The original purpose of man's creation was to have the body as perfect as the soul, the body being the "Sanctuary", and the soul the "the inner Sanctuary". Both body and soul would have enjoyed a life of intelligence. All other creatures on earth would have dwelled in a "higher" existence; there would not have been any trees that failed to produce edible fruit, for instance. When you look closely at the instruction issued by G‑d to the Earth on the third day, you will find that the trees were meant to be edible themselves, i.e. the trunk, not just the fruit. (Gen. 1:11) Earth did not comply with G‑d's command completely, since it was aware that G‑d would have to hide the Original Light due to the eventual emergence of wicked people. This prompted Earth to withhold some of its goodness also. The Tree itself was to taste the same as its fruit…

The reason that the Tree itself was to taste the same as its fruit is to elevate the, "peel", the exterior, to the level of the essence, i.e. the fruit. When the level of spirituality is such that the kelipa has become insignificant, then the function of the Tree of Life has been fulfilled, i.e. every tree will be a Tree of Life...

In the present world, the kelipa always precedes the fruit, even in the sequence in which Adam's children were born. This is the reason that Cain, who represents the kelipa, was born before his brother Abel, who represents the fruit. The former said to G‑d after having murdered Abel: "[Is it my function to serve as] the guardian [in Hebrew, "hashomer", i.e. kelipa] for my brother?" (Gen. 4:9) Our Sages understand this comment as Cain referring to this function in his life, because they understand the meaning of the word.

The word "shomer" (meaning "guardian") is the same as "shomrei hapri", "the protective shell around the fruit". The letter hei in front of the word "hashomer" indicates Cain's ongoing amazement. He could not get over the fact that the evil urge within him, i.e. the kelipa, so overpowered him. His reaction was similar to ours when we acknowledge having sinned, blaming the evil urge within us.

Let us now get back to the subject under discussion: the reason the Earth did not produce trees whose wood was as edible as its fruit, and how Earth was punished for its failure to heed G‑d's instructions. Its very action in disobeying G‑d's command caused Eve and Adam to sin, as explained by the Ari. I shall quote his work, adding a few words of my own. Surely Eve was an extremely intelligent woman…

First let me explain a few of the finer nuances in the verses which forbid man to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The Torah, seemingly superfluously, twice says "from it": "From the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, do not eat from it, for on the day you eat from it you will surely become mortal". (Gen. 2:17) During the conversation between Eve and the serpent, however, the word meaning "from it" occurs only once: "And from the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, G‑d has said 'do not eat from it and do not touch it lest you die'." (Gen. 3:3)

Another difficulty in the text is the fact that in the original command by G‑d as well as the quote by the serpent we find the words "the tree itself" (ibid. 2:16, 2:17 and 3:1). Eve, on the other hand, mentioned only a prohibition of the fruit of the tree. (ibid. 3:3) Only afterwards do we read in verse 6 of the conversation between Eve and the serpent, "The woman saw that the tree was good for eating."

Another difficulty is knowing that surely Eve was an extremely intelligent woman, what could have prompted her to tell the serpent of an additional prohibition, that of touching the Tree, when such a prohibition had not been issued by G‑d?

A further difficulty is that since Eve knew that G‑d had not prohibited touching the Tree, why did the fact that the serpent pushed her against the Tree and she did not die influence her to the extent that she accepted the serpent's argument that just as touching the Tree had not proved fatal to her, eating from it would not have fatal consequences either? (That the serpent pushed Eve against the Tree is recorded in Bereshit Rabba 19:3.) How did Eve deduce a prohibition from something that had not been commanded? The sin had been made possible by Earth's behavior…when it did not produce the right kind of trees…

Yet another difficulty is the wording of the punishment. The Torah quotes G‑d as saying to Adam: "The Earth will be cursed on your account." (Gen. 3:17) This means that Earth was punished at that time for a former misdemeanor. Why was Earth not punished at the time it failed to produce the kind of trees it had been commanded to produce?

The sin of Adam and Eve in eating from the Tree of Knowledge was directly attributable to the failure of Earth to respond fully to G‑d's command. The reason that Earth had not been punished sooner for its departure from G‑d's command was that its intention had been constructive, as we explained earlier. Now, however, there had been fatal consequences of Earth's failure to obey G‑d fully; this is why Earth was punished at the same time man too was punished for his sin. This is why the Torah added the words "on your account" when describing its punishment. The very words "for from it (the Earth) you have been taken", (Gen. 3:19) which is part of Adam's penalty, that of forfeiting eternal life, are an allusion to the fact that the sin had been made possible by Earth's behavior at the time when it did not produce the right kind of trees. The serpent found a means of sowing doubt in Eve's mind…

How exactly was the Earth the cause of Eve's sinning? If all the trees in the world would have tasted just as did their fruit, there would have been nothing special about the Tree of Knowledge, and the serpent would not have been able to seduce Eve by pointing out its special nature. Under the existing circumstances, however, the serpent found a means of sowing doubt in Eve's mind. It is not the nature of the evil urge to at first attack our obedience of G‑d's commandments directly. Only after it has succeeded in convincing us of the irrational nature of certain of G‑d's commandments has the way been prepared for it to encourage transgression of the commandment.

It is quite clear that the Tree of Knowledge responded to G‑d's original command to Earth, that its trunk was as edible as its fruit. This was because this tree had been planted by G‑d Himself, was not the product of the general instruction to Earth on the third day of creation. (Genesis 2:8)

The serpent alluded to this fact when it said that G‑d had only forbidden eating "of the tree of the garden", and made no mention of the fruit of the trees (Gen. 3:1).

According to the serpent, Man was not allowed to partake of the wood of the trees that G‑d had planted. The reason this was forbidden, explained the serpent, was that these trees were supernatural creations. There was no reason however, for Eve to worry that the fruit of the Tree was forbidden, seeing that the fruit was something natural, part of the laws of nature. Earth considered itself justified in withdrawing some of the physical comforts for mankind…

The serpent was astute enough to use the language G‑d had used to convince Eve that only the wood had been forbidden. Eve replied that the prohibition not to eat from the Tree included its fruit. We have a rule that when the Torah states something more than once without plausible reason, then the second statement of the Torah can be applied to a related matter. (Kidushin 42) In our case, the repetition of the word "from it" was used by Eve as applicable to a prohibition to touch the Tree. She responded that since the Tree itself represented something supernatural, and its fruit must not be eaten, the Tree itself must not even be touched.

This gave the serpent a chance to push Eve against the Tree and prove to her that touching the Tree did not have fatal consequences. The serpent was smart enough to know that the repetition by G‑d of the words "do not eat from it, for on the day you eat from it you will die", was not intended to prohibit touching the Tree, but was in keeping with the rule that the Torah must state a warning of any transgression which is a capital offence, and must subsequently spell out the penalty applicable if the warning is ignored. (Sanhedrin 56)

G‑d warned man not to eat; then He stated the penalty should the warning be ignored. The wording the Torah uses when issuing a warning and subsequently revealing the penalty for transgressing the commandment is always similar. This is why the serpent was quite sure Eve had misinterpreted G‑d's meaning, and that pushing her against the Tree would have no consequences.

The serpent did miscalculate in another direction, however. It assumed that Eve, just as most women, would first offer her husband part of the fruit as a token of her respect for him; the husband would then taste the fruit, die, and the serpent would be free to marry Eve.

Once Eve had been proven wrong in her assumption that touching the Tree would be fatal, the serpent now urged Eve to become openly rebellious by also eating from the fruit from the Tree. Eve was now ready to accept the serpent's statement that the only reason G‑d had prohibited eating from the Tree was that He did not want them to know good and evil just as He Himself did. (Gen. 3:5) Reflecting on this, Eve saw that the Tree was good as food, etc. (ibid. 3:6) It is clear that the fact that only this Tree was fit to eat (not only its fruit) was what caused Eve to sin.

Earth was not punished at once, since it had acted in accordance with the principle that the book cover should be of the same importance as the book it contains, i.e. that the body should be on a similar spiritual level to that of the soul. Since G‑d had seen fit to withdraw some of the spiritual light, Earth considered itself justified in withdrawing some of the physical comforts for man, seeing that all of physical creation was only for the sake of mankind.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]