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Husband and wife

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Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord, and died. (Lev. 16:1)   The first verse of the Torah portion of Acharei Mot, which we read yesterday, seem perfectly innocuous and, on the surface, serves as a mere introduction to the laws of Yom Kippur service that follows. Much, however, lies beneath the surface. Some of the deepest secrets of Kabbala are hidden therein. Allow me to present them along the lines of Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll. Nadab en Abihu verteerd door het vuur, gravure van Gerard Hoet, Den Haag 1728 Sex The story of two eldest sons of Aaron—Nadab (Nadav) and Abihu (Avihu)—dying is told in the Torah portion of Shemini: And Nadab and Abihu, the [...]

Joseph’s Sons

And now thy two sons, who were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine.  And thy sons, that thou begettest after them, shall be thine; they shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.  And as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died unto me in the land of Canaan in the way, when there was still some way to come unto Ephrath; and I buried her there in the way to Ephrath—the same is Beth-lehem.”  And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said: “Wherefrom are these?”   —Gen.  48:5-8 The above narrative in the Torah portion Vayechi is quite perplexing.  It starts with a shocking pronouncement by Jacob that [...]

Shabbat in Numbers

Last week Torah portion, Emor, speaks about prohibition of working on Shabbat. In fact, the Talmud enumerates precisely 39 categories of labor forbidden on Shabbat. But why 39? Rabbi Shimon b’ Rabbi Yossi ben Lakunya (Shabbat 49b) suggests that the number 39 can be derived from the number of times the various forms of the word “melacha” (work) appear in the Torah. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to see how this works out. In his commentary on this passage, Rabbi Hananel ben Hushiel (990-1053) already pointed out that this word appears 61 times in the Torah, not 39! Actually, this word actually appears 63 times! Another Talmudic Rabbi Chanina of Sepphoris derives the number 39 homiletically strenuously computing gematriah of the phrase, “These are the things.” (Shabbat 7:2) The lack of clear source for the [...]

Joseph and His Brothers

I grew up In Russia and was raised on the metric system based on the decimal arithmetic. When we immigrated to the U.S., I had to learn a new to me (but, actually, very old) Imperial system of measurements having 12 inches in a foot or 12 ounces in a pound. I still struggle with it (decimal system, apparently, was hardwired in my brain). There are many number systems or positional notation systems. Ancient Babylonians used base-60, Hindu-Arabic system uses familiar decimal base-10 system, Mayans used base-20 system. There are base-2 binary, base-12 duodecimal, and base-16 hexadecimal systems, to name a few. Aside from the binary system used by computers, we humans mostly use decimal and, sometimes, duodecimal systems. The all-familiar decimal system is used in the metric system of measurements. In base-10 [...]

A Girl in a State of Superposition

In my recent post Secrets of the Talking Ass I discussed the phenomenon of Bein HaShmashot (twilight or dusk), which is neither day, nor night, nor both, nor neither, but rather a unique state having its own unique status and laws associated with it. What is interesting about Bein HaShmashot from our point of view is that it is uncannily similar to a quantum-mechanical state of superposition. As we discussed in that blog, an electron can be in a state of superposition of having its spin be up and down (with angular momentum directed clockwise and counterclockwise) or a photon in a state of superposition of horizontal and vertical polarization, or the Schrödinger cat in a state of superposition of being alive and being dead. Just as Bein HaShmashot the cat is neither [...]

God Collapses the Sotah’s Wavefunction

The story of Sotah, a suspected adulteress, is very troubling on the first blush. Why would a woman be subjected to such humiliation?  The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, points out that, to the contrary, the story of Sotah is the story of boundless love of the Creator for his people.  Notwithstanding the strict Biblical prohibition of erasing God’s name, to vindicate the wrongly accused woman, God allows and, indeed, decrees to erase His holy Name by dissolving the scriptural verses written on a parchment in the water that the woman would drink to clear her name.  For as long as a woman is being suspected of infidelity, she cannot be intimate with her husband.  It takes a Divine intervention, whereby God sacrifices His honor in allowing erasing His holy Name, to restore [...]

Sotah – Suspected Adulteress as a Schrödinger Cat

In quantum mechanics, the state of a physical system is described by the so-called wave function (or the "wavefunction").  What is the wavefunction?  The attempts by Schrödinger, who first introduced the wavefunction, and others to interpret it as a scalar potential of some physical field or as de Broglie wave (as in particle-wave dualism) were not successful.  In 1926, Max Born noticed that the square of the amplitude of the wavefunction of a particle in a given region gives the probability of finding the particle in this region of configuration space.  He suggested that the wavefunction represented not a physical reality but rather our knowledge of the quantum state of an object. The wavefunction represents our knowledge of all possible quantum-mechanical states of an object.  In other words, the quantum-mechanical state of a physical [...]

Matos-Massei – Annulment of Vows

עַל כֵּן יַעֲזָב אִישׁ אֶת אָבִיו וְאֶת אִמּוֹ וְדָבַק בְאִשְׁתּו וְהָיוּ לְבָשָר אֶחָ דֹ …A man shall detach himself from his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Bereshit 2:24) A story is told about a bachur (unmarried young man) who came in the 60s to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for the yechidus (private audience) telling the Rebbe that he wanted to go college. Those days, American colleges, by and large, where not exactly institutions of higher learning but, more often, venues for drugs, sex and rock and roll. The Rebbe strongly advised the visitor against going to college, but the young man was hell-bound on going through with his plan. The Rebbe said to him, “Even if you don’t care about the spiritual dangers and [...]