At a shiur last night with my friend and colleague, Rabbi Avi Rosenfeld, we talked about Tu B’Shvat, the 15th of Shvat, because Rosh Chodesh Shvat, the new month of Shvat arrives with Shabbat in just a few minutes here in Seattle. R’Avi’s main topic was Tu B’Shvat as a tikkun, repair, for our everyday eating, and this brought up mankind’s first error in eating, eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of the many questions this can raise, among the first is why God would not want people to be wise and to have knowledge.
Traditionally, we usually answer this question by saying that the prohibition was not a permanent one. Man was created on Erev Shabbat, and it was for that time that the fruit was prohibited. Had Adam and Eve waited until they experienced the grounding, the foundation of that first Shabbat, they would have been properly prepared to ingest this knowledge and then go onto the state of ultimate perfection that is still Creation’s destiny.
The problem, it appears, is impatience. We too often don’t realize that preparation is necessary for just about everything. While certain premature babies might be viable, in the grand scheme of things this very prematurity generally causes problems.
The next question that comes up, though, is why did God create the world and people in such a way that we’re so attracted to the end that we often want to shortcut the means? Couldn’t God create things so that either we wouldn’t require the preparation or we’d have the strength to withstand our own enthusiasm and desire long enough–remember, for only one short Shabbat day–to take the next step?
Our sages give insight in this matter. In related situations, we have the rebellion of Korach who argued that all Israel were holy, so why was the priesthood given only to a subsection of the Levi clan? We learn that, in fact, Korach is on the right track, but the problem was that the rest of the Jewish people had not yet achieved the level of spiritual development needed to have this more direct relationship with God. Some time in the future we would all reach that higher plane of being and would no longer require any insulation.
A second example, before his death Moshe pleads over and over with God to be admitted to the Land of Israel in order to lead the Jewish people to their final destiny. We’re taught that God finally told him, “Enough!” If he had asked even one more time, God would have granted his desire! Surprisingly, Moshe understood to stand down. He realized that yes, he would have led the Jewish people into the Land and would, himself, have become the Mashiach, the annointed, eternal leader. After all these exiles, that sounds like it would have been pretty sweet! However, Moshe realized that we would have entered a state of perfection that was inferior to a higher state of perfection we will eventually reach after undergoing and participating in all the refinement processes that lay ahead. Premature “perfection”, even if “perfect” is defective “perfection”.
It’s all a matter of timing.