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In the recent years, there has been a lot of talk and investment in the biotech space regarding life extension, with some saying that the eventual goal is to make us live forever. However, to strive to live forever could be interpreted as an attempt to take also of the tree of life and live forever, something which seems that G-d, blessed be He, doesn't want us to do as can be seen from Genesis 3:22 after the fall:

lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever

Therefore, would we be forbidden from trying to develop such technology, and perhaps could we, at best, try to develop life saving or life-extending technologies that make our lifespans longer by a reasonable amount as opposed to forever? What do the texts say about this?

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    Haven't we already been developing these technologies for centuries? We call it "medicine"
    – Double AA
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 23:28
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    Was Adam forbidden from eating from the Tree of Life?
    – shmosel
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 23:44
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    If there's a flaming sword in the way of technological immortality we'll know the answer.
    – shmosel
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 0:03
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    My point is Hashem chose to obstruct the path to immortality rather than forbid it. I don't see why technology would change that dynamic.
    – shmosel
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 0:34
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    @setszu it literally is, etc. etc.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 1:19

2 Answers 2

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I don't believe that there is any tradition of relating to the cited clause from Gen. 3:22 as a legal prohibition.

My evidence for this is:

  • I'm a fairly well-educated Jewish layperson, and I've never heard of such a prohibition.
  • If you look on Sefaria for references to this verse in legal texts, two come up, and neither relates specifically to this clause about the Tree of Life.

This absence is not surprising, given the structure of the verse. In it, God is reacting to Adam and Eve's transgression of that which was a prohibition for them - eating from the Tree of Knowledge - in a manner designed to prevent them from taking from the Tree of Life and living forever. This implies that such taking is an outcome God wants to prevent, but does not describe a second prohibition, which would presumably be phrased in the second person rather than in the third person.

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  • Death seems to be a punishment though, and we do have a few places in Chazal that explain why it is important and necessary (and of course, counter examples like Eliyahu that שלום brought, as well as the post-revelation pre-egel madrega...), so it might actually be prohibited to eat from the tree on that account, as it would be forgoing a punishment for a sin.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 18:31
  • Thank you!! I don't think this works tho bc the 1st "evidence" is irrelevant since argument-wise it doesn't matter whether you've heard it or not. The 2nd "evidence" is also irrelevant because technologically-induced bodily immortality hasn't been possible in such days, & thus, its likely that they didn't think it was particularly notable. Absence of writing could mean that they simply missed it, so it's irrelevant. Lastly, a prevention is by definition, a form of prohibition, so this is redundant. Similarly, presumption as per your interpretation is just your personal opinion, not evidence.
    – setszu
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 18:40
  • @setszu is a prevention by definition a form of prohibition? Under what parameters? Under some important parameters, they are indeed different.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 18:43
  • @RabbiKaii Functionally speaking, and in this context, they seem to be the same, though prevention is more implicit.
    – setszu
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 18:45
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    @setszu I don't think orthodox judaism has any fallacy associated with "appealing to tradition", nor any contradiction with that and pursuing truth in congruence with Hashem, blessed be He :)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 19:42
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Rashi on Genesis 3:22 explains that the reason why G-d had a problem with Adam living forever, was because he feared that the coming generations will mistake Adam to be a deity, being that no one was around when he was created (Gur Aryeh), which doesn’t apply in this case, and the sages teach that there were those - such as Elijah - who indeed attained immortality!

But at the end of the day, it’s still in G-d’s hands, and he can always take away this power, like the sages teach regarding Hiram (Ezekiel 28), who was rewarded with immortality, but lost it later on for this reason

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  • How does it not apply when some of the proponents of such ideas like Yuval Noah Harari discuss how humans are going to become de-facto "gods" or at least "godlike" as technology like AI and biotech life extension converge and essentially enable us to become immortal and give us all sorts of power. Moreover, should this technology ever get lost, but some remanents of these people who used the tech in the past remain, then they will almost certainly be seen as "godlike" and as I said, even the ones like Harari promote such ideas as "Homo Deus", etc. Its clear that ppl can get drunk on this power
    – setszu
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 0:22
  • You made an edit, but even in that case, it could still apply as people could forget, intentionally or otherwise, about the past and information transmission could be lost. The comment I wrote above still applies technically.
    – setszu
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 0:25
  • Read my comments above where I explain that the same dynamic could play out again today with technology and its potential loss while information transmission could be impaired and those who used the tech while it was still available may think of themselves as "deities" or similar while the others don't remember anything before. Moreover, despite your edit, Elijah didn't remain on Earth or perhaps another planet while being immortal, so his case is different and doesn't apply to technologically and artificially induced immortality.
    – setszu
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 0:40
  • Also, for ur final edit, the last line is nonsensical. This is like saying G-d, blessed be He, can take away free will at any time, so it doesn't matter if you murder someone, if He wanted to stop it He would and He can just gilgul them. But of course it does matter, so I can't accept this line of reasoning. Also, the thing with Hiram refers to the immortality of the soul AFAIK, even in Ezekiel 18:4 u can see the talk about the soul & death of it. Finally, even if what the sages say is true, that's a unique case & its simply the opinion/interpretation of sages, not necessarily absolute truth.
    – setszu
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 18:51

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