Rabbi Ḥama bar Ḥanina taught that the passage commanding us to walk in tandem with God ( 13:5) cannot be understood literally because God is an all-consuming fire (see 4:24). Rather we must understand this to mean that we should follow in the way of God, emulating His deeds. For example:
- Just as God clothed the naked (Bereshit 3:21), so we should clothe the naked.
- Just as He visited the sick (Bereshit 18:1), we should visit the sick.
- Just as He comforted those in mourning (Bereshit 25:11), we should comfort those in mourning.
- Just as He buried the dead ( 34:6), we should bury the dead.
The first example, which describes God as preparing “garments of skin” for Adam and Hava, is subject to a dispute between Rav and Shmuel, one of whom understands them as clothing made of skin, while the other defines them as clothing from which the skin benefits.
Rashi explains that the opinion which says “clothing made of skin” actually means that the clothing was made of wool, while the other opinion believes that it was made of linen. The Maharsha quotes the Hizkuni as pointing out that no animal had been killed at that time, so the clothing could not have been made of animal skins, and must be understood otherwise. Others argue that although Adam was not allowed to kill animals, there is no reason to think that he would not be allowed to make use of animals that had died.
In the midrashic literature there are a wide variety of opinions that offer different approaches to the essence of these garments.
The Maharal suggests that the dispute between Rav and Shmuel revolves around the question whether the purpose of these clothes was to cover their nakedness (i.e., for reasons of modesty) or for reasons of comfort.