I don't quite remember when it began, but at some point our two and a half year old began talking and having conversations with us. And now today, Gabby has conversations, and talks about all manner of things. And in turn we have to be very careful to explain things in a way that she can understand. Recently, when we were driving somewhere, I said I'm going to drop you off. And her response was "Don't drop me." Of course I had to explain afterwards that I didn't mean that I would literally drop her but that it was just a figure of speech. It was hard to explain. And what I learned for the future is that I have to be much more specific and age appropriate when talking to her.
In this week's Torah portion of Bereishit, at the very beginning of our story, one might wonder whether if God had been a little more specific things might have been a little easier.
God speaks to Adam in the Garden of Eden and says to him: "Of every tree of the garden you're free to eat, but as for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and bad you must not eat of it, for as soon as you eat it you shall die." That's the instruction.
The problem is that while God says this to Adam, God doesn't say this to Eve and somewhere along the line between Adam and Eve things appear to have got a little confused. When the serpent appears to Eve it says "Did God really say you shall not eat of any tree of the garden." Eve replies: "We may eat of the fruits of the other trees of the garden, it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said You shall not eat if it or touch it, lest you die." And in this way Eve adds another element; adding touching to the prohibitions included in this passage.
The serpent then tells her that she won't die, and that rather her eyes will be open. We might imagine that she touched it and didn't die, so then she proceeded to eat from the tree and ultimately share it with Adam. Eve dds to the original command and in doing so she creates a stumbling block for herself and for Adam over which they ultimately trip. We might wonder if the instruction had been more specific saying you can't eat from it but if you touch it that's fine, or even if God had simply spoken to Eve as well so that she knew what had originally been said.
But somewhere along the line the commandment and words got muddled, and in this confusion over what was actually prohibited Eve ultimately ate from this tree, and we must learn the lessons from this incident. It's important we're clear and use our words carefully, because we never know how they're going to be understood or unfortunately all too often misunderstood.