"Adam called the name of his wife Eve/Chava." (Gen. 3:20)

We must understand why Adam did not name his wife immediately after he met her, before any of the happenings described by the Torah.

Know therefore that G‑d had already given the woman a name reflecting her distinction when He named both the man and the woman jointly, ADAM. We know from Ezekiel that the name ADAM is a great distinction. The prophet proclaims: "you are Adam" (Ezekiel 34:31) (referring to Israel). Our sages (Yevamot 61) have stated about Israel: "you have been called ADAM, whereas the gentiles have not been called ADAM." Therefore, there was no reason for Adam to have named Eve previously.

...when a person violates G‑d's law knowingly, he forfeits his original name.

Now that his wife had been seduced by the serpent she had suffered a spiritual decline and no longer qualified for the name ADAM. In fact it is generally accepted that when a person violates G‑d's law knowingly, he forfeits his original name. This is what Solomon (Proverbs 10:7) meant when he said: "the name (i.e. the original name) of the wicked, will rot."

Adam now had to give his wife a name, Chava, which reflected her function in life, namely that she became the "mother" of all human beings. (True, Adam had sinned too, but his sin had been unintentional as was pointed out earlier. He did not forfeit his name on that account.)

In fact, Adam too experienced a diminution of status as expressed by his name. The Torah here calls him suddenly HaAdam, three of four times instead of Adam as previously. You must appreciate that the category of person called HaAdam is inferior to the one called Adam without the letter hei .

"HaAdam should perform these commandments in order to live by them", as including gentiles. (Sifri 143 quoting Rabbi Yirmiyah on Leviticus 18:5) This is so because whenever the letter hei before the word Adam does not signify a definite article it refers to the human species as such.1 Although Adam declined in spiritual stature and forfeited the full extent of his name, this was a temporary phenomenon. The Torah again accords him his full name when it describes that he became the father of Seth. (Ibid. 4:25) He regained his stature having only sinned inadvertently.

...he should have called her Chaya, not Chava!

There is another reason for the name Chava. First we must understand why "life" is attributed to Eve and not to Adam. After all, Adam was the "father" of all human beings! Besides, if the reason we have given for Adam calling Chava is that she is the "mother" of all human beings, he should have called her Chaya, not Chava!

Her name was to reflect two new developments. The reason given in the Zohar is because she had listened to the urgings of the seducer, Adam called her by the name of the seducer, the word Chava resembling Chivya, Aramaic for serpent. The second new development was that she was condemned to bear children in pain. She alone deserved to be called "mother" of all human beings because it was only she who had to endure pain in connection with procreation. The Torah did not want to spell out the other reason, seeing that it is already alluded to in the name Chava.

[Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of "Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar" by Eliyahu Munk.]