For some this may seem an odd time to talk about this topic. We are starting the head of the year 5782 with Rosh HaShanah just a few hours away. But, since this holiday marks the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Chavah (Eve), the first homosapien sapien man and woman, it does seem appropriate to tread down this path.
In Genesis, the first of the books in the Tanakh and the opening for introducing HaShem and His creation in the Torah we find this interesting passage found in Genesis 2:17. HaShem is instructing Adam that he may eat of every tree of the garden, including the Tree of Life. All except one — the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad. In other words, the Tree that would open up humanity’s mind and thoughts to actions that will run contrary to the will of his Creator in favor of his own ideas, thoughts and actions without counsel with his Creator. Adam is told that on the day he eats of it he will die. The hebrew is specific in one sense — he shall die — but vague as to when, how, where, why and what exactly is death since up until that time death was not an experience familiar to Adam.
אסור לך לאכול ממנו כי ברגע שאתה אוכל ממנו תמות
Was HaShem speaking of physical death, emotional death, mental death or spiritual death. I’m not sure since the text isn’t clear and the type of death is not fully explained to Adam or us.
I do however, from the contextual evidence and how the story begins to unfold from the moment that Adam and Chavah chose to eat of that Tree of Knowledge that this death was not something as simple as a physical or even spiritual death.
We are never told are informed in the Torah if Adam would have never experienced a physical death before that time of his eating the fruit of this Tree. Perhaps he would have lived for a very, very long time in his physical frame before eventually having the physical body return to the dust from which it came. Longevity may have been his normal outcome with an eventual death. We do know he lived 930 Earth years after he ate and then his body died. But, did his spirit and soul die as well? We know from the text that he was a special creation in the image and likeness of HaShem, Who is Spirit. When HaShem breathed into the nostrils of Adam’s physical body he became a living soul. In other words he, like his Maker became an eternal living spiritual soul-being not capable of dying. The only thing that could die was his physical, earthbound body. We also now know from science, physics and quantum mechanics that nothing is ever fully destroyed or dies. It changes. Since ultimately all things came from the Eternal Spirit we call G-d it is therefore composed of the Energy - or Spirit and therefore cannot truly die in the literal sense — it is only changed from one frequency of energy to some other frequency of energy.
So, that again begs the question: What died on the day that Adam and Chavah ate from the Tree of Knowledge or what I like to term the Tree of Conscience, which is a knowledge of good and evil?
We know from the context of the text that they had not yet eaten from the Tree of Life. First we have to understand that the Tree of Life would not have given them eternal spiritual-soul life because they already possessed that the moment HaShem breathed His very Life-force-Spirit into them and all that would proceed from their loins right down to us. Life cannot die because Life is life. The only life the Tree of Life would have imparted to the couple and all their future offspring would have been eternal physical life with no chance of ever experiencing physical decay.
Once they ate of the Tree of Conscience an eternal physical life would have been disastrous for them and the entire human race. The atrocities and damning conscience gained from eating the forbidden fruit digging and burrowing deeper into the hearts and minds of human beings for all eternity would be enough to cause HaShem’s pinnacle of creation - Humankind - to go literally insane with guilt and emotional pain with no escape since nobody could ever die. We already witness the insanity it can bring into our lives in just the short number of years we inhabit these clay pots. Imagine never physically dying and experiencing that madness forever.
So again, that brings us back to the inquiry: What died in the Garden of Eden?
Up until the time of Adam and Chavah’s disobedience HaShem would visit and converse with them face to face. They would walk together in the cool of the garden talking, laughing and sharing things together without pretense, in pure clarity with both spiritual and physical eyes wide open. However, after their act of defiance HaShem was forced to withdraw His open presence from them and go into hiding, so to speak. There was no longer that wonderful one-on-one open relationship between Creator and creation, between Father and child, between Mentor and prodigy and Friend to friend. That died on that day.
HaShem, however, did not give up on His crown of creation. He has spent all these millennia since that event, using every method short of face-to-face to draw his creation back to him and to renew it one day in the Olam HaBa to that beautiful relationship that was lost in Gan Eden.
He has given us His Torah as a guide to that path and will one day give us His Mashiach to lead the way to that promised time of renewal and redemption. May Adonai Eloheynu bless you all.