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sefirot, sefiroth, sefiros, sfiros, sefirah, sefira, sfirah

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 [...]

Five Worlds

Today, Yud Shvat, is the yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, a.k.a. the Rebbe Rayatz, or the Frierdiker Rebbe. On the day of his yartzeit, it is customary to study his last maamar (Chassidic discourse), Basi LeGani. One of the themes expounded in the first chapter of this discourse is the concepts of four worlds: Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah (collectively referred to as ABYA). Actually, in Kabbala and Chassidic philosophy, we speak of five worlds and the “world,” which precedes Atzilut is call Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man, often referred to by its acronym as the A”K). In this post, I will draw a parallel between these spiritual worlds and stages of the creation of our physical world. Why do that? It is axiomatic in Jewish mysticism [...]

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 [...]

The Fifth Force

“Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel.” Deut. 31:19 The four known fundamental forces are: gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong (nuclear) force and weak (betta decay) force. Newton first described gravitational force in his famous universal law of gravity. Today, we use Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to describe strong gravitation fields. Electromagnetism was described in the 19 c. by Faraday and Maxwell. Strong and week forces were discovered much later, in the second half of the 20 c. Since Albert Einstein started a search for a unified field theory, unsuccessfully trying to unify (describe by a single theory) gravity and electromagnetism, the quest for a unified field theory – the “Theory of Everything” – became the holy grail of theoretical physics. Strong and [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

The End of Days I

In this Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob, gathers his children to reveal to them “Ketz HaYamim”–“the End of Days.” Rashi explains that Jacob’s intention was to reveal the date of the coming of Mashiach (Messiah). Jacob called for his sons and said, "Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days. (Gen. 4:1) However, he proceeds rebuking his sons without revealing to them the Ketz — End of Days. Rashi says that Jacob looked into the future and saw his children being in exile for a long time. Rashi says that the word “ketz” (end)—spelled in Hebrew Kof-Tzadik—has the numerical value of 190. (Kof=100, Tzadik=90. 100+90=190). Jacob gazed 190 years into the future and saw his children still enslaved in Egypt. He became depressed and Shechinah (Divine Presence) left him. [...]