Productive Punishment

The Torah teaches us about Eve’s sin in disregarding God’s order not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Eve was swayed by the Serpent and not only ate of the Tree herself but also fed it to Adam her husband. The punishment that ensued for both of them was expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Eve’s fate, “and for your husband shall be your desire” (Gen. 3:16) has been variously interpreted and generally as a punishment. Eve who took matters into her own hands and so to speak dominated over her husband will now be subservient to him.

There is also a subliminal reading which reads between the lines in this story and reveals a profound truth about God’s justice!

Yossi ben Yossi, the earliest of the known Poets of the Land of Israel (6th century or earlier) in his great liturgical composition Azkir Gevuroth (I shall mention God’s great feats) versifies the incident as follows:

“The Creator hastened the desire of His creation; and accustomed his helper (=Eve) to the [] of his desire”

God Who created mankind is concerned for the perpetuation of the species. He arouses in Adam the desire for procreation. He also arouses in Eve the desire to procreate with Adam.

Yossi’s interpretation of “and to your husband is your desire” is not predominantly a punishment but a remedy. His reading of the narrative has a different focus than the literal reading of the Scripture. While the Scripture stresses the aspect of Divine punishment, Yossi brings out the aspect of Divine concern.

The literal reading of the Scripture combined with Yossi’s interpretation of it portray God’s punishment not merely as a preventative measure or a form of retribution but as a broadly purposeful act.

Here God by means of his own actions teaches us the correct approach to punishment The method of punishment, whether in our Legal System or in disciplining our children must be corrective and productive.

 

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