Hashem warned the first human – Adam Horishon – not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge on pain of death, “for on the day that you eat from it, you will surely die”.
Adam and Chava did not die instantly, and they both lived for many more years, how do we reconcile this with Hashem’s earlier decree “for on the day that you eat from it you will surely die” implying imminent death.
Despite the fact that Adam and Chava were forewarned of the consequence, when Adam and Chava were found guilty we find a different penalty being meted out.
To the woman He said:
“I shall surely increase your sorrow and your pregnancy; in pain you shall bear children. And to your husband will be your desire, and he will rule over you.”
And to man He said:
“cursed be the ground for your sake… thorns and thistles will grow for you… by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread… for dust you are, and to dust you will return.”
Yes, there is a reference to his ultimate demise “to dust you will return”, but the overwhelming thrust of the curses punish women with difficulty in child rearing and men with struggles in providing sustenance, not death.
Man and woman differed in their creation. Adam was formed from the earth and Chava was created from Adam’s rib. The Talmud (Niddah 31b) traces many innate characteristics that differ between the genders to the divergent sources of their creation. For example queries the Talmud, Why is a woman’s voice sweet and a man’s voice is not sweet? Answers the Talmud, man is a product of the place from which he was created – a beat upon the earth fails to produce a note. Women derive their voices from the place from which they were was created – a bone can be made to produce certain notes.
Now, immediately after having eaten from the forbidden fruit, there is some dimension of severing from their life source, they are no longer connected in the same way they were joined before. The woman is cursed with difficulty in labor and childbirth this disconnects her to a degree from Adam the source of her creation. How so?
Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai was asked by his disciples: Why did the Torah ordain that a woman after childbirth should bring a sacrifice? He replied: When she kneels in bearing she swears impetuously that she will have no intercourse with her husband. The Torah, therefore, ordained that she should bring a sacrifice. (Talmud ibid)
Man created from the ground lost his rapport with the soil “thorns and thistles will grow for you”. Thus besides for the actual death that took place when they returned their souls to Hashem, there was an instant disconnection from their source of life. Disconnecting from one’s lifesource is a measure of death.
After the giving of the Torah, our life source is the Torah. The stronger we connect ourselves by studying and sustaining Torah, the more alive we become.