As always in science, every answered question breeds new questions. Now that we understand that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are metaphors for, respectively, the wave function and the collapse of the wave function (see my earlier post, “The Tree of Knowledge as a Metaphor for Superposition of States and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle“), we are faced with more questions. Why did G‑d not want Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge? And what was so terrible about the forbidden fruit that eating it warranted capital punishment?
Let us recall that, according to our tradition, Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating from the Tree of Knowledge only for three hours. Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day—the Eve of the Sabbath (Erev Shabbat). With the arrival of sunset that brought the first Shabbat since creation, eating the forbidden fruit would have become permissible. This interesting detail holds the answers to our questions.
A key difference between Newtonian (classical) and quantum mechanics is that in Newtonian mechanics, the observer is passive and does not affect reality, whereas in quantum mechanics the observer, through the act of observation, collapses the wave function and fixes the reality in one out of many possible states. For this reason, in quantum mechanics, observers are called, in the words of John Archibald Wheeler, “participating observers.” As we said above, the Tree of Knowledge is a metaphor for the collapse of the wave function. Adam and Eve were allowed to passively observe the Tree of Knowledge and admire its goodly fruits, but they were not allowed to eat from it. The act of eating made them active participants, or “participating observers.”
By eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve collapsed the wave function and fixed the world in a single state—the inferior state.
As we recall from the narrative in Genesis of G‑d planting the Garden of Eden, He first planted the Tree of Life:
…the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)
As noted earlier, the Tree of Life is a metaphor for the wave function, which, until it is collapsed, represents the superposition of all possible states of reality. The story of creation talks about two states—the state of six days of creation and the state of the seventh day—Shabbat—when G‑d rested from His work. The six days represent the mundane, the unrectified and unredeemed spiritual state of the world, whereas the Shabbat represents the holy state when all worlds—physical and spiritual—attain elevation into an exalted state of perfection, where reality is redeemed and rectified. This is the state of messianic redemption. This is why messianic time is called in Hebrew “yom shekuloi Shabbat”—continuous Shabbat.
The superposition of both states—the state of the mundane and the state of Shabbat—is represented by the Tree of Life. Reality was pregnant with both possibilities. It was up to Adam and Eve to decide what would be. Had they kept the only commandment given to them by G‑d—not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, i.e., not to collapse the wave function until the commencement of Shabbat—they would have been able to eat from this tree on Shabbat or to sanctify the Shabbat by making kiddush (sanctification of Shabbat that is pronounced over wine) on the wine from the grapes of the Tree of Knowledge. Had they done so, they would have also collapsed the wave function (after all, this is what the Tree of Knowledge symbolized), and they would have fixed the world in its Shabbat state—the exalted state of messianic perfection. Adam would have been the Messiah (in Hebrew, Mashiach), as he was meant to be), and everyone would have lived happily thereafter. The world would have been the Garden of Eden—Paradise.
Unfortunately, that was not to be. The catastrophic consequence of eating the forbidden fruit prematurely fixed the world in its inferior, unrectified state and delayed messianic redemption for almost six thousand years—and counting.
This mistake of cosmic proportions thus warranted the severe punishment G‑d meted out to Adam and Eve. In fact, it wasn’t a punishment, but rather a direct and unavoidable consequence of their action—they could have lived, immortals in Paradise, but by fixing the world in its unrectified, mundane state, they lost the chance at immortality.
Therefore the Lord G‑d sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. (Genesis 3:23)
Although on the literal level the verse speaks of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, in reality, by fixing the world in its inferior mundane state, they forfeited citizenship in Paradise. The place where Adam and Eve lived ceased to be Paradise. After all, Paradise was defined by the presence of Shechinah—the Divine presence. As explained in the discourse Bosi LeGani by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (the Rebbe Rayatz—the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch), the Shechinah left the Garden of Eden after the primordial sin and flew to the first heaven (the first spiritual level above the physical level of the created universe). Without the Divine Presence, the Garden of Eden ceased to be the Paradise it was.
 Our five-year-old granddaughter, Sophy, upon hearing the story of the primordial sin and its ending with G‑d punishing Adam with mortality, innocently asked, “Don’t you think Hashem maybe overreacted?”
 The Pirush HaShach on the Torah (Kedoshim). See Likkutei Sichos, vol. 36, p. 75 (see footnote 56). See Ohr HaChaim, which notes that had Adam only waited three hours, he would have made kiddush on the wine from the Pri Eitz HaDa’at (this, of course, is based on the opinion that the forbidden fruit came from a grapevine). Chasam Sofer also writes that on Shabbat, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge would have become permissible to Adam and Eve.
I see at least one issue with your collapse theory–what “reality” would have occurred if Eve ate but Adam did not? Indeed, since Eve ate first, the collapse would have happened and Adam did not have a choice since reality was already enacted by Eve’s action as a participating observer unless you state that only Adam’s action could collapse reality into that fixed by eating the fruit. In general I am wary of trying to explain Torah using our present day knowledge of physics; it is very interesting but I think it best to relate it as interesting food for thought (if you don’t mind the pun).
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You are asking an excellent question, which doesn’t have an easy answer. Nevertheless, let me offer some thoughts, none of which purport to be a definitive answer.
1. The answer you yourself suggested is the most obvious answer, albeit not very appealing: Adam was the principal actor in this drama. Eve was his helpmate (ezer kenegdo) and played second fiddle. In this scenario, it wouldn’t matter that much what Eve did. Adam would, perhaps, have to divorce his second wife, Eve (just as he divorced the first wife, Lilith, according to Midrashim and Kabbalah), and repair the damage done by here. He might have lost another rib for yet another wife, but be spared the catastrophic consequences of bringing death into the word. I appreciate that this approach may strike some as misogynist, and I am not proposing it as the solution to your question, but merely raising this as a possibility.
2. Another possibility is that Eve was not commanded directly not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. This commandment was given to Adam, before Eve was created. From this point of view, her sin was not eating the forbidden fruit but convincing Adam to eat it. Had Adam not eaten the fruit, nothing bad would have happened.
3. Has Eve not revealed to Adam the knowledge of good and evil she obtained after eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam would still see the Tree in the superposition of states. It would be analogous to the Wigner’s Friend gedanken experiment. The Wigner’s friend/assistant (Eve, in this case) might have collapsed the wavefunction, but Wigner unaware of the results of the experiment still sees the system in the superposition of states.
4. Throughout this series of posts, I have been considering Adam and Eve as one unit, as they were originally created (according to some opinions, Adam and Eve were created as Siam’s Twins attached by one side, only later to be separated into two human beings.) This also makes them an entangled pair, metaphorically speaking. The fact that they acted in unison as a couple fits well into this paradigm. Considering what would have happened had they acted differently is outside of the scope of this paradigm and, therefore, does not contradict the metaphor chosen as an allegory for the defined paradigm.
5. On a serious note, all metaphors are limited and fit only approximately. They illustrate only a narrow specific aspect of the concept for which they are chosen. By way of example, the verse “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate opposite him.” (Genesis 2:18) is allegorically interpreted in Kabbalah and Chasidut as a reference to two names of G‑d—Tetragrammaton (corresponding to the man) and Elokim (correspondent to the helpmate, i.e., woman). This turns out to be a very fruitful allegory and much is learned from it. Try, however, to extend this metaphor to the rest of the story, and you will have very hard time squaring it with the primordial sin, expulsion from Paradise (let alone Eve’s rape by the serpent), and other details of the story. All metaphors are just metaphors—they can be applied thus far and no further.
6. Lastly, I do not suggest that anyone takes it more seriously than just food for thought. All I do is find structural parallels between Torah and physics and share them with my readers as food for thought. So we seem to be in agreement on this.
Thanks again for your comment.
This article is superb! Highly enlightening, thank you.