In my post, “Ye Shall be Disentangled,” I suggested that the verse:
“Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your G‑d, am holy”
may be interpreted as:
“Ye shall be disentangled, for I, the Lord, your G‑d, am disentangled.”
I supported this proposition with the quantum monogamy principle (a.k.a. monogamy of entanglement) according to which, if two objects are entangled, neither of them can also be entangled with a third object. Consequently, if we wish to be entangled with G‑d, we cannot also be entangled with the material world, as it would violate the monogamy principle. Thus, we must disentangle from the world, i.e., be holly.
One may legitimately object to this interpretation because, in Judaism, we do not have monasteries; we do not have monks, we don’t withdraw from the world. To the contrary, we are encouraged to get married, have children, build families and make a living. Moreover, we encouraged to go into the world and make it a better place – a dira b’tachtona – a dwelling place for G‑d in this lowest of the worlds. Isn’t that a contradiction with getting disentangled from the world? To resolve this apparent contradiction, we need to delve a bit deeper into quantum monogamy.
Truth be told, to say, monogamy principle means that, if two objects are entangled, neither of them can also be entangled with a third object, is a bit of oversimplification. Let’s put a finer point on it. Strictly speaking, according to the monogamy principle, if particle A and particle B are in a maximally entangled state, then neither particle A nor particle B can be entangled with the third particle C. (As an aside, monogamy of entanglement is at the core of the firewall paradox associated with the Hawking radiation of black holes.)
Entanglement is not a binary relationship – either two particles are entangled or not. It’s a relationship that has a scale – two particles can be more or less entangled. As I explained before, entanglement is when two objects are correlated so that learning information about one object reveals information about its entangled partner. If measuring the state of one object we know everything about the state of the other objects, these objects are maximally entangled. However, when learning about the state of one object reveals some but not all information about the other object, they are partially entangled. So too, we can be more or less entangled with G‑d, as it were, and more or less entangled with the world.
Maximal entanglement with G‑d is incompatible with life in the physical world. When Moses asked G‑d to see Him, G‑d warned Moses:
“Thou canst not see My face, for man shall not see Me and live!” – Ex. 33:20
The Torah portion Kedoshim follows the portion Acherei Mot, i.e., after the death [of two sons of Aaron]. Nodab and Abihu wanted to be maximally entangled with G‑d. As a result, as the monogamy principle dictates, they disentangled from this world and died. This is not what G‑d wants from us.
But how are we to maintain this difficult balance? As Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch (the Rebbe Reshab) explains in his discourse (ma’amar) Samach Vav, this is one of the reasons the Torah precepts are divided into positive commandments (obligations, mitzvot aseh) and negative commandments (prohibitions, mitzvot lo ta’aseh). The positive commandments, most of which deal with physical objects (e.g., tefillin, mezuzah, lulav, etc.), entangle us, as it were, with the physical world in order to elevate it (e.g., we take a physical object, such as a cowhide, and make out of it a holy object, such as Sefer Torah, thereby elevating it). The negative commandments, on the other hand, disentangle us (to a degree) from the physical world, just to make sure we don’t get too much entangled with physicality. Thus, the Torah gives us instructions to help maintain this delicate balance.
Every morning, when we wake up, we must realize that the fact that G‑d returned our soul to us means that He doesn’t see this world without us. The world cannot exist without us, for if it could, we wouldn’t be here. We, therefore, must happily engage with the world to make it a better place, a dwelling place for G‑d. We must engage, but not get too entangled with the physicality of the world. Thus, the verse should really be understood as:
Ye shall be disentangled, but not disengaged.