The context is one of the best 


known stories of the bible. 


Together in the Garden of Eden, 


surrounded by the rich panoply of 




the first human couple have 


everything they could possibly 




except one thing, 


a tree from which they are 


forbidden to eat. 


Needless to say, 


that is the one thing they want. 


“Stolen waters taste sweet,” 


says the Book of Proverbs. 


They eat,


Their eyes are opened,


They lose their innocence,


For the first time they feel shame. 


When they hear 


“the voice of G-d” they try to hide, 


but they discover that G-d is 


someone from whom we cannot 




G-d asks them what they 


have done. 


Adam blames his wife. 


She blames the serpent. 


The result is: paradise lost.



The episode is rich in its 


but I want us to study one of its 

strangest features. 


The woman has been told that:

“with pain she will give birth to


Next, Adam is informed that he will 

face a life of painful labor. 


then follows a sequence of 

three verses which seem to have 

no connection with one another. 

Indeed, statements that does not 

correctly follow from the meaning 

of the previous statements.


“By the sweat of your brow,” 

G-d says to Adam, 

“you will eat your food until you

return to the ground, 

since from it you were taken; 

for dust you are and to dust you

will return.” 

Adam named his wife Eve, 

because she would become the 

mother of all life. 

The Lord G-d made garments of 

skin for Adam and his wife and 

clothed them.


The problems are obvious. 

• Adam has just blamed his wife 

for leading him into sin. 

• He has also been condemned to 


• Why, 

at just this point, 

does he turn to her and give her a 

new name? 


• Why, 

immediately afterward, 

as they are about to be exiled from 


does G-d perform an act of 

kindness to the couple,

giving dignity to the very symbol 

of their sin, the clothes with which 

they hide their shame? 

The mood seems to have changed 

for no reason. 

The bitter resentment of the 

previous verses suddenly 


and instead, 

between Adam and his wife, 

and between G-d and the couple 

there is a new tenderness. 

Rashi is so perplexed that he 

suggests that the middle verse is 

out of chronological sequence. 

It is the end, 

not of the story of the sin of eating

the forbidden fruit, 

but of the earlier scene in which

Adam gave names to the animals 

and while doing so found 

“no suitable companion.” 

As we will see, 

that is not the only way of 

interpreting it.

Stranger still is the interpretation

given by the first century sage 

Rabbi Meir to the phrase 

“garments of skin,” 

" bigdei ‘or "

Rabbi Meir reads the ayin of the 

second word as an aleph, 

" bigdei or "

and this interprets the phrase as 

“garments of light.” 

This is an almost mystical 

suggestion and a deeply intriguing 


Why not, 

when they were in paradise, 

but as they were leaving it

were the couple bathed with 

divine radiance, clothed in 

“garments of light”?


Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said, 

“It is impossible for there to be a

session in the house of study

without some new


In that spirit let us see whether we 

can find new meaning in this 


When he heard the words, 

“dust you are and to dust you

will return,” 

for the first time Adam became 

conscious of his mortality. 

The Torah is silent on what Adam’s 

thoughts were in the wake of this

discovery, but we can reconstruct 


Until then, death had not entered 

his consciousness, 

but now it did. 

What, if we are mortal, will live on? 

It was then that Adam 

remembered G-d’s words to the 


She would give birth to children 

in pain, to be sure, but she would 

bring new life into the world.

Suddenly Adam knew that even 

though we die, 

if we are privileged to have 


something of us will live on: 

• our genes, 

• our influence, 

• our example, 

• our ideals. 

That is our immortality

This was an idea that eventually 

shaped the character of the whole 

of Judaism in contradistinction to 

most other cultures in ancient and 

modern times. Judaism defeats 

mortality by engraving our ideals 

on the hearts of our children, 

and they on theirs, 

and so on to the end of time. 


Once Adam became aware of his 

mortality, he understood that 

without Eve, he could not have 


and children were his share in 


and their physical being, 

their “nakedness,” 

was not simply a source of shame. 

There is a spiritual dimension to 

the physical relationship 


husband and wife. 

The principle of divine creativity 

itself, namely that 

love creates life. 


That is when he turned to her and 

for the first time saw her as a 

person and gave her a personal 




meaning, “she who gives life.” 


Previously Adam had not given her

a name at all. 

He called her ishah, “woman,” 

he himself had not had a proper 

name until now either. 

He is simply called ha-adam, 

“the man” 

a word that appears 21 times 


Not until he gives on the woman a 

proper name does he acquire one

 himself, Adam.

With the appearance of proper 

names, the concept of person is 


The concepts of “name”

and “person” are intimately linked. 

G-d makes every human being in 

the same image, his image, and 

they are all different.”


The moment when Adam turned to 

his wife and gave her a proper 



was a turning point in the history 

of civilization. 

It was then that G-d robed the 

couple in garments of light.


Now we understand that 

extraordinary sequence of three 


Discovering his mortality, 

Adam knew that he could only live 

on through his children, 

born through an act of love. 

That was when he realised that 

immortality cannot be achieved by 

one alone, 

but only by the union of two. 

That is the profound message of 

the first three chapters of 


a story about 



and what it is to be a person. 

Judaism is the story of how the 

love we feel for another person 

leads to the love of G-d, and robes

 us in garments of light.



Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420