(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 23:19:46 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: The Serpent

QUESTION:  In Volume 5 Number 40 it is asked what the Serpent was trying to
do in Genesis 3

There are many answers to this question some of
them quite involved philosophically.  I shall use try to briefly present
the grammatical-philosophical-social approach of Rashi. This requires 4 steps.

In Step 1 we observe that Gen 4:1 explicitly says "And Adam HAD ALREADY
KNOWN HIS WIFE (before the expulsion from Gan Eden)". In other words the
proper sequence is
 (a) Adam was lonely (Gen 2:18)
 (b) God makes him a wife
 (c) Adam and Eve become aware of their need for oneness(Gen02:24)
 (d) they are naked and have children (Gen 2:25 and Gen 4:1).
 (e) the snake story(Gen Chapter 3).
From the verse Gen4:1 "And Adam HAD KNOWN his wife" we infer that
event (d), Adam and Eve having children, HAD HAPPENED before the
expulsion from Eden.In other words, Gen4:1 (the birth of Kain
and Hebel) happened BEFORE the snake story (Gen3)!

Thus--(e) the snake story---is
stated in Chapter 3 BEFORE the next to last event ((d) Gen 4:1--the birth of
Kayin). Why is the snake story stated out of sequence?

In Step 2 Rashi simply explains that the STORY of the SNAKE is placed out
of sequence in order to link the STORY of the SNAKE in Chapter 3 to the
snakes seeing Adam and Eve naked (At the end of Chapter 2).  In other words
the snake did what it did because it saw Eve naked. The Snake wanted to
marry Eve (because he saw her naked) and plotted to have Adam eat the apple
so he would die and Marry Eve.

In step 3 we try to properly appreciate Rashi by looking at many other
similar events in the Bible and Human History. For example (a) In Gen 12:11
Rashi says the EXACT same thing---the Egyptians (symbolized by the snake)
wanted to kill Abraham to marry Sarah; (b)A similar theme of killing
Abraham for his wife is expressed in Gen 20:11; (c) An identical theme is
expressed in Gen 26:7; (d) a similar (but not identical) theme is expressed
in Gen 34---Dinah is raped by Schem (symbolizing the snake) and her
brothers have to destroy a city in self defense; (e) Thruought the middle
ages similar themes occured...Jews lived among Gentiles, some of whom had
no shame about their physical emotions and therefore Jews worried about
what would happen to their daughters and sisters.

Thus in step 3 we no longer see Rashi as describing an isolated incident...
indeed Rashi is describing all of human history

In step 4 we read the Chumash and find out how to avoid the confrontation
with the snake. Three solutions are suggested(a) Chava is advised to care
for children (Gen 3:16--Gmlth Chsd);(b) Adam is advised to have an
occupation to keep his mind off things (Gen 3:17) (Cf Rav Hirsch's motto--
Torah with an occupation saves from sin);(c) It is clear from Gen 3:1-6
that Chava made a mistake speaking excessively to the snake---the
alternative to speaking with the snake is occupation with Torah (explicitly
contrasted in Ps 1:1).

In summary--Gen Chapter 3 teaches us that 1)  Chesed(Caring), 2)  learning Torah,
3) Avoiding chatter with evil, & 4) having an occupation save one from sin.

Hope this brief introduction sheds some light on this difficult story.

Russell Jay Hendel; Moderator Rashi Is Simple