Holidays (Yomim Tovim)

/Holidays (Yomim Tovim)

Jewish Holidays

Shavuot and Three States of Consciousness

Shavuot (a.k.a. the Feast of Weeks, or “Pentecost”) is the only Jewish holiday that has no fixed day in a calendar – it is always the 50th day from the beginning of counting of the Omer—Sefirot HaOmer. What is so special about the number and what is its connection to Shavuot? Shavuot is not only the culmination of the counting of the sefirah, but it is a culmination of the process of maturation of our consciousness. On Shavuot, it is customary to read the Book of Ruth (Megilat Rut). The story begins with Lot and his daughters running away from Sodom and hiding in a mountain cave. Seeing the destruction of Sodom, the daughters of Lot suspected that God in his fury destroyed the whole of humanity and they were the only people [...]

Purim: Celebrating Randomness

The story of Purim, which we read in the Book of Esther, is a story about a righteous Jewish leader who held fast to his principles refusing to bow down to a rabid anti-Semite. It’s a story about a courageous Jewish queen, Esther, who saved her people risking her life. And yet, this holiday is not called by the name of Mordechai or Esther, it  is called Purim, because, as the Book of Esther informs us: For Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had devised to destroy the Jews, and he cast the pur—that is the lot—to terrify them and destroy them… Therefore, they called these days Purim after the name pur. (Book of Esther, 9:24,26) This is odd because the casting of the lot (pur) [...]

Hillel, Shammai and Richard Feynman

The Talmud (tr. Shabbat) discusses two opinions about the manner in which we are to light Chanukah menorah. According to Hillel, we light the first light on the first night, two lights on the second night, etc. increasing the number of lights every night. According to Shammai, we are to do the opposite – light eight lights on the first night, seven on the second night, and so on diminishing the number of lights every night (according to how many days of Chanukah are still left). The Talmud concludes, ele v’elie diveri Elokim chaim (this and that are words of the living God, i.e., both opinions are true and reflect the will of God), but the Halachah (the practical law) is according to Hillel. The Arizal explains that whereas the law today is [...]

Miracle of Chanukah—Seeing and not Collapsing

As I wrote in my post, Schrödinger  Menorah:  Burning  And  Not  Burning, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, explains the miracle of Chanukah as a paradox of the menorah (chanukiah or hanukkiah) burning and not burning, thereby embodying the absolute nature of God, who is not limited by His infinity and combines all possibilities including the infinitude (ko’ach bli gvul) and the finitude (ko’ach hagvul). The notion of the menorah burning and not burning easily lends itself to be cast in terms of the quantum superposition of states of burning and not burning. I couldn’t help myself to call it the Schrödinger Menorah. There a couple of problems, however, with this idea. Firstly, as the Rebbe wrote in 1971 in a letter to the editor of the Journal of the Association of [...]

Schrödinger Menorah: Burning and not Burning

The miracle of Chanukah revolves around a single-day-supply of olive oil burning for eight days during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (Bet HaMikdash), after Maccabees liberated Israel from the occupation by the Greco-Syrian Seleucid empire. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson There are countless explanations of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, offers a unique explanation. The Rebbe dismisses any explanation of the miracle that relies on the miraculous nature of the oil itself. The Rebbe maintains that to be kosher for the Menorah, the oil had to be natural olive oil, not some miraculous oil. According to the Rebbe, the miracle was that the natural oil was burning and not burning at the same time. The Rebbe draws an analogy with [...]

Unified Field Theory… and Practice

Albert Einstein had a lifelong quest—to develop a unified field theory—the theory that would describe as a single field gravity and electromagnetism (just as Maxwell unified electric and magnetic fields in a single electromagnetic field). Alas, Einstein did not succeed in his quest. Today, the goal is even more ambitious—to unify all four known fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak forces in a single model, the so-called Theory of Everything. If the hypothetical fifth force will be confirmed, it will also need to be included in the Theory of Everything. While theoretical physicists around the world are busy working our various approaches to such Theory of Everything (which include, inter alia, string theory, loop quantum gravity, etc.), Jews around the world are practicing this unification during the holiday of Sukkot. During Sukkot, we [...]

The Fifth Force – Epilog

This post is a continuation and the conclusion of the previous post, THE FIFTH FORCE. Aside from the connection with the last week’s Torah portion, Vayelech, there is also connection with and Aseret Yimei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance) and Yom Kippur. When it comes to physics of fundamental forces, there are two unresolved problems: (i) unification of gravity with the other three fundamental forces (electromagnetic, strong and weak); and (ii) discovery of the fifth force. Both problems are related to repentance (teshuvah), which comes to sharp focus on the Ten Days of Repentance (Aseret Yimei Teshuvah) and Yom Kippur. Firstly, the word “teshuva” doesn’t mean “repentance”, it literally means “return” In Kabbalah tradition, the word TeShuVaH, is read as “ToShuV H” – return of the letter “heh”. It is talking about the [...]

Fractal Patterns in Time

In the current Torah portion Emor, we are instructed to abstain from work on Shabbat—every seventh day. Next week’s Torah portion, Behar, continues this theme and instructs us to abstain from agricultural work every Sabbatical year, Shmita. And the Torah doesn’t stop there. It instructs us to count seven Shmitas and then observe a Jubilee, Yovel. Do you notice a pattern? Every seven days, every seven years, every seven Shmitas… Furthermore, the Midrash states the world will exist for seven thousand years with the seventh millennium being a thousand years of the kingdom of Mashiach (Messiah)—yom shekuloy Shabbat—one long Shabbat. A second-century sage, Rabbi Huniah ben HaKanah, interprets this Midrash to mean that the world will last seven Cosmic Shmitas, i.e., 49 thousand years (which, according to a prominent 13th–14th c. kabbalist Rb. Isaac [...]

When was the World Created?

There is a dispute in the Talmud as to when was the world created. According to Rabbi Eliezer, the world was created in the month of Tishrei. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, the world was created in the month of Nisan (Tr. Rosh Hashanah (10b)). The Chasidic thought attempts to reconcile these opposite opinions suggesting that both opinions are correct—the world was created in Nisan in thought, whereas in deed, it was created in Tishrei. The problem with this approach is that for halakhic (Jewish ritual law) purposes of calculating Jewish calendar, the planets are deemed to have commenced their heavenly orbits in Nisan, not in Tishrei! How could planets that haven’t yet been actually created, start their orbital movements in Nisan?! This can be explained by using the approach I suggested in my post [...]

Relativity of Manna

This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded: Gather ye of it every man according to his eating; an omer a head, according to the number of your persons, shall ye take it, every man for them that are in his tent.' And the children of Israel did so, and gathered some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. (Ex. 16-18) Jews in the desert were given manna – one omer (Biblical measure) per member of the household. Biblical commentator Rashi explains: Some gathered [too] much [manna] and some gathered [too] little, but when they came home, they measured with an omer, each one [...]

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