Bereshit A: Chapter 47

"Now the serpent was craftier"


Rabbi Yitzhak and Rabbi Yehuda came to their master and teacher, Rabbi Shimon, with an intriguing disagreement. The two students were at odds concerning the underlying cause of Eve's sin in eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Rabbi Yitzchak felt it was the Evil Inclination implanted in Eve that caused her to succumb to temptation. But Rabbi Yehuda believed it was the snake's cunning that beguiled her into eating from the Tree.

Rabbi Shimon said that both of his students were correct. The Zohar's explanation is as follows: The negative part of our intelligence - the part that motivates us to sin - is the same negative intelligence that serves as our prosecutor in the heavenly court, and this same evil intelligence executes any judgements decreed against us. As a final irony, this intelligence is also none other than the Angel of Death, who ultimately consumes us after years of living out this evil cycle of sin. If only we could recognize the voice inside us that says, "Do it!" even when we know we shouldn't, we would shudder in terror at the prospect of succumbing to these negative urges.

The Zohar then discusses the verse, "And the Eyes of them [Adam and Eve] both were open."

Rabbi Chiya explains that at the moment Adam and Eve saw evil, they fell into that reality. The mystery of this explanation concerns the power of consciousness, and the nature of reality and illusion. If we look for evil in others, our consciousness literally creates that reality. The Zohar is telling us that evil is an illusion, but we give it reality when we see it and believe it. For this reason alone, we should turn all our efforts toward finding the good in people instead of always looking for what's wrong. This portion of the Zohar awakens us to these spiritual truths by helping us to distinguish between the reality of good, and the self-confirming nature of evil.