300.22 Elaboration on Structure of “Trees” (pps.85-86)

hard cover page 85

300.22 Elaboration on Structure of “Trees”

There are two major types of existence possible for man in a universe created by God. The two sets of dynamics are mutually exclusive.309 The dynamics within each set are interrelated and interdependent.

The first type of existence is one of aggressive providence, a gilded-cage existence. Man’s needs and nature’s travails are handled by God on behalf of man. Under the dynamics of a Tree of Life existence, man in general is treated as an infant in a comfortable home. All is lush and relatively problem-free. High growth and dignity are sacrificed on the altar of bliss and eternal life. All is taken care of.

But there is also the Tree of Knowledge set of dynamics: A life of challenge, freedom, privacy, and responsibility; aggressive pursuit of knowledge: pain and joy in greater extremes; a life of independence and risk; mortality by virtue of natural and moral evil; diminished Divine Providence to “leash” natural evil; infinite growth potential; a higher potential for “moral good” and “moral evil”; a higher level of dignity for man by virtue of his freedom and responsibility. Man’s individualism, creativity, and capacities for good and growth will have a greater arena for expression, along with man’s cruelty and nature’s calamities. In seeking to control his environment and to prevail over it, man comes closer to a true image of God.”310 The biblical narative regarding Eden indeed touches on the dynamics of knowledge, temptation, free choice, evil, privacy, and pain juxtaposed against eternal life in a garden of bliss.

Berkovits notes: “The area of imperfection also seems to be the source of freedom in the world. The absolutely faultless is unfree.”311

The dynamics of the Tree of Life form a complete set, as do

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309 See the analogous but quite different formulation in Merton, The New Man, p. 108. “St. Bernard puts this ‘sapor mortis,’ this taste for death, at the very heart of original sin. It is the exact opposite of the wisdom, the ‘sapida scienta’ or existential (‘tasting’) of knowledge of the Divine good. The two are incompatible with one another. They cannot exist together. Consequently, having acquired the one, Adam necessarily lost the other.”

310 See Philo, On the Unchangeableness of God 143 (Loeb ed., vol. 3, pp. 8 1 ff.). “Wisdom is a straight high road, and it is when the mind’s course is guided along that road that it reaches the goal which is the recognition and knowledge of God. Every comrade of the flesh hates and rejects this path and seeks to corrupt it. For there are no two things so utterly opposed as knowledge and pleasure of the flesh.” In Lewy et al., Three Jewish Philosophers, p. 52.
Cf. Fackenheim, The Jewish Return info History, p. 263. “Philosophical reflection may find it necessary to choose between a God who is divine only if he is omnibenevolent and omnipotent, and a world which is truly world only because it contains elements contradicting these divine attributes, namely, evil and human freedom.”

311 Berkovits, God, Man and History, p. 79.


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