“‘[Rabbi El’azar son of ha-Qappar said:] Envy, lust, and seeking honor, drive a man out of the world’ (M Avot 4:21).
The ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of all Worlds: What is a human creature that You should know him? (Psalms 144:3). The human is like unto breath (ibid., 4)—אֵין עַל עָפָר מָשְׁלוֹ (ein al afar mashlo), he has no match on earth [alt., his rule is not over dust] (Job 41:25).’ He said to them, ‘Just as you praise Me above, he shall proclaim My unity below. And moreover, are you able to stand up and give names to all the creatures?’ They stood up but could not. Immediately Adam stood up and gave names to all the creatures, as is said, And the human called names to all the cattle… (Genesis 2:20).
When the ministering angels saw, they said, ‘If we do not come upon Adam with counsel that he might offend before his Creator, we cannot overcome him.’ Now Samael was the great prince in Heaven—the living beings have four wings and the seraphs have six wings, while Samael has twelve wings. He took his band and descended and saw all the creatures which the blessed Holy One had created in His world, and he found among them none so skilled to do evil as the serpent, as is said, Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field that YHWH God had made (Genesis 3:1). And his look was like that of a camel, and he mounted and rode upon him. The Torah cried out, saying, ‘Samael, just now the world was created, is it the time to rebel against the Omnipresent? Is it the time to lift yourself on high? The Master of Worlds scoffs at the horse and its rider (Job 39:18).’
A parable: to what can the matter be compared? A man who has an evil spirit within him. And all the deeds that he does, from his own mind does he do them? And all of the words that he speaks, from his own mind does he speak? Is it not that he only does [them] from the mind of the evil spirit which is upon him? So [was it with] the serpent: all the deeds that he performed and all the words that he spoke, he only spoke and only did them by the will of Samael. And of him it says, in his evil the wicked is driven off (Proverbs 14:32).
A parable. To what can the matter be compared? To a king who married a woman and made her supreme over all that he had—precious stones and pearls. He said to her: All that I have shall be in your hands, except this cask, which is full of scorpions. A certain old man visited her; he asks, for instance, for vinegar. He said to her: Will you argue that he deals kindly with you? ‘He deals with me (thus): over all that he possesses has he made me supreme. Thus he said to her: Behold, all that I have is given into your hands except this cask, which is full of scorpions. [The old man] said to her: Is not all the jewelry of the king indeed in this cask? But he wishes to marry another woman, and to give them to her—the king is the first man [Adam], the woman is Eve, and the one who asked for vinegar is the serpent; of them is said, There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:13).
The serpent argued with himself, saying: If I go and speak to Adam, I know that he will not listen to me, for a man is always hard, as is said, [the woman had a good mind and lovely looks,] but the man was hard and evil in deeds (1 Samuel 25:3) [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 17:8]; and, look, I will speak to Eve, for I know that she will listen to me; for women listen to all creatures, as is said, [The foolish woman bustles about.] Gullibility!—and she knows nothing of it (Proverbs 9:13). The serpent went and spoke to the woman: Is it [true that] you also have been commanded concerning the fruit of the tree? She said: Yes, as is said, [“From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat,] but from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden [Elohim has said, ‘You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die’”] (Genesis 3:3). And when the serpent heard the words of Eve, he found an opening through which he could enter, so he said to her: This command is nothing else except the evil eye, for in the hour when you eat, you will be like אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), gods—a Creator. Just as He creates worlds and destroys worlds, so will you be able to create worlds and to destroy worlds. Just as He kills and brings to life, so also will you be able to kill and to bring to life, as is said, For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened [and you will become as gods knowing good and evil] (ibid., 5).
The serpent went and touched the tree, which commenced to cry out, saying: Wicked One! do not touch me! as it is said, Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. [They were toppled and could not rise] (Ps. 36:11–13). The serpent went and said to the woman: Behold, I touched it, but I did not die; you too may touch it, and you will not die. The woman went and touched the tree, and she saw the angel of death coming towards her; she said: Woe is me! I will die now, and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam, but behold I will cause him to eat with me; if we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live. And she took of the fruits of the tree, and ate, and also gave to her husband, so that he should eat with her, as is said, “and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, [and he ate] (Genesis 3:6). When Adam had eaten of the fruit of the tree, he saw that he was naked, and his eyes were opened, and his teeth were blunted. He said to her: What is this that you have given me to eat, that my eyes should be opened and my teeth blunted? Just as my teeth were blunted, so shall the teeth of all generations be blunted [cf. Jeremiah 31:29: The fathers ate unripe fruit and the sons’ teeth were blunted]….
He sat in judgment and He judged with judgment. He said to him: Why did you flee before Me? He answered Him: I heard Your sound and my bones trembled,’ as is said, I heard Your sound in the garden and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid (Genesis 3:10).
What was the garment of the first man? A skin of nail and a cloud of glory covered him. But when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped off him and he saw himself naked, and the cloud of glory departed from him, as is said, And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? From the tree I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?’ (ibid., 11). Man said before the blessed Holy One: Master of all Worlds! When I was alone, I did not offend against You. But the woman whom You have brought to me enticed me away from Your words, as is said, The woman whom you gave by me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (ibid., 12).
The blessed Holy One called to Eve, and said to her: Was it not enough for you that you yourself offended? But [also] that you should make Adam offend? She said before Him: Master of all Worlds! The serpent enticed my mind to offend before You, as is said, The serpent beguiled me and I ate (ibid., 13).
He brought the three of them and passed sentence of judgment upon them, consisting of nine curses and death. He cast down Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens, and cut off the feet of the serpent. And He cursed him more than all living beasts and all cattle, and decreed that he should shed his skin and suffer pain once in seven years in great pain, and cursed him that he should drag himself by his belly, and his food is turned in his innards into dust and viper’s bile (Job 20:14), and death is in his mouth, and He put hatred between him and the children of the woman, so that they should bruise his head, and after all these death.
He gave the woman nine curses and death [see BT Eruvin 100b]: the afflictions arising from menstruation and the tokens of virginity; the affliction of conception in the womb; and the affliction of childbirth; and the affliction of bringing up children; and her head is covered like a mourner, and it is not shaved except on account of immorality, and her ear is pierced like perpetual slaves; and like a slavegirl she waits upon her husband; and she is not believed in [a matter of] testimony; and after all these death [see BT Sotah 12a].
He extended retribution to Adam [as to a part of the] nine curses and death. He reduced his power, and He reduced his stature because of the impurity connected with issues and with pollution; as well as the [ritual] impurity arising from sexual intercourse; he was to sow wheat and to reap thistles, and his food was to be the grass of the earth, like that of the beast; and [he was to earn] his bread in anxiety, and his food by the sweat [of his brow]; and after all these death.
He extended pardon to Adam [as to a part of the] nine curses and death. He reduced his power and He reduced his stature because of the impurity of issues and of pollution [see BT Sanhedrin 38b]; as well as the impurity arising from sexual intercourse; he was to sow wheat and to reap thistles, and his food was to be the grass of the earth, like that of the beast; and [he was to earn] his bread in anxiety, and his food by the sweat [of his brow]; and after all these: death. If Adam offended, what was the offence of the earth, that it should be cursed? Because it did not speak against the [evil] deed [see Targum Yerushalmi (fag.) on Genesis 3:17], therefore it was cursed; for in the hour when the sons of man miss the mark in graver transgressions He sends a plague to the sons of man; and in the hour when the sons of man miss the mark in less vital transgressions, He smites the fruits of the earth, because of [the offenses of] the sons of man, as is said, Cursed be the soil for your sake, [with pangs shall you eat from it all the days of your life] (ibid., 17)” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13–14).
“נִשְׁמַת נְקֵבָה (Nishmat neqevah), female inspiration, is from the Female, and נִשְׁמַת זָכָר (nishmat zakhar), male inspiration, is from the Male. This is the reason the serpent went after Eve [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 20:11]. He said, ‘Her soul comes from the north, and so I will soon seduce her.’ And how did he seduce her? By mounting her.
His disciples asked: Tell us how this happened? He replied: The wicked Samael conspired with the entire army on high against his Master, since the blessed Holy One said To hold sway over the fish of the sea and the winged creature of the heavens (Genesis 1:26) [cf. Deuteronomy 14:20]. He said: How can we cause him to offend and be driven from before His presence? He descended with all his army, and sought a suitable companion on earth. At last he found the serpent, which looked like a camel, and he rode on him [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 19:1; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 13; Zohar 1:228a]. He then went to the woman, saying to her: Though Elohim said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden… (ibid. 3:1)—however, I will seek more, I will add in order that she detract. She replied: From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat (ibid., 2)—He did not prevent us, except for the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden Elohim has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it lest you die” (ibid., 2–3). She added two things: the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden—He only said, from the tree (ibid. 2:17); and you shall not touch it, lest you die. What did Samael do? He went and touched the tree. The tree cried out, saying, “Wicked one! Do not touch me!” Therefore, it is written: Let no haughty foot overtake me, nor the hand of the wicked repel me. There did the doers of mischief fall. They were toppled and could not rise (Psalms 36:12–13).
He then said to the woman: See, I touched the tree and did not die. You too can touch and not die. The woman went and touched the tree. She saw the Angel of Death approaching her and said: ‘Oy! Now I will die and the blessed Holy One will make another woman and give her to Adam! I will therefore cause him to eat with me. If we die, we will both die, and if we live, we will both live. She took the fruit of the tree and ate it, and she also gave to her husband. Their eyes opened, their teeth were blunted (Jeremiah 31:29). He said: What is this that you have given me to eat? Just as my teeth were blunted, so will the teeth of all generations be blunted. He sat in true judgment, as is written, For You upheld my justice, my right, You sat on the throne of the righteous judge (Psalms 9:5). He called to Adam, saying: Why do you hide from Me? He replied: I heard Your sound in the garden (Genesis 3:10). I heard Your sound in the garden—and my bones trembled; And I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid. I was naked—of works; I was naked—of mitsvot; and I was naked—of actions. Therefore, it is written: and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid.
What was Adam’s clothing? A skin of nail. However, when he ate of the fruits of the tree, his skin of nail was stripped from him and he saw himself naked, as is written, Who told you that you were naked? (ibid., 11). Adam said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: When I was alone did I offend You? But the woman whom You gave me, she drove me away from Your words, as is written, The woman whom You gave me, [she gave me from the tree, and I ate] (ibid., 12). The blessed Holy One said to her: Was it not enough for you to offend, but you also caused Adam to offend? She said before Him: Master of the World: The serpent [beguiled me so] that I offend You. He summoned all three of them and sentenced nine curses upon them and death, and cast down the wicked Samael and his band from their holy place in the heavens. He severed the serpent’s feet and cursed him more than any living creature, more than any beast, and decreed that he be stripped of his skin every seven years, in great pain [see BT Bekhorot 8a].
Therefore, Let me hear gladness and joy, [let the bones that You crushed exult] (Psalms 51:10)” (Bahir §§199–200).
“The letter מ (mem) was the original sign for Adam, establishing death upon the world, because this letter was flying over Adam’s head when, as is written: She took מִפִּרְיוֹ (mi-piryo), of its fruit (Genesis 3:6)—מ פִּרְיוֹ (mem, piryo)—and it was waiting for ו ת (vav, tav). When, as is written, וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּתֵּן (va-tokhal va-titten), and she ate, and she gave, וַתִּפָּקַחְנָה (va-tippaqaḥnah), And [the eyes of the two] were opened (ibid., 6–7), then מָוֶת (mavet), death, was established upon the world” (Zohar 3:237a, cf. ibid. 1:12b).
“Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘A decree was ordained beforehand that Adam should die since he was taken from the ground. As implied by what is written: on the day you eat from it [you will surely die] (Genesis 2:17)—teaching that had he not sinned, he would have had a long life [cf. BT Shabbat 55a–b]. As soon as he sinned, the punishment was that his days be shortened—and that he die on that very day. After he repented, the blessed Holy One granted him His day—which is one thousand years [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 8:2].
This proves that the decree that he die was prior. For were it not so, when he repented He should have rescinded the decree!
Rabbi Shim’on explained, ‘He repented and He rescinded the decree ordained for him—on the day you eat from it (ibid.); He lengthened his days, granting him His day” (Zohar Ḥadash 18c).