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Home » Bereishit Parshah

Bereishit: The Serpent Within

Submitted by on October 12, 2006 – 4:29 amNo Comment | 2,360 views

Evil Inclination

In this week’s Parsha we read of the dialogue between Eve and the serpent. Jewish sources tell us that the serpent’s spirit is the archetypal Yetzer Hara, evil inclination, that exists within every Jew. It therefore follows that an analysis of the serpent’s words will familiarize us with our own Yetzer’s tactics.

Exaggeration

The serpent’s first tactic was to exaggerate the extent of the prohibition. G-d instructed Adam and Eve to avoid the fruit of one tree yet the serpent insisted that the prohibition applied to all trees. The serpent sought to present the prohibition in dramatic absolute tones. By painting it with the brush of fantastic absolutism he sought to heap upon Eve a crushing weight of inevitability. One cannot possibly survive without food, surely G-d could not have meant for us to starve. It would be ridiculous to consider this commandment in realistic terms.
His tactic failed because Eve had taken the time to educate herself in advance of the conversation and as a result was well-informed. “No, ‘said Eve’, the prohibition extends only to one particular tree”. With her reply she informed the serpent that she was immune to this plan of attack.

Skepticism

Without missing a beat the sly serpent changed course. “My dear, ‘he now said to Eve’, are you truly worried that eating the fruit would bring about your demise? What a ludicrous contention!” With this reply he sought to inject a touch of skepticism. This was not a reasoned argument, but a frontal assault on the commandment.
The serpent was not satisfied. Close scrutiny of the text will reveal that Eve first ate from the bark of the tree before she actually tried the fruit itself, thus betraying yet one more tactic of the serpent. “Try the bark, ‘he said’, if nothing happens to you then you will know that the tree is innocent.” So saying, the serpent sampled a chunk of bark himself and did in fact succeed in coercing Eve. the serpent within - innerstreamThink of it, Eve, the mother of all life, the handiwork of G-d, the knowledgeable, educated woman, fell prey to the poison of skepticism.

If Not Me Than Who

We would do well to learn our lesson and recognize the serpent when he next comes along. Let us fortify ourselves with education so that we have ready responses to his false arguments. Beyond that he will appeal to our vanity and unerringly zero in upon our individual weaknesses. Let us steel ourselves against his wiles and gird ourselves with resolute commitment. Above all, let us now consider ourselves forewarned.