Flawed Deception by Tzvi Zuckier


In describing the episode of the Nachash persuading Chava to sin by eating from the Eitz HaDaat, the Pasuk states, “VaYomer HaNachash El HaIshah Lo Mot Temutun,” “The snake said to the woman, ‘You will not die.’” The Midrash provides a background to this Pasuk: “The snake pushed Chava at the tree until she touched it and said to her, ‘Just as you are not dying through touching, so too you will not die through eating.’”

This Midrash seems difficult to understand.  The Nachash seems to be making a Kal VaChomer that if for touching Chavah was not punished, she certainly would not be punished for mere eating. Why should touching the tree be considered more of an offense than eating from the tree? The Pasuk (2:17) says specifically, “Ki Beyom Achulcha Mimenu Mot Tamut,” “On the day that you eat from it you will die,” thus rendering only eating as a crime punishable by death. Why, then, does the Midrash consider touching a worse crime than eating, which is the sole prohibited action mentioned in the Pasuk?

The Bnei Levi (cited by the Panim Yekarim in Maayanah Shel Torah) says that the Nachash said to Chavah that because eating is a requirement and a necessity for every human being, but touching is just a sense which is not essential to humankind, eating should be a worse offense than touching. The Nachash continued that if touching receives a death penalty, then surely eating cannot do any harm, for a human cannot die twice. If touching would not necessitate Chavah’s death, then eating surely could not do anything worse than touching. This logic is obviously flawed, for the Pasuk specifically prohibited eating whereas Hashem never explicitly forbade touching. The Midrash did not consider touching a higher-ranked offense than eating, but was instead pointing out part of the Nachash’s trickery.

The Nachash is representative of the Yeitzer HaRa which resides internally in all humans (see Seforno to Breishit 3:1). The Yeitzer HaRa is incredibly powerful and has many tricks to turn someone off the path of Torah. Just as the Nachash cleverly tricked Chavah, who subsequently caused Adam to transgress, so too can the Yeitzer HaRa trick us into sinning. We must always stay strong in our Avodat Hashem and be on guard against the Nachash within us.

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