Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: "The theophany at Sinai is essentially a reversal of the expulsion from Eden"


An important element in the Eden story is the role of Eve as arch-temptress and hence the one responsible for the expulsion from the Garden. 

The story of Eve's temptation raises many questions which have troubled students in every age-among them the question why this particular sequence of events and why it was Eve who tempted Adam.

One of the most significant explanations turns upon a peculiarity of this first human generation which was afterward rectified. 

Adam, it seems, had been commanded directly by God, while Eve received the commandment only through Adam. 

From this circumstance, a far-reaching conclusion can be drawn: 

Obedience to the divine imperative, whether negative or positive, must be based upon a direct personal relationship. 

When, in the absence of such a relationship, obligation is mediated through some third party, failure is invited. 

The story of the theophany at Sinai, which in its inward form, describing the "creation" of Israel, recapitulates the story of Adam's creation, is nonetheless essentially a reversal of the expulsion from Eden. 

Here the commandments are given quite differently: the whole house of Israel, men and women alike, step forth to receive the Torah together. 

The Rishonim (medieval rabbinic commentators) even find hints that the Torah had to be accepted first by the women (the "house of Jacob") before it could be accepted by the men (the "house of Israel"). 

There is thus a rectification of the original pattern, based-at least in part-on the need for directness in a true relationship.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From Biblical Images by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz