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Passover Seder—The Arrow of Time

The Passover Seder has four main parts: Kiddush (sanctification), Magid (telling the story of the Exodus), Shulchan Orech (the festive meal), and Nirtzah (Hallel—the prayer for the Messianic redemption). This sequence sets the natural arrow of time past-present-future. Past. During the Magid part of the seder, we retell the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt—the narrative of the history of Jewish people. Eating of the matzah, drinking four cups of wine and other "simonim" of the Seder table—bitter herbs, an egg, a bone, charoset, etc.—are all symbols that have historical significance. This part of the Seder clearly represents the past. Present. During the Shulchan Orech part of the Seder, we participate in the festive meal. We eat. One cannot eat in the past or the future—one can only eat [...]

By | March 30th, 2018|Passover (Pesach), Time, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Breaking Symmetry

And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand; tablets that were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables… And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount. (Ex. 32:15-19) The Torah portion Ki Tisa (Ex. 30:11-34:35) is, perhaps, has one of the most enigmatic episodes in the Torah—the breaking of the Tablets of the Covenant. The sin of the Golden [...]

By | March 4th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Purim—the Day when We Celebrate Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking

The Zohar compares Yom Kippur to Purim stating that Yom HaKipurim may be interpreted as “a day like Purim” (k-purim in Hebrew means “like purim”).  On Purim we feast; on Yom Kippur we fast—what the two can have in common? Indeed, Purim and Yom Kippur have something very important in common.  Both days share a common root—pur—meaning  a “lot” (or pl. purim—“lots”). On Yom Kippur, two lots were placed in a wooden  box—one say “to God”, and the other “to Azazel.”  (See my post, “Tale of Entangled Goats”). The High Priest relied on a lottery to choose which goat would be used for a sacrifice to God and which to atone for the sins of Jewish People. On Purim, Haman threw two lots to determine the month and the day of a pogrom, [...]

Grand Unification

In physics, we seek Grand Unification, also known as the Theory of Everything. The Standard Model describes three out of the four fundamental forces: the strong (nuclear) force, the weak force (beta decay), and the electromagnetic force. The gravitational force, described by the General Theory of Relativity, does not fit into the Standard Model. Developing a quantum theory of gravity, and unifying gravity with the other three forces is the holy grail of theoretical physics. Jewish people are also in need of Grand Unification. There is a schism that runs through the history: it is the schism between Joseph (Yosef) and Judah (Yehuda). Judah represents a “shtetl yid,” a Jew who lives in a ghetto, who sits in a yeshivah, who learns Torah, and who sees the world outside as hostile, as a [...]

Dreams of Pharaoh—a Lesson in Symmetry

In the Torah portion Miketz, Pharaoh sees two dreams. He wakes up agitated and calls on all wise men of Egypt to interpret his dreams. Nobody is able to come up with an acceptable interpretation, so they fetch Joseph from a prison and he successfully interprets dreams of Pharaoh—there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph proceeds to instruct Pharaoh on how to prepare for the seven years of famine. In the previous posts, Interpreting Dreams and Joseph—the Master of Time—we already explained how Joseph was able to interpret dreams in terms of units of time and why Pharaoh appointed Joseph as the Viceroy of Egypt. This story, however, is still puzzling. Perhaps it can teach us more lessons… In Talmudic and Kabbalah literature, Joseph is called [...]

Joseph—the Master of Time

The story of Joseph’s incarceration ends with his successful interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker.  He ingeniously interpreted ordinary objects (tendrils of grapes and baskets of bread) as symbols of the units of time. Even greater insight was Joseph’s understanding that the engagement in time manifested in the chief butler’s personally squeezing the grapes into the cup and placing the cup in Pharaoh’s hand symbolized life for the chief butler. And, conversely, the passivity of the chief baker, who dreamt of baskets of bread sitting on his head, with birds eating from the baskets, symbolized the opposite of life. Girolamo Brusaferro (Venice C. 1684 - C. 1760) Joseph Interpreting the Dreams In the Torah portion Miketz, this story is followed by Joseph’s encounter with Pharaoh when he [...]

Abraham Meets Abraham from a Parallel Universe

And he [Abraham] lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him…  (Gen. 18:2)   On this blog, we often discuss a collapse of the wavefunction as the result of a measurement. This phenomenon is called by some physicists the “measurement problem.” There are several reasons, why the collapse of the wavefunction—part and parcel of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—is called a problem. Firstly, it does not follow from the Schrödinger equation and is added ad hoc. Secondly, nobody knows how it happens or how long it takes to collapse the wavefunction.  This is not to mention that any notion that the collapse of the wavefunction is caused by human consciousness leading to Cartesian dualism is anathema to physicists. It is a problem, no matter how you [...]

Three-and-a-half Hakafot — Topology of Simchat Torah

Why is this night different from all other nights, asks a child on the Seder night. On this Simchat Torah I asked a different question—why is the day different from the night? Indeed, on the night of Simchat Torah, we dance seven hakafot-circuits. However, during the morning service of the next day, we only dance three-and-a-half hakafot. What is the meaning of this number—three and a half? There are a few instances the Torah, Talmud, and Rabbinic instances where this number is mentioned (e.g., during the Gaonic period, c. 590–1000 CE, in some communities in the Land of Israel, the Torah reading cycle was completed in three and a half years; Maimonides rules that only half of the tzitzit string should be dyed blue leaving three and a half strings white), but none of them [...]

Holiday of God’s Name

According to the tradition passed down to us from the Baal Shem Tov, the day after Yom Kippur is called the Holiday of God's Name. As it is explained in Kabbalah and the Chasidic tradition, each Divine name corresponds to a particular emanation of the Godly light and is associated with specific worlds and specific sephirot. For example, the name, Ekiyeh (AHYH) is associated with the sephirah of Ketter. The names Havayah (YHWH) is associated with the world of Atzilut and sephirah of Tiferet, etc. However, when we refer to the Divine Name without specifying which particular name it is, we refer to the level that is higher than all worlds and all sephirot. On Yom Kippur, we reach our very essence, the level of Yehida shebenefesh—the highest level of the Divine soul. [...]

By | October 1st, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Quantum Cheshire Cat and Resurrection

In memory of my father, Abraham Shamshin ben Reuven, ע"ה   For those of us who can't get enough of Schrödinger cat, comes a new feline—Quantum Cheshire Cat—the creation of an Israeli physicist, Yakir Aharonov. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice meets a grinning Cheshire cat. To her amazement, the cat disappears leaving only his grin behind: "All right', said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!" According to Martin Gardner, the statement "a grin without a cat" is a reference to mathematics dissociating itself [...]