Stuart Fickler, Ph.D. 

Chapter 6 - The Naked Truth 

Genesis 3:7. And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked…


Act 2. Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The transformation had begun.

The literal interpretation of Genesis 3:7 led to the common view that the “original sin” was sex. I would respectfully suggest that this interpretation might say more about the interpreter than the text itself. 

When God created Adam and Eve, God blessed them with the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Then, clearly, God must have endowed Adam and Eve with the physiological means and the animal drive to engage in procreative activity before the events related to the Tree of Knowledge. The text makes it very clear that this function is a blessing granted by God. Then, there is something far more profound going on than the explanation given by the simplistic common view.

Let us now turn to the wisdom of the Jewish Sages to guide us on our exploration of this mystery. Rashi’s commentary on Gen. 3:7 states: “And…were opened: Scripture is referring to wisdom, and not to actual vision, …”   To this he adds: and they knew that they were naked: Even a blind man knows when he is naked! What then is the meaning of “and they knew that they were naked” ? They had one commandment in their possession, and they became denuded of it.”

Maimonides amplifies Rashi’s comment with the following. “Hence we read, "And ye shall be like elohim, knowing good and evil," and not" knowing" or" discerning the true and the false": while in necessary truths we can only apply the words" true and. false," not" good and evil." Further observe the passage," And the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked" (Gen. iii. 7) : it is not said," And the eyes of both were opened, and they saw" : for what the man had seen previously and what he saw after this circumstance was precisely the same: there had been no blindness which was now removed, but he received a new faculty whereby he found things wrong which previously he had not regarded as wrong.” (Guide, Part I, Chapter II).

Rashi clearly tells us that the sin was disobeying the command of God to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge. He then tells us that as a result of eating the “forbidden fruit” Adam and Eve acquired wisdom. Maimonides reminds us that the Torah tells us that the particular wisdom obtained from eating the fruit was the knowledge of good and evil. In I Kings 3:9, Solomon asked God for “an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad”. The knowledge of good and evil is a necessary condition for just governance. As Alice in Wonderland said, things are getting “curiouser and curiouser”. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and acquired the capability to govern justly?

We have now come to what I consider to be the greatest mystery of Torah. As Maimonides “objector” said: “It thus appears strange that the punishment for rebelliousness should be the means of elevating man to a pinnacle of perfection to which he had not attained previously."   Is it possible that disobeying God can lead to greater closeness to God? This goes to the very heart of religion. What is sin? What is the purpose of sin? What is reward and punishment? What is redemption? There are no quick answers, but we will continue our journey of discovery seeking answers. For now, here is a hint: how does a child develop a meaningful and loving relationship with a parent?

Up until this point, humanity, like the animals, had no moral/ethical decisions to make. For animals, good and bad are defined by the environment, and they respond to the stimulus of the environment. Humans, as Onkelos said, were “speaking animals”. As God had separated light from darkness, earth from water, etc., during creation, now humanity was separated from all other life by its own choosing.

This separation transformed the human being into an “observer”. In scientific terms, an observer is someone who can separate oneself from one’s environment, study it, make judgments concerning it and have an impact on it.

To illustrate this, consider the situation of King Solomon and the two women claiming possession of the same child (I Kings 3:16). Faced with an apparently insoluble problem, Solomon was able to step out of the immediate situation, look into the very heart of motherhood and bring about a just resolution.

At this point in our drama, humanity had achieved all of the tools necessary for intelligence, governance and creativity. They were ready to fulfill the Prime Directive – well, almost ready. You can have all of the right tools, but you have to know how to use them properly if you’re going to create something worthwhile.

With God’s help, to be continued. Next time: “The Ultimate Teacher”.

Emet v’chaim.

Comment: This poses a very deep question: Is this stance of separation from our environment true to who we are, or does it stray from the truth in a most fundamental way? Or is there perhaps a third alternative to these two possibilities? SK