Questions in the Bible

The First Ten Questions

Questions come from doubt. Doubt comes from sin. Sin comes from illusion. The Torah was given to save us from false illusions.

Illusion is in the mind. The primordial sin, a physical act, was perpetrated from hand to mouth (taking and eating the forbidden fruit). Doubt is in the heart. From the heart doubt enters our minds as thoughts, which then find expression in our mouths as questions.

But illusion itself begins with a question. The very first question that appears in the Torah is that of the primordial snake to Eve in the Garden of Eden (the beginning of the snake's cunning persuasion that Eve partake of the forbidden fruit):

"Verily, has God said that you shall not eat of all the trees of the garden?" ("אַף כִּי אָמַר אֱ-לֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן").

Not all of the commentaries read the words of the snake as a question; some interpret the words to be a statement. So these words themselves present a question, are they really a question that the snake is asking Eve or are they simply a statement reflecting the "belief-system" of the snake himself (to which Eve responds accordingly)? Are they a question or simply an illusion (the mind-set of the snake).

The primordial snake symbolizes our subconscious evil inclination. In Hebrew, the root "snake" (נ.ח.ש) means "to guess," an allusion to illusion.

The questionable word itself (whether a question or a statement), the first word spoken by the snake (אף, translated above as, "Verily, has…?"), as a noun means "anger." The snake speaks – projects his mentality – from anger. That's where he's coming from, just like the shepherds that Jacob met at the well, as we saw above.

Immediately after the sin (a few verses later), God asks Adam and Eve four explicit questions, one after the other, from which we learn that not only do our questions come from our doubts-sins-illusions, but when we sin God questions/interrogates us . Indeed, our sins give rise to a doubt in the mind of God so to speak whether it was worth it to create us in the way He did, with an evil inclination; He Himself experiences regret and doubt which then give rise to His questions to man (would only man respond properly that itself would atone for the sin):

"And God called unto Adam and said to him 'Where are you?' And Adam said, 'I heard Your voice in the garden and was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.' And He said, 'Who told you that you are naked?'; 'Have you eaten of the tree whereof I commanded you not to eat?… And God said to the woman, 'What is this that you have done?…".

After God accepted Abel's offering and not Cain's, Cain became angered (he was polluted with the venom of the snake that had cohabited with his mother Eve) and his countenance fell. God asked him (two questions, two "why's?"), "Why are you angry and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well you will be accepted…."

The next question in the Torah is that which God poses to Cain after killing his brother Abel: "Where is Abel your brother?"

Cain answers God with a question (in good Jewish tradition!): "I don't know, am I my brother's keeper?" This is the first question in the Torah to be asked by man (to God, coming from an existential state of doubt with regard to God's omnipresence and omniscience).

God responds to Cain with another question (a shortened version of the same question He had asked his mother; the first question God asked Cain, "Where…? is the same question that He first asked Adam), "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries to Me from the ground."

These then are the first ten questions in the Torah, which can be seen to correspond to the ten sefirot, all in the context of sin (which gives rise to doubt), beginning in the illusion of the snake. The Ten Commandments are the answers to these ten questions.

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1 comment

Silvana Origlia July 3, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I know our Sages seem to be sure of it, but I, nevertheless, am not perfectly sure: whether the first couple's and our own firm believe in the "primordial sin" – that they have really eaten from that very tree (from the ets hadaat tov vera) is not – maybe – an illusion created by the snake and our weakness towards "authorities" like that and a related tendency to forget certain logic principles, maybe to distance ourselves from the precise words/meanings of Torah(?) – in this very case. So how can we be sure that Chavah and her husband have really eaten from this very tree and not from the other or from any other tree in the middle of the garden?
Tahnk you for the attention!


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