The Mechanics of Sin

God had made it very clear that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was not to be eaten, and that “on the day you eat of it you will surely become subject to death” (Genesis 2:17). If that was the case, how could the serpent think he could simply tell Eve that “you will certainly not die!”(Genesis 3:4) This seems to be taking brazenness to an absurd level.


The Gaon of Vilna explained that if we are thinking straight and we have clarity – we would never sin. It is only when we allow our thinking to become cloudy that we can veer off into the wrong direction. This is how he interpreted Hashem’s words to Cain: If you give it an opening – sin will pounce (Genesis 4:7). Eve gave the serpent just such an opening, and that’s why it felt it could get away with boldly contradicting God’s clear declaration.

It began with a probing question to her: Is it true that God said you can’t eat from any of the trees in the Garden? (3:1) Eve replied by stating that “We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the Garden – but from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, God said you may not eat from it or touch it lest you die” (3:2-3). God had stated in no uncertain terms that they would certainly become subject to death. Eve’s presentation is less clear – lest you die. Almost saying: perhaps you will die. By losing focus and clarity, Eve presented an opening where the serpent was able to boldly enter.


Rav Noach Weinberg had a famous retake of a line by Patrick Henry and insisted that our motto in life has to be: Give me clarity or give me death! This certainly has to be a priority in our lives. We desperately need to be clear about who we are, what we are living for and how we are going to achieve our goals. It is only this kind of clarity that will prevent us from getting distracted and confused by the tidal wave of confusion in the world around us.

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