As this is my final week presenting here, I would like to return to our starting point, namely the creation of man and the beginning of all human relationships.
Chapter 3 of the Book of BeReishit records how Adam and Eve went against God’s instructions and ate from the forbidden fruit. They are both punished, along with the snake and the land itself. They are banished from the Garden of Eden and sent to sit just outside of the Garden within view of the paradise that they had and lost. If this was not enough, the entrance to the Garden was guarded by two cherubs holding fiery swords.
We would assume that man and his wife would be despondent and depressed, that they would forever mourn what they could have had but rejected for a moment of culinary pleasure, that this would determine their behavior and maybe the behavior of all of their descendants.
However, the very next verse presents a distinctly different story; and Adam knew Eve his wife and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain, and she said “I, man, have acquired God.” (BeReishit 4:1)
The last phrase is somewhat difficult to translate and to explain: what does Eve want to express after the birth of her first child? Rashi explains that in this act of procreating and creating life Adam and Eve believe they have become partners with God and in some sense god-like, exactly as the snake promised would happen if they ate the fruit. Despite their ejection from the Garden of Eden, they still became divine and were able to generate and produce life.
I would like to offer an alternative explanation based on the opening words of the sentence. Adam knew Eve is usually understood as a euphemism for having sexual relations. However, the word “yada”, “he knew” means more than just having a physical relationship as can be seen from another verse. When the Torah describes the terrible hardship that the Jewish people endured in Egypt under their Egyptian slave masters it tells us how the people suffered. “In those many days, the king of Egypt died and the children of Israel moaned due to the work and they cried and their pleas ascended to God from the work. God heard their cries and God remember His covenant, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the children of Israel and God knew.” (Shemot 2:23-25) The same word “vayeda” is used to describe God’s reaction to the suffering of His children, the Jewish people. Knowing is more than just having a relationship and must be more than just engaging in sexual activity, since the word cannot possibly be translated that way in this verse dealing with God and the children of Israel. Rather, knowing implies a sense of listening, of close feeling, of feeling the other’s pain and discomfort, in other words knowing means empathy. When God heard their cry, His heart went out to them. He felt their pain. We note that it does not say in the verse that they cried to God, because they did not need to. It was enough that they cried and God could not ignore their cry.
Therefore, knowing means to be connected in a deep sense to the other person, to hear what they say, to empathize. This feeling made man and his wife like God. This brought them closely together and was an expression of their Divine image. They both understood the other’s pain at the ejection from the Garden and without words were able to comfort each other. I, man, have acquired God. I express my godliness by being deeply connected with another human being, especially by developing the relationship between husband and wife. So too, it is only when this exists that life can be formed and man and woman become partners with God.