Humor: Have an Apple

            April/May 2012    
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Those Mysterious Trees

By Ted Roberts

As a child I had a great respect for Torah, but I was never very good at Sunday School - especially Genesis. It was those two trees that confused me. Later, I could recite all the Kings of Israel and Judah, but first I had to straighten out the meaning of the two trees. You know, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Good and Evil. There is much confusion. The most deadly tree is the one "in the midst of the garden - eat of its fruit and you shall die". The sly, slippery serpent who even though according to midrash was a handsome devil with blue eyes and curly blond hair, reassures the woman, "you shall NOT be doomed to die, but instead you shall know good and evil".

Uh oh, already I am confused. Is this not the Tree of Life? Is it not misnamed? Why would G-d not want man to differentiate from good and evil? Isn't that difference what the Humash tries to teach us for the several hundred pages? Why must knowledge bring death? And to further confuse me, G-d has planted BOTH trees in the midst of the garden so when reference is made to the tree in the midst of the garden we don't know which tree is intended. This sounds like the Tree of Life that brings death if you touch it, not the Tree of Good and Evil. Then - a minor confusion - when the ex 6-2 blue-eyed, curly-haired devil asked Eve of the tree, she replies - with probably a touch of the dramatic - that the Creator of trees and humans and blue-eyed temptresses - told her not to even touch the forbidden tree. Why the exaggeration? G-d didn't say that. What if Adam felt like climbing trees one day? Would he still be stricken?

Well, the plot is rather simple from then on. They have an all fruit picnic lunch on the green meadows of Eden. But guess - they don't die. G-d is not capable of a lie, so evidently the woman lied. Or Moses misheard the dictation. Or maybe, probably it meant there was no death in the world until this minor felony. But again, I ask why such a fuss over the knowledge of good and evil. How many times does the Humash say otherwise; i.e., that its purpose is to teach man the difference between good and evil. Why penalize this knowledge?

And if this violation did not immediately open the door to death but established it as a human condition, now like the "original sin" of Christianity, where we pay for the sin of our forefather. Instead of culpability of sin, we meet death.

And even more mysterious, why does the knowledge of good and evil bring shame to their nudity? What's good or evil about walking around naked? This is not the Victorian age, you know. The only need for clothing was warmth, not the need to guard morality. So, why the sense of guilt? This is a strange tale full, I fear, of mistranslation. Why is the knowledge of good and evil not commendable?

At the end of the episode, G-d announces "that the man has become like one of us". He knows good from evil, thereby emphasizing that he now has a conscience. (Is this bad?) And strangely enough ignores the fact that the woman, too shares his morality. A strangely twisted tale. If we're not careful, says the divine narrator, snatch a fruit from the Tree of Life and live forever. That's bad?


from the April 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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