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Leaven on Passover in Quantum Torah

By Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2011 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.

There is an interesting issue with regards to the laws of Passover that sharply divide the two communities of Torah observant Jews, commonly known as the European Ashkenazim, and the Middle Eastern Sephardim.

With regards to leavened products on Passover, all agree that these are Biblically prohibited throughout the entire holiday. There is no disagreement on this fundamental point. However, what is the Law regarding a product that might contain a small amount of leaven? At what ratio is the amount of leaven in a product considered null and void, therefore allowing the product to be consumed during Passover?

The answer to these questions follow the traditional Law of the nullification of forbidden mixtures as outlined by the Torah Sages over many centuries. The general Rabbinic rule is that the ratio for nullification is 60 to 1. In other words, if there is 60 times the amount of the permitted item mixed in with an otherwise forbidden item, then the presence of the forbidden item is considered insignificant, and therefore, null and void.  This 60 to 1 ratio is approximately 1.66% of the whole. This is the general rule applied in almost all cases of Torah Law regarding the mixture of permitted foods with forbidden additives.

Now, with regards to Passover, all leavened products, no matter how great, or how small are forbidden throughout the entire holiday. During the holiday if even the smallest amount of leaven becomes mixed into a non-leavened food, then the entire mixture cannot be consumed during the Passover holiday. All opinions are in agreement with this. However, now we come to the major disagreement. What if before Passover there is a non-leavened product that had mixed into it a leavened product of a small proportion that is nullified in the 60 to 1 ration (1.66%). Being that this happened before the Passover, before the time of the prohibition of leaven begins, what is the law regarding this mixture?

According to the Sephardim, once the leaven is nullified in a 60 to 1 ratio with non-leavened items before the Passover, the leaven is null and void and remains such, whether during Passover or not. Once the mixture is properly permitted, it stays that way, period. The Ashkenazim, on the other hand, have a completely different view of this. They insist that regardless of any previous nullification, any such forbidden mixture, regardless of how small the leavened additive may be, is reactivated and forbids the entire mixture, even if it was originally nullified and declared acceptable. In the original Hebrew, this concept is called Hozer V'Niyur (return and reactivate).

In other words, from the Ashkenazi point of view even the most minuscule percentage of a leavened product is activated in a larger non-leavened mixture, and turns the entire mixture into a leavened state, thus prohibited on Passover. Needless to say, the Sephardim say that no such reality exists. They insist that once it is nullified in 60, it stays nullified, and no longer has any power to “return and reactivate.”

So now, who is right? Is this a question of philosophy, or Biblical interpretation, or can it be scientifically analyzed to ascertain whether or not such a minuscule amount of a so-called leavened product actually does reactivate, and spread leavening throughout such a entire, larger mixture? I do believe that a scientific analysis can be performed, and its conclusions would be definitive and final. However, this does not mean that scientific fact and reality would in any way be authoritative to have any influence over an argument in Torah Law to either permit or forbid such mixtures nullified according to the 60 to 1 ratio.

How is it that scientific reality that proves things one way or another can have no real relative value in settling an argument that essentially is based on two different perceptions of reality? Either the leaven returns, and reactivates or it does not. It cannot do both simultaneously, or can it?

The answer to this question is that actually yes it can. There can be, and essentially there are two separate, and distinct sets of reality for the same facts. And how can this be? The answer is because, like everything else in existence, the Torah, and its Laws exist in a quantum universe, and are therefore subject to subjective observation.

The law of quantum physics state that an observed reality tends to alter itself to align with the subjective perceptions of the observer. As such, not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, so too is reality. Therefore, when an Ashkenazi views the reality of the 60 to 1 mixture, nullified before Passover and allowed at that time, once it comes to Passover, he can only see a forbidden mixture. Nothing in science can prove to an adherent of this view that it is wrong or unfounded. Somehow, and in some way, his reality is valid, real and not subject to change.

The same can be true of the other side of the discussion. The Sephardi will see a clearly permitted state, with absolutely no reality of prohibition, entirely the opposite of his Ashkenazi peer. Both see the reality that they expect to see, and both realities validate themselves, each in the eyes of the individual beholder. This is Quantum Torah. And it is applicable in almost every branch of religious discussion far beyond the example under discussion here.

Yes, Quantum Torah! This is nothing new, space-age or anything else modern. It is as old as the Torah itself. It is as old as creation itself. It is the way of the human mind, the way of human psychology. It is the way of the observable universe. Just like the universe around us exists in a quantum reality, so too does the Torah, all religions, and all human perceptions. This is the way God made things in the beginning to be.

This is why Torah Law, in almost every instance, is subject to variant opinions of interpretation and practice. The great codifiers, first Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, who codified the Mishnah, and later Rav Ashi who edited the Gemara, both took extra measures to make sure that their works were not didactic, black and white, or monolithic. On the contrary, both authors made the efforts to include the opinions of many others, some in outright contradiction to one another. And still, only together do we have the entirety of the Mishnah, or Gemara. Neither was written to be a definitive final word, or code of Law. Perennial fluctuation, and fluidity need exist.

Only God can know objective reality, as it exists outside of the range of human experience. Mankind, on the other hand, looks at God's revealed word, and sees reflected through it its profundity, complexity, and quantum nature, even as it exists as a compilation of mere words in the natural world.

Torah legend teaches us that in the beginning God gazed into the Torah, and from it created the universe. Therefore, the entire universe, everything in existence around us, and within us came forth from out of the Torah. Therefore, everything in existence, around us, and within us is part of the Torah. Yet, the true form and existence of Torah is not found written in any book. The Torah is formatted for our subjective reality in the words in the Scroll, yet its multifaceted commentary, and its true quantum meanings can be found in life itself, and in everything in the universe, everything surrounding us, and everything within us.

Existence itself is cosmic Torah, and as existence itself is quantum, therefore, Torah, the source of existence is, by definition, also quantum. Therefore, every argument and disagreement, has a truth, and a reality to it, all from the unique point of view, observed by the beholder. Reality is quantum. Torah is quantum. This apparently was the meaning of the Kabbalist Sage, the Ari'zal, who taught that each and every soul has their own unique, and personal interpretation (perush) of the Torah.

Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is as concrete and rigid as we may think. Reality is far more fluid and subjective and that we can possibly imagine. Torah is our anchor on reality. And Torah teaches us much about reality far beyond what any one individual is willing or able to see.

In conclusion, during Passover, leaven is nullified in a 60 to 1 ratio in a non-leavened mixture before the holiday begins, and does not reactivate. Then again it does reactivate. Both are true, both are real. It all depends on whose perception of reality you choose to see.
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