Rabbi Tzvi Abrahams
Bereishit: Naked before Hashem ~ Tzvi Abrahams
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Naked before Hashem
עַרָמָה: a pile of grains
וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וְלֹא יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ And the two of them were naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed. וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה And the snake was cunning, more than all the other animals of the field.
The Gemara in Chullin uses the words עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת/naked in da’as in comparing man to an animal, to describe someone who is wise in understanding like Adam HaRishon yet conducts himself humbly like an animal.
One can also translate עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת as being naked in knowledge, just like an animal. Animals are not only naked in respect to clothing, but also in that they also have no da’as.
Let us now try and explain the connection between the cunningness of the snake with respect to the nakedness of man.
Before man ate from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, he stood naked before Hashem without feeling ashamed. Now, according to the understanding of Rashi on the above-quoted Gemara in Chullin connecting the wordעַרוּמִים /naked to Adam HaRishon, we know that he was not just naked in respect to clothing but that he was also naked in דַעַת/knowledge. Only after eating from the עֵץ הַדַעַת/the Tree of Knowledge did he have the דַעַת/knowledge to be aware that he was naked without clothing.
So what happened before and after he ate from the Tree of Knowledge?
When we say an animal is naked in דַעַת, we mean to say that he has no self-awareness. An animal does not have an ego, a self-identity; it just acts on instinct without thinking about itself. Man, on the other hand, is aware of himself; he has an ego. Yet before he ate from the tree, man was naked in דַעַת, meaning he was humble, he did not have an ego, he was not self-aware to the point of being concerned about his own needs — he stood naked before Hashem. There was very little to separate him from Hashem. Only after he ate from the עֵץ הַדַעַת/Tree of Knowledge did he have דַעַת, i.e., knowledge of the yetzer hara that entered into his very being. Now he became self-aware and self-centered, now he had an ego, now he was very much separated from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, now that he had דַעַת.
וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם/and the snake was cunning. Unlike Adam HaRishon, who used his דַעַת to make himself lowly (conducting himself lowly like a בְּהֵמָה), the נָחָשׁ/snake used his דַעַת to rise above מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה/ all the animals in the field. He used עַרָמָה/cunning to trick man into thinking he was doing a good thing. In a way, the נָחָשׁ/snake was stripping man of his knowledge, using עַרָמָה/cunning to cause man to be עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת and stripping man of his innocence. Once divested of his דַעַת, man was open to sin, and the snake entered inside of him.
What is the clothing of the soul but our ma’asim tovim/good deeds and our good middos? Before the sin with the עֵץ הַדַעַת/Tree of Knowledge, man only had good middos, there was no evil inside of him. The light of Hashem shone right through him, clothing him in the ohr/light of Hashem. The nachash stripped man of his translucent clothes — which represented his good middos — and replaced them with physical, more gashmiyus clothing — representing the bad middos — causing the light of his neshamah to be clouded and covered up instead with skin. The clothing of the skin was ugly in comparison to its former brilliance, hence the word כְּעוּר/ugly, which is also the Hebrew word for “like skin.”
Middah k’neged middah/measure for measure, the snake is painfully stripped of its clothing every seven years. When it sheds its skin, an agonizing voice goes out from one end of the world to the other, yet the sound is not heard, a fitting reminder of that once heinous deed.
עַרָמָה: A Pile of Grains
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch compares עַרָמָה/a heap or pile of grain to cunningness. One who is cunning is clever in that he makes תַּחְבּוֹלֶת/calculated plans to ensnare his victims. תַּחְבּוֹלֶת is connected to the word חֶבֶל/rope, because just like a rope draws close what is far away, so too one who is a schemer draws one close to his trap. A rope is made up of many individual fibers that are wound together. Just like an individual thread has no power alone but when bound together to form a rope has power, so too an individual grain is of no consequence, yet when gathered together to form an עַרָמָה /pile has significance. Similarly, one who is עָרוּם/cunning weaves together a web of thoughts that has the power to entrap.
When it comes to the demise of the Egyptians in the Yam Suf, the Torah uses the word עַרָמָה, where they were drowned in heaps of water. Targum Onkelos translates the word as “with wisdom.” The wisdom was that it took careful planning by Hashem to get the Egyptians to the point where they willingly followed Bnei Yisrael into the sea. The Egyptians, having drowned the Jewish babies in the river, measure for measure were met with the same demise.
Rav Hirsch quotes the Radak as saying עַרוּם is connected to עֶרְיָה/bare, which is connected to עוֹר/skin, עֵר/awareness, andעִוֵר /blindness.
As we know, the job of the Samal, the Satan, is to blind us, to cover up our mind’s eye so that we can no longer see the truth.
The snake, having seen Adam and Chava engage in relations, desired to have relations with Chava. His plan was to seduce her; he opened her eyes to desiring the fruit, to be like G-d, knowing good and bad.
The Torah describes the intimate relationship between man and woman in terms of דַעַת/knowledge, as in וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ/and Adam knew Chava his wife.
Due to the sin, Adam lost his connection with Hashem to the point where Hashem said: “אַיֶכָה/Where are You?” Adam hid from Hashem due to shame, the shame of having lost his da’as, his intimacy with Hashem. Instead, he felt the distance, the awareness of his own nakedness, the need to cover up, to have לְבוּשׁ/clothing, from לֹא בּוּשׁ/to cover up his shame, and בֶּגֶד/garments due to בָּגַד/his betrayal.
In order to attain kaparah/atonement, it was necessary for the punishments to fit the crime, middah k’neged middah.
The snake tried to bring man down from his lofty height, so he too was cut down, and instead of being desirable (in that he desired Chava), he is detested, being an agent of death.
Instead of having relations to be fruitful, Chava had relations of pleasure with the snake — her desire leads her to great pain in childbirth. She also caused death in the world, which is why she bleeds every month and which is why she can sometimes die in childbirth. In the garden, man had all of his needs taken care of, to the point where bread literally grew from the trees. He was therefore free to pursue his ikar avodah/essential service of serving Hashem through toiling in the Torah. Instead, man was sent out from the Garden to sweat and work the land to earn his bread, his parnasah, which puts him in a constant battle (מִלְחֶמֶת הַתּוֹרָה) every day with his Torah learning and his ability to reconnect with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
עָרוּם רָאָה רָעָה (ויסתר) וְנִסְתָּר וּפְתָיִים עָבְרוּ וְנֶעֱנָשׁוּ The wise man sees what is bad and hides, the fools transgress and are punished.
By default, the eye is naked. The wise man sees what is bad and hides; he is able to see what is coming by stripping away the outer allure and revealing the naked truth. The fool, however, pulls the wool over his eyes and blinds himself from seeing.
We are trying to get to the point of Adam HaRishon before he sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad. In order to succeed, we need to use עַרָמָה/cunningness to outsmart the נָחָשׁ and play him at his own game — to bare naked his plans in order to see and get rid of the רַע/bad, the ego, and regain the דַעַת of intimacy, of being in a state of אֵין עוֹד מִלְבַדוֹ/there being nothing but Hashem. We have to be עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת/naked in da’as and be humble like the animals to the point where “I,” the ego, does not exist, by unpeeling the קְלִיפוֹת/peels, divesting our clothes, our shame, our betrayal, and exposing ourselves, our true selves, to the point where we can again stand naked before Hashem.
1 Bereishis 2:25.
2 Ibid., 3:1.
3 Chullin 5b; see Rashi.
4 Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 34.
5 Radak on Yechezkel 16:7.
6 Bereishis 4:1.
7 Shabbos 77b.
8 Ibid., 32a.
9 Mishlei 22:3.