Bereishit-ReEi: Mitzvah 460 – Concept 40
“Do not say anything in defense of the Meisis – the missionary for idol-worship.” Rambam, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim – The Laws of Idolatry and Paganism. We find the first mention of this law in the Garden of Eden story:
“And God, the Lord, said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, accursed are you…” (Genesis 3:14) Rashi is bothered by the God not offering the serpent an opportunity to defend himself, as He did with Adam and Eve. “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” (Verse 11) God asked Eve, “What is this that you have done?” (Verse 13) God does not afford the snake the opportunity to speak in his defense.
Rashi even tells us that the snake had an excellent defense: “The words of the master, and the words of the student. To whose words shall he listen?” The snake could have argued that he was blameless for Adam’s choice to listen to him. But the snake does not have a chance to speak. “From here we learn that we do not search for any merit or defense for the Meisis!”
Rashi doesn’t offer the obvious explanation that God knew exactly what happened and didn’t need to engage the serpent in a conversation and offer him a chance to repent. Rashi, quoting the Talmud, immediately explains how the scene was directed by the Mitzvot.
He reminds us that whenever we deal with someone attempting to lead us into sin that we are replaying the original confrontation with sin in the Garden in Eden.
Rashi teaches us that the commandments go all the way back to our beginning, to the core of our existence.
We often question what we would have done in Eden. We have the opportunity to find out each time we confront a meisis.