual approaches.

This last argument sounds suspiciously like the reasoning of the snake. According to some commentators, the snake convinced Chava that eating from the Tree of Knowledge was a spiritual fulfillment of what God wants for Mankind – for everyone to experience the world in the fullest sense and grab every opportunity possible. Chava too turned a prohibition into a Mitzvah.

The commentary, Yoffeh Toar, adds that Chava delivered a subtle threat as well. Adam. If you are not going to eat this fruit and stand by me (until death do us part) then we will separate and we will no longer live together as man and wife. 

The final opinion concerning the conversation between Adam and Chava is that of the Rabbis. 

הִתְחִילָה מְיַלֶּלֶת עָלָיו בְּקוֹלָהּ

Forget about all the rational arguments, Chava “began to wail out loud.” (Ibid) Once again, the first two approaches could have been used. But, according to the Rabbis, when all else failed, this worked. Adam ate from the forbidden fruit and the rest is history. 

Why did Adam give in so easily?

We return to our original observation. Chava did not employ the powerful arguments that would appeal to one’s ego – וִהְיִיתֶם֙ כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים “and you will be like a god.”(Bereishis 3:5). The Midrash offers some subtle but illuminating hints as to the dynamics that were at work here. 

רַבִּי שִׂמְלָאי אָמַר בְּיִשּׁוּב הַדַּעַת בָּאת עָלָיו, “Rabbi Simloi said that she approached him with calming words.” (Ibid) All the major commentaries point out that Chava’s strategy was to promote unity between them. They’re in this together, they need each other, and their destiny is intertwined. This idea emerges from the verse in the Torah: 

וַתֹּאכַ֑ל וַתִּתֵּ֧ן גַּם־לְאִישָׁ֛הּ עִמָּ֖הּ וַיֹּאכַֽל  “And she ate and she gave it to her husband (with her) and he ate” (Bereishis 3:6) The word עִמָּ֖הּ “with her” encapsulated her strategy –  the outcome must be that he should remain with her. 

What emerges from here is that Chava was premeditated in her approach. She carefully planned her pitch just like the snake did with her. The Midrash points out the similarity:

וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ חַוָּה, נִתְּנָה לוֹ לְחִיּוּתוֹ וּמְיַעַצְתּוֹ כְּחִוְיָא

“And the man called his wife Chava” (Bereishis 3:20) she was given to him to bring forth life, however, she advised him like a snake: (חִוְיָא means snake in Aramaic) (Bereishis Rabbah 20:11) 

Since Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge first, the evil inclination was now part of her. Now she had the ability to be as cunning as the snake. She leveraged Adam’s vulnerability – that he didn’t want to be alone again. Therefore Adam – who was still in a state of purity – was no match for her powers of persuasion.

This episode captures an essential element of our post-Eden world. All of Mankind now has the potential to be duplicitous with one another. The once pristine existence of absolute truth, that was unique to the Garden of Eden, is no longer.

About the Author
After college and Semicha at Yeshiva University my first pulpit was Ogilvy where I wrote TV commercials for brands like American Express, Huggies and Duracell. My passion is Midrash Tanchuma. I am an Architect of Elegant Marketing Solutions at www.mindprintmarketing.com. We are living in (where else) the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
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