The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The importance of making distinctions

It is well known that the Snake gets Chavah (Eve) and Adam into trouble by playing on the inappropriate application of a gezerah (fence) around a mitzvah. Adam was commanded not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Chavah tells the Snake that G-d had commanded them not to eat or touch The Tree on pain of death. So the Snake pushes her against the tree and, when she doesn't instantly drop dead, convinces her that eating the fruit is equally safe. At which point she gets Adam to eat too.

Now it is a known Rabbinic activity to enact precautionary prohibitions to keep us distant from sin. Many of the prohibited activities of Shabbos, for example, are of just this sort. Wasn't Adam doing exactly the same thing in adding the prohibition on touching the tree? But look again at what Chavah tells the Snake: "G-d said not to eat from or touch the tree." By attributing to G-d Adam's fence, Chavah is set up for trouble.

From this we learn that it is important to keep track of who prohibits what, and for what reason, lest a rabbinic instruction or a community standard be elevated to the level of a divine commandment, punishable by exclusion.

1 Comments:

Blogger Rebeljew said...

You mean waving a chicken over your head is not d'oraysa

12:54 PM, October 31, 2005  

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