Torah Fax

Friday, October 24, 2003 - 28 Tishrei, 5764

Torah Reading: Bereishit (Genesis 1:1 - 6:8)
Candle Lighting Time: 5:44 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:43 PM
We bless the Month of MarCheshvan

Evil Knowledge?

When Adam and Eve were confronted by G‑d for having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, the expression G‑d used was: "Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?" The Hebrew word that translates into "Have [you eaten] of" is "hamin." When written without vowels-as is the case with any kosher Torah scroll-the word "hamin" is written precisely the same as the word Haman, the wicked Persian Prime Minister whose plot to annihilate all the Jews gave us the holiday of Purim. The juxtaposition of the word hamin (read: Haman) to the word "tree" portends the way Haman would eventually hang on the tree upon which he planned to hang Mordechai.

This association between Haman and the Garden of Eden is introduced by the Talmud (Chullin 139b)  when it asks rhetorically: "Where is Haman hinted at in the Torah?" And it answers that it is derived from the above mentioned verse.

But how are these two disparate themes-G‑d's outrage with eating of the Tree of Knowledge and Haman-related? One explanation is that Haman is both an evil historical figure and an inner voice that comes to us and demands of us: "What have you done? Why have you gone in the wrong direction? Why have you misused your G‑d given talents? Why have you squandered an opportunity to do the right thing?"

When we see the Hamans of the world rear their ugly heads it is obvious that we must do whatever we can to fight that evil. However, it is also a time for us to look inward and ask of ourselves, "what is missing in our lives that we can correct?"

There is also a deeper and more mystical way of understanding the association between Haman and the Tree of Knowledge. The fact that Haman was enamored with the idea of hanging Mordechai on a tree; not just any tree, but a tree that stood 50 cubits high, suggests that Haman was into the symbolic nature of the tree.

There are two approaches to evil tyrants and their nefarious ways. There are those who are despicable low-lifes; they do not find a need to justify their actions, for their rule is the rule of the jungle. They trample everything that stands in their way and a human life has no more value to them than an annoying mosquito. There is, however, a second type of tyrant, one who seeks justification for his actions. Frequently, they will use the most sophisticated philosophical arguments to support their evil actions. They can even be formidable intellectuals.

By discovering Haman's name alluded to in the narrative concerning the Tree of Knowledge, our Sages sought to place Haman in the second category. Haman was a sophisticated spiritualist who built his evil ideology of genocide on the top of a tree. In Kabbalah the number fifty-the height of Haman's tree-is associated with the highest levels of understanding. In our own age, the accursed Nazis and communists used their philosophy to justify unprecedented and unspeakable cruelty and destruction.

This helps us understand exactly what the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge was all about. At first glance one is puzzled why the Tree of Knowledge was considered so evil. What can possibly be wrong with knowledge? However, it is not the knowledge itself that is evil, it is the attitude of arrogance that one acquires when their advanced knowledge is not prefaced by G‑dly foundations that put G‑d ahead of one's knowledge and desires.

According to the Midrash, had Adam waited a few hours until the onset of the Shabbat, he would have been permitted to partake of the "forbidden" fruit.  It was not the fruit that was evil. Nor was it the knowledge one received from the fruit. Rather it was the placement of this acquisition of knowledge ahead of the principles of G‑dly authority and commitment to eternal values. Glorifying one's own ideology is the first step down a slippery slope that leads to depravity and destruction.

The seven days of creation serve as a model for the seven millennia of creation. The first six millennia-which have basically ended-is when the world struggles with evil. By the seventh millennium, we will have dealt evil a fatal blow. Before that becomes a reality, one has to be vigilant about those whose ideology comes before (or replaces entirely) their reverence for G‑d. One must be wary of those whose morality is based on human ingenuity or on secular values.

Only by fusing knowledge with humility, can we benefit from the acquisition of knowledge that will ultimately lead to the Messianic age when, in Maimonides' words at the end of his Mishneh Torah: "there will be no famine nor war, no jealousy and rivalry, for good will flow in great abundance and all the delights will be as plentiful as dust. The entire world will be preoccupation with the knowledge of G‑d exclusively. Therefore, Israel will be great sages and will know the hidden matters, and will grasp the knowledge of their Creator to the full extent of humans capacity, as it is stated: 'the knowledge of G‑d shall fill the earth as the sea is covered with water.'" 

Moshiach Matters

Rashi begins his commentary on the Torah by saying that G‑d created the whole world and has the right to give any land to any nation. He chose to give Israel to the Jews. As time moves on, even the non-Jews will come to the realization that the entire Land of Israel belongs solely to the Jews. This will be totally obvious when Moshiach comes and the nations of the world will help the Jews settle Israel - and not, G‑d forbid, hinder them.

Moshiach - It's a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

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