Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Adding is Subtracting

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

But of the fruit of the Tree that is in the middle of the garden, the Almighty says, “Do not eat it, and do not [even] touch it, lest you die.” (Bereshith 3:3)

Adam added to God’s command not to eat from the tree when he told Chava that she may not even touch it. As a result, when the snake pushed Chava into the Tree of Knowledge and she saw that she did not die, she was enticed to eat of its fruit as well.1 Adam’s action set a precedent for future generations: anyone who adds to the truth of Torah will eventually come to subtract from it.2

The principal danger in adding to the words of the Torah is that human words may be in error. If people mistakenly think that words which someone has added are in fact part of the Torah, and those words are proven false, they will assume that the Divine part of the Torah is false as well. Adam said that something which God had permitted (i.e., touching the tree) was forbidden by God, and not just a fence to protect the law. It was wrong of him to add to the Torah.3 (When the Sages incorporate their own enactments into halachah, on the other hand, they expressly state that they are coming only to safeguard Torah law, not to add to it.)

Chava’s words also did not conform to what she was told. While Adam was guilty of adding to God’s words, Chava was guilty of subtracting from them. God had told Adam that eating from the Tree of Knowledge would surely cause death. Chava told the snake that she could not eat from the Tree lest she die. Her choice of words left some room for doubt whether or not she would actually die, and so the snake, capitalizing on Eve’s doubt, was able to convince her that the Almighty had “lied,” and that she would not die if she were to eat from the Tree.4

It is clear that changing the Torah can have very harmful repercussions, but what about simple exaggerations that work their way into normal conversations? May one add a few details to a story, for example, to make it more exciting? Although such “lies” may do no harm, exaggerating is a sign that one entertains a love for sheker. Cultivating this trait can accustom one to lying, and can lead one to other serious offenses such as bearing false testimony.5


1. Rashi on Bereshith 3:3.

2. Sanhedrin 29a.

3. Minchath Chinuch, Mitzvath Bal Tosif.

4. Seforno on Bereshith 3:3.

5. Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:181.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 

ARTICLES ON KI SAVO AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

Get the Merchandise
Rabbi Label Lam - 5767

There is a Treasure
Rabbi Label Lam - 5766

Past, Present, and Future
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5763

> Month of Elul: The Power of Repentance
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Parashas Ki Savo
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5768

Love Out of Fear
Shlomo Katz - 5760

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Open Your Eyes
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Too Much
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5763

A Welcome Houseguest
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

ArtScroll

We Will Survive
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

The Depth of the Hidden Heights
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Elul: A Month of Preparation
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

"Do you learn?" "Whenever I have time"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5770

First in the Mind!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

Recognition of Good
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

Sound of the Unheard Shofar
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information