Parshah

/Parshah

Weekly Torah portion

Wellsprings from Above and Wellsprings from Below

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month… all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. (Gen. 7:11)   In calculating the time of the dawn of Messianic revelation, the Zohar writes, And after six hundred years of the sixth thousand there will be opened the gates of wisdom above and the fountains of wisdom below, and the world will make preparations to enter on the seventh thousand as man makes preparation on the sixth day of the week, when the sun is about to set. (Zohar I, 117a) The Zohar calculates this based on the letters of the Tetragrammaton, but brings the verse from this parshah as the mnemonic: “In the six [...]

Day Six – the State of Superposition

And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good, and it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day. (Gen. 1:31)   The Biblical narrative of creation concludes with the above verse. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (a.k.a. Rashi) comments on this verse: the sixth day: Scripture added a “hey” on the sixth [day], at the completion of the Creation, to tell us that He stipulated with them, [“you were created] on the condition that Israel accept the Five Books of the Torah.” [The numerical value of the “hey” is five.] (Tanchuma Bereishith 1). Another explanation for “the sixth day”: They [the works of creation] were all suspended until the “sixth day,” referring to the sixth day of Sivan, which was prepared for the giving of the Torah (Shab. 88a). [...]

Shabbat Bereshit – Past, Present, and Future

In the last post, Tishrei—Past, Present, and Future, we discussed how all Tishrei holidays – Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah – are connected by the same thread of time and, more specifically, the unification of past, present, and future. This cluster of Tishrei holidays is culminated and concluded with Shabbat Bereshit, when we start the new annual cycle of reading the Torah. Not surprisingly, Shabbat Bereshit follows the same pattern of unification of past, present, and future. The Torah starts with the creation of the world. The story of Creation, obviously, relates to the past. The word “bereshit,” means, in the beginning. The root of “bereshit" is “reshit” – beginning. Beginning, however, points into the future – to something that will follow the beginning in the future. The Lubavitcher [...]

Scientists are Clarifying Witnesses

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth! (Deut. 32:1) In this Torah portion Haazinu, Moses appeals to heavens and earth as witnesses. However, a few verses later, he extorts the Jewish people: “Ask your father, and he will tell you; your elders, and they will inform you” (Deut. 32:7) as if to confirm the testimony of heavens and earth. Why wasn’t the testimony of heavens and earth enough? Why did their testimony need to be corroborated by “your father” and “your elders”? The Lubavitcher Rebbe The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in one of his talks (see R’ Schneerson, M.M. Likute Sihot (Brooklyn, NY: Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos, 1998) v. XIX, Devorim, pp. 188-196) discusses the Talmudic concept of two types of witnesses: [...]

Shoo Away the Mother Bird

If a bird's nest chances before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs, and the mother sitting upon the fledglings, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the mother with the young; thou shalt shoo away the mother, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. (Deut. 22:6-7) Many years ago, I was at a physics conference in Princeton in honor of the 85th birthday of John Archibald Wheeler. At the lunch break, I set alone at a table to eat my kosher lunch (I am always embarrassed eating this awful airplane food typically served at conferences whenever I order kosher food. The sound of unwrapping the cellophane attracts everyone’s [...]

Sabbatical Year – when the Wavefunctions are Collapsed

The Torah portion, Re’eh, talks about the Sabbatical Year—in Hebrew, Shemitah—the Seventh year. When the Sabbatical year comes, all loans are forgiven, and Jewish servants go free. This is difficult to understand. Why would a lender forgive a loan just because it’s the seventh year in the Shemitah cycle? Why would slaves be set free just because it’s the Sabbatical year? Another question is why do we translate Shemitah as the “Sabbatical year”? Besides the fact that it is the seventh year, and Shabbat is the seventh day, what connects the word “shemitah” with Shabbat? As Rabbi Yehoshua Steinberg writes in Biblical Hebrew Etymology, (see Re’eh: The Slippery Year? – The Wonders of the Holy Tongue), the three-letter root of the word “shemitah” – Shin-Mem-Tet – connote falling, collapsing, slipping, weakening, or disintegration. The two-letter [...]

Re’eh – the Power of Seeing the Blessings

The Torah portion Re’eh, begins with the verse: Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse. (Deut. 11:26) The first word of this verse, re’eh, literally means “see” in Hebrew. So, literally, this verse should be translated as: See, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse Why did Moses implore people to see, as he was about to set before them a blessing and a curse? To understand this, we need to look at the following verses defining the blessing and the cure: The blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your God… (Deut. 11:27) …and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your God… (Deut. 11:28) Does this remind you the setup of the [...]

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 [...]