This is a piece I created that is close to my heart. The Garden of Eden has always been a source of deep spiritual meaning for me.
Judaism is different than other religions in that we don't emphasize the concept of sin. Instead, we have the idea of a transgression against our fellow or against G-d. In the case of Eve -- Chava, in Hebrew -- she committed a transgression against G-d.
Because of this, she was doomed to pain in childbirth for herself and for all the women to come after her. I personally find there to be a significant amount of meaning in this part of the Torah (the Jewish "Bible") because of the role that gender plays. There is a reason that Chava was the first to pick the Forbidden Fruit and eat from it — and the snake has a role to play here, too.
I, personally, connect curiosity to holiness in the context of Chava. In Judaism, it is said that women are holier than men because of the way that G-d created them: women have a stronger connection to G-d. I believe that this perceived holiness in Judaism also correlates to a curiosity in women to learn and grow as Jewish people. There is a reason that women are said to be Holy Jews. Our Great Ancients witnessed the power of a woman connected to Torah and solidified the notion of the great desire in women to learn as a lesson about holiness. Many of the Jewish women I have known and loved in my life have committed themselves to a life of learning and connection to Jewish texts. These women also, whether officially or not, teach younger girls in the Holy ways of becoming modern Jews still connected to ancient tradition. Women historically and consistently find methods of learning and growing our religion in ways that stem from a genuine curiosity and love for Torah. Therefore, Chava, as a woman of G-d, was always going to have the curiosity and thirst for knowledge that is inherent to who she is.
Additionally, Chava was made from Adam's rib to be a companion for him, particularly. It is said that Adam had a first wife -- Lilit (Lilith), who refused to be subservient to Adam, so G-d expelled her from Eden. Understandably, given Adam's desire for particular traits of subservience in a wife, Chava must have desired some sort of independence or freedom from Adam. There is a saying -- "knowledge sets you free". The ability to learn and grow as her own person was perhaps an offer too great to pass up. Again, this is merely conjecture on my part, as is much modern commentary on Torah.
The snake, on the other hand, used this to his advantage. I am choosing to call the snake a "he" because the Hebrew in Bereishit (Genesis) uses male conjugation when referring to the snake. The snake is said to be a sly creature in Judaism — one that can be deceiving and manipulating. The snake utilized the Holiness of woman to punish her. I would like to take this in the direction of claiming that the snake could serve as a metaphor for traps set by society for women to fall into, but perhaps that would stretch the narrative too far. Regardless, the snake knew exactly what he was doing in that moment. The snake preyed on Chava's natural curiosity and potential desire for independence to get her to eat the fruit.
The punishment of Chava as doomed to pain in childbirth is one I find particularly fascinating, especially because last semester I took a college course on our historic and modern ideas of hysteria in women as they apply to medicine. In that class, I learned that the reproductive tract of women (the uterus, especially) comes under scrutiny and punishment as being the source of a woman's wickedness (or hysteria). Historically, women who were experiencing emotions or behaving in ways that were outside of society's expectations of what a woman should be, doctors would abuse a woman's vagina and declare that she needed sexual intercourse and to carry a child in order to be cured of "hysteria". Therefore, when the punishment for Chava is pain in childbirth, but for Adam is only working the earth to acquire bread, I draw the conclusion that gender -- or the female sex -- play an important role in punishment.
There is also some sort of irony rooted in two individual and different punishments. If Chava was created from Adam's rib, doesn't the fault fall on Adam? It seems convenient to me that Chava is widely known in almost every religion to be the "sinner" who "convinced" Adam to partake, as well. Because of this, I have written "from man" on the left side of the painting in Modern Hebrew. On the right side, I have written "transgression": it reads "transgression from man". Modern Hebrew was a particular choice on my part versus our beautiful Ancient Hebrew (as is in the Torah).
Our modern ideas of gender often feel combative with Torah concepts. However, I have been able to find a great peace between the two. Just because there is contradiction does not mean they are incompatible. Everything I am saying is conjecture, and yet I still find great meaning and beauty in the Garden of Eden -- some of that is because of my conjecture. I have a deep respect for Chava and for her bravery, even if she misstepped. I respect Chava because she was manipulated, received the most significant punishment (in my opinion as a woman), yet accepted the punishment from G-d -- she accepted that she had transgressed. In doing so, she imparts a great lesson on us, as Jews.
Chava teaches us a crucial lesson about transgression, I believe. Although Chava did not mean malice in her transgression, she did something that challenged G-d. And she owned up to that transgression, even if it was actually rooted in good, in curiosity. It is our responsibility, as Jews, to consider the whole picture, and think about when it is right to transgress for reasons we believe to be true, and to own up to the consequences of that transgression. I connect this personally to women's rights. If I were to stand up to sexism and misogyny in ways that I know did not conform with what the authorities in my life dictate, I would receive punishment. However, it is my willingness to bear that punishment in knowing that what I did was not rooted in evil, but rather in good. Judaism teaches us to constantly question authority (with respect, of course). We must not accept the status quo -- we must always be curious, of a better world with more knowledge, just as Chava was.
To remind us that Chava isn't just a "sinner", as she is viewed by many Abrahamic religions, I have painted the Hebrew letter shin on her face. The reason for this is best explain by Yehudit Katz of Israel, who commented on a Chabad.org post about Hebrew letters:
"I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the letters and especially about shin. Its interesting to note that Hashem tells us to write upon our hearts His directives in the Shema and that the shape of the letter shin is exactly depicted in a cross-section of the heart. In the heart muscle, this shape is the electro-physiological pathway that causes the heart to pump and keep us alive- it receives oxygen-depleted blood in the smaller right vessel, and forcefully pushes oxygenated blood from the larger left chamber to the body. When Hashem explains to us how to love Him (draw close to Him), He specifies to love Him with our 2 hearts- levavecha; with our vital physical energy- nefashecha; and with the empowerment of the uniqueness -me'odecha-which He created each one of us."
I drew the shin to represent G-d's love for the Jew, and the Jew's love for G-d. This is something both physical and spiritual, and it is something I am sure that Chava had until she died.
(I am in no way endorsing you to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Please do not do that. Really.)