Haman and the Eitz Hadaas

Hamin ha’eitz asher tzivisicha l’vilti achol mimenu achalta (Bereishis 3:11)

The Gemara (Chullin 139b) teaches that the verse in which Hashem asks Adam, “Hamin ha’eitz” — From the tree (that I prohibited to you, have you eaten?) — contains an allusion to Haman. On a basic level this is a play on words. Since the Torah is not written with vowels, the word “hamin” can also be pronounced “Haman.” However, if the Torah chose to hint to Haman here, there must be a more profound connection between his errors and Adam’s sin of eating from the forbidden fruit.

The Torah records (1:27) that Adam and Chava were created in Hashem’s image, and Chazal teach (Avos D’Rabi Nosson 1:8) that they enjoyed great honor in Gan Eden, as heavenly angels prepared food and drink for them. Hashem told them that the entire world was theirs, with one exception: They were forbidden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Although one would think that they could overlook one item being withheld from them in light of everything else they had, the serpent succeeded in persuading them to sin by partaking of the one food they were commanded not to eat.

Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, points out that this sounds remarkably similar to Haman. At the same time that he arrogantly boasted of his tremendous wealth and prestige, he lamented (Megillas Esther 5:13) that it was all meaningless to him as long as one old Jew named Mordechai refused to acknowledge his greatness by bowing to him. Haman is alluded to in the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge because just as the serpent convinced Adam and Chava to focus on the one item that was denied to them, so too Haman was unable to appreciate his good fortune due to his obsession with the one thing he did not have.

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 14:12) points out another fascinating parallel between the events of Parashas Bereishis and those of Megillas Esther: There are 70 verses from the beginning of Sefer Bereishis until the curse of the serpent. Similarly, there are also 70 verses from Achashverosh’s promotion of Haman (3:1) until Haman’s death (7:10). What is the significance of this parallel?

The Maharal explains that Yaakov descended to Egypt with 70 people (Bereishis 46:27), who formed the foundation of the Jewish nation and correspond to the 70 nations of the world.

The mission of the Jewish people is to keep their core of 70 holy and separate from the 70 nations of the world, and if they do that, they will prevail. Unfortunately, at the end of their 70 years of exile in Babylon, the Jews sinned by attending Achashverosh’s party at which people were drinking yayin (wine), which has a numerical value of 70. Because they sinned by knocking down the barriers between themselves and the non-Jews, they were punished with the resurrection of the evil of the primordial serpent for an additional 70 verses in the form of the menacing ascent of Haman.

Q: On what day of Creation were kangaroos created?

A: Although most people will answer that kangaroos, along with other animals, were created on the sixth day (1:24-25), the Ichud b’Chidud points out that Rashi writes (1:14) that the celestial lights were created on the first day and, on the fourth day, Hashem commanded them to take their places in the heavens. Rashi adds that similarly, all products of the heavens and the earth — including animals — were formed on the first day and were subsequently placed in the world on the day designated for each. Accordingly, kangaroos were formed on the first day.

Q: One of Chava’s punishments for eating from the forbidden fruit was (Bereishis 3:16) that “He will rule over you.” What widespread practice that women still do today has its roots in this curse?

A: The Pirkei d’Rabi Eliezer teaches that the practice of women to pierce their ears is a fulfillment of Chava’s curse and is intended to demonstrate their submissiveness to their husbands, just like a servant who refuses to go free has his ear pierced as a show of servitude to his master (Shemos 21:5-6).

Q: Who was the first person in history born with separated, distinct fingers?

A: When Noach was born, the Torah records (5:29) that his father, Lemech, remarked, “This one will bring us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands from the ground.” The Panei’ach Raza cites a Midrash that says that until Noach was born, people’s hands were like mittens, and he was the first baby born with separated individual fingers. When his father saw this, he immediately recognized that this would enable him to manipulate farming tools with ease, without suffering the same pain in his hands that others endured due to their lack of distinct fingers.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.