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Here is what I mean by that. Let’s ask this question: what would you say was the baseline state of man when mankind was created? What I mean by baseline is that these trees, the Tree of Knowledge and Tree of Life have a lot to do with death and life; if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge, you die; if you eat from the Tree of Life, you live. What was the baseline state of man?
Would you say that mankind as created before eating from either tree was immortal, could live forever, or will you say that mankind was mortal, will eventually die? The strange thing about this question is it kind of seems like it depends what tree you ask.
Let’s take a look at the text. What happens if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge? Well, if you believe the verses, what happens if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge is that you become mortal, you die, right?
God says here in chapter 2 verse 17, when God commands mankind not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge; so, the consequences are laid up pretty clearly; “But from the Tree of Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, do not eat, for on the day you eat from it, you will definitely die.”
And in the way the Rambam, Nachmanides, interprets this, and I think it’s the simplest way of saying it. ‘It doesn’t mean that you are going to die the second you eat from the tree; it means that on the day you eat from it, you will become a being that dies.’ In other words, you will become a mortal being.
So, if the consequence of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil is that if you eat from it you are going to become a being that dies, so you can imagine if you were kind of interviewing the tree and asking the tree its opinion on whether mankind was going to live forever as man was created. Seemingly, the baseline stated that man is immortal, right; because, otherwise, the tree doesn’t do anything. The idea is, mankind starts out immortal, but if you eat from the tree, he becomes mortal, right? So, that’s if you talk to the Tree of Knowledge.
But now let’s go and talk to the Tree of Life. Let’s have a little friendly interview with the Tree of Life and ask the Tree of Life what the Tree of Life thinks about this question. But we will first ask what the Tree of Life does. We don’t know what happens if you eat from this tree, but we do know that it’s a Tree of Life and if it is a Tree of Life, right, that’s what it is called, so presumably, it gives you life. If I eat it, it’s going to give me immortality. Now, if it grants immortality, then that presumably means that before you eat from the tree, you do not yet have this immortality that the Tree of Life would grant, which means that the baseline state of man as mankind is created is mortal. Well, there is the contradiction!
The Tree of Life seems to think we were created as Beings that die
The Tree of Knowledge seems to think we were created as Beings that would have lived forever
You see, if you’re talking to the Tree of Life, the baseline state of man is mortal. We have talked about the Tree of Knowledge; the baseline state of man is immortal, immortality. So, these two trees sort of contradict each other as to how mankind was, whether they were mortal or immortal. So, the story just doesn’t make any sense. How do you understand this contradiction?
So, what I want to suggest is that there is actually a third possibility here. That even though the Tree of Knowledge confers death and the Tree of Life seems to confer life, that doesn’t necessary mean that the trees contradict each other. It is not necessarily the case that the Tree of Life says that mankind was mortal before eating from the tree and the Tree of Knowledge says mankind was immortal before eating from the tree. There is a third possibility. Can you guess what it is?
Well, here is what I Think it is. Maybe mankind is neither mortal nor immortal as created. What that means is, is that mankind is kind of created in the state of limbo, where he is not yet either mortal or immortal. And in that state of limbo, that undetermined kind of state, so it depends what kind of tree he eats from. He will become mortal or immortal depending on the tree he eats from. If he eats from the Tree of Life, so, he get’s eternal life, he becomes immortal; if he eats from the Tree of Knowledge, so death comes to the world, he becomes a mortal being.
Now, you might say, well, that is very clever to say that mankind was neither mortal nor immortal when created. But we don’t know of any such thing like that. There is no such thing as being either mortal or immortal. I mean, you are either mortal or immortal; you either live forever or you die. What will it mean to say that mankind is created in an undetermined state?
Well, you would only say that if you don’t know anything about quantum physics. Heisenberg, back in the 30s, so when Heisenberg came up with this little darling of a principle called the ‘Uncertainty Principle’ which actually has been held for the past 80 years, so you use this to govern the smallest levels of our universe, the atomic ground. And basically, the idea of Heisenberg principle is that when it comes to subatomic particles, there is certain uncertainty, undetermineness built in to the way this things work. So, for example, you could determine the speed of a sub-atomic particle, but you can’t…if you determine its speed, you can’t necessarily determine its position; or alternatively, you could determine its position – but you can’t necessarily determine its speed. That is to say you can’t determine speed and position at the same time. If you are a math guy, that is the equation which expresses this. I personally can’t understand that. It looks like check and scroll to me! But I’m told that is the equation.
So, there is a certain kind of built-in zero-sum game undetermineness over here. And if you think what that really means, it means that, if you take an electron, it’s not always the case that you can say where it is, it might be here and it might be there. Well, what happens if you actually take a pick and look under an electron microscope and you see its here? Well, Heisenberg would answer: that’s because you observed it. When you observe it, it jumps into one of its quantum states. And then it actually takes it states, it actually starts being there. But until you actually observed it, it existence was such that it could be here, it could be there. That was the fact of its existence. Though, it’s not just that we can’t determine it, it’s that it is undetermined, objectively. It is neither here nor there; it’s just a probability wave. This is really what Heisenberg says.
You could almost say that mankind was created in a quantum like state, which is said that he is neither mortal nor immortal, and it would depend. I’m kind of in support of that idea. If you look at the place where mankind was, they were in the Garden of Eden. Well, if you look at the Hebrew for Eden, the way you spell Eden in Hebrew, so it’s ayin, dalet, nun: עדן, it’s suspiciously close to ayin, dalet, yud, nun: עדין.
The Hebrew word adayin, what adayin means is, ‘still’ or ‘not yet’. Really, if you think about Eden, it was the world of not yet; it was a world of still to come. And that is really what adayin means. It was almost like the womb of the world, a place of pure potentiality; when you eat from the trees, mankind begins to actualize. So, in one way or the other, but in potentiality, could go either way.
Now, if you play, kind of, this game and you say, well, where else in the bible do we ever come across this kind of sort of undetermineness, the sort of being perched between life and death on the one hand depending which you chooses, you choose this, you choose that, where else do you have that? If you are familiar with Deuteronomy a little bit and even if you are not just follow me to Deuteronomy and you will see what it is we are talking about. Right over here in Deuteronomy you have got the speech that Moses gives to the people; another moment in history where people, in this case, the entire children of Israel seemingly perched between life and death and in kind of an undetermined state.
R’eh natati l’faneicha hayom, Moses says, ‘see, I have put before you today life and good and death and evil, u’bechartem b’chaim, and you are told God commands us or suggest us that we should choose life. And you can sort of ask the same kind of quantum question, right? Which is, once I hear the gospel, life in front of us and death in front of us; it sort of sounds like right now we are neither dead nor alive. It kind of reminds you of this Eden like state.
And then, by the way, that brings us back to our last part, on our last part we talked about how the Torah seems to be like this replacement tree of life, that the same Cherubs that appear and guard back the way to the tree of life, guard the Torah, and the same Cherubs keeps you away from one tree and gives you access to another tree.
But again, what are we talking about over here; we are talking about following God’s law. Following God’s law is what makes you alive to the words in the verse here and not following God’s law is just what makes you, so to speak, kind of dead. And again, there is this notion that the Torah, embracing God’s law is somehow this replacement tree of life. That’s a very interesting kind of notion. So, we want to come back to this notion about the two trees and try to explore further this kind of connection between the tree of life in particular and the Torah latter on as a whole. So, latter on in our series we will talk some more about these things.
1. The Lullaby Effect
2. Kinds of Questions
3. The Mystery of the Pre-Tree World
4. The Tale of Two Trees
5. Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle
6. The Primal Serpent
7. A Perplexing Temptation
8. A Naked Paradox
9. A Snake in the Garden
10. Beasts of the Field
11. Beauty and the Beast
12. What Does It Mean to Know?
13. A World of Broccoli and Pizza
14. Are All Dilemmas Created Equal?
15. The Phantom Boxer
16. The I of the Beholder
17. The Filter of Desire
18. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Disc Jockey
19. Epilogue: God as Knower of Good and Evil (Premium)
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