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Chapter One

Knowledge That Kills

And God commanded the man, "You may eat from all the trees in the Garden, but from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you may not eat, for on the day that you do eat from it, you will certainly die."
Genesis 2:16-17
Life is full of inexplicable wonders and unresolved questions, the answers to which could, upon discovery, provide great insight into existence and daily life. But no question or answer is more central to understanding our potential - to accomplish or to destroy - than the questions and answers regarding the primordial Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. It is the mystery of mysteries.

For example, what kind of tree was it? (For a variety of reasons, the Torah does not specify the type of tree it was. The Talmud (Brochos 40a), however, does suggest a few possible types of fruit trees, none of which is an apple tree!) What gave it its ability to be a "teacher" of "good" and "evil"? Did the fruit possess some type of "wisening agent" or was the transformation a spiritual one, merely triggered by eating the fruit? Why did God make such a tree in the first place if only to forbid it to mankind? And, was the tree to be forbidden to mankind forever?

These are but a few of the many questions regarding the tree, and none of them seem to have definitive answers. For this reason much has been written about the tree and the challenge it created for mankind.

However, as intriguing as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is, there is another tree deserving of attention in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life. Considering that the Tree of Life held the key to immortality, questions regarding its nature and purpose within creation should arise.

And even before understanding how the Tree of Life made a person immortal, a simple question can be asked: why didnít Adam and Eve eat from it before eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? After all, not doing so cost mankind immortality:

ĎBehold, Man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; now, [I will send him away] in case he also takes from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever.. .í (Genesis 3:22.)
Apparently, there was a good reason why Adam and Eve ignored the Tree of Life:
Why didnít the Holy One, Blessed is He, simultaneously warn man to not eat from either the Tree of Knowledge or from the Tree of Life? Because the Tree of Life ... did not have any fruit at all, though its bark tasted like fruit. However, the Tree of Knowledge had fruit that was pleasant to look at ... Therefore, before eating from the Tree of Knowledge, there was no need to provide a warning regarding the Tree of Life because it wasnít attractive, and [Adam] still had no idea about its purpose since it seemed merely to be wood. (Genesis 2:9, Klei Yekar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Lunt-schitz, Poland; 1545-1619))
In fact, so inconspicuous was the potential of the Tree of Life that even during the period between Godís judgment of Adam until the expulsion from the Garden the following night, (This is according to the opinion in the Midrash that Adam and Eve spent the first Shabbat in the Garden of Eden.) Adam never thought to eat from it. (This is mentioned in a book called Shem míShmuel (Parshas Braishis). Another opinion: Adam did know about the Tree of Life after he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. However, as an act of repentance, he did not violate the will of God by eating it.)

But why was the potential of the Tree of Life concealed? Why was immortality made so much less attractive than the knowledge of good and evil?

What was this Tree of Life?

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