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Genesis — the First Book of Torah

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 [...]

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 [...]

One-to-Many and Many-to-One

And he arrived upon the place and lodged there all night, because the sun was set; and he took from the stones of the place, and put them under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep. — Gen.28:11 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. — Gen.28:18 Rashi notes that, before Jacob lies down to sleep, the verse speaks of the plurality of stones: “he took from the stones of that place, and put them under his head.” When Jacob wakes up, the verse suddenly switches from plural to singular mentioning only one stone: “and took the stone that he had put under [...]

Chayei Sarah – where Kabbalah meets physics

And these are the years of the life of Ishmael: one hundred years and thirty years and seven years (Gen. 25,17) “You might say the ‘hand of God’ wrote that number [137]” – Richard Feynman “The mystery about α is actually a double mystery. The first mystery – the origin of its numerical value α ≈ 1/137 has been recognized and discussed for decades. The second mystery – the range of its domain – is generally unrecognized. — Malcolm H. Mac Gregor, M.H. MacGregor (2007). The Power of Alpha. World Scientific. p. 69. Kabbalah is the esoteric level of the Torah. The word “kabbalah” (קבלה) literally means “receiving” or “received [wisdom].” The gematriah (numerical value) of the word “kabbalah” is 137: Kuf (100) + Bet (2) + Lamed (30) + Heh (5) = 137. This number appears explicitly for the first time in the [...]

Big Bang

  Torah starts with two words – Bereshit bara… Bereshit in Hebrew mean “in the beginning” and bara means “created.” What is interesting is that both words begin with the same letter Bet pronounced as “b”. Another expression made of two words that describes the process of creation is Big Bang. And these two words also start with letter “b”. It could, of course, be a coincidence, but not according to Nahmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi know by his acronym as the Ramban, 1194–1270). Here is Nahmanides’ description of initial moments of the creation: …At the briefest instant following creation all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard… From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, [...]

By | October 30th, 2016|Bereishit, Bereshit, Creation, Parshah, Uncategorized|2 Comments

Joseph teaches Pharaoh a lesson in fundamental forces

This week, we read in the Torah portion Vayigash (Gen. 44:18–47:27) about Joseph revealing himself to his brothers and Jacob coming to Egypt with his family. This story line culminates by Joseph presenting his brothers and his father to Pharaoh. A curious thing, though—instead of presenting all eleven brothers, Joseph presents only five. This fact does not escape the attention of Rashi, who comments as follows: Joseph choose the weakest of his brothers to avoid conscription of the brothers to the military service in the Pharaoh’s army. This explanation always left me dissatisfied. Even if it explains why Joseph presented fewer than all of his brothers to Pharaoh, it does not explain the number—why five? Why not one, or two, or three? The number five in Hebrew is represented by the letter Heh. I submit [...]

Jacob’s Sheep—Particles, Fields and Strings

And it came to pass at the time that the flock conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the he-goats which leaped upon the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. (Gen. 31:10)   This week’s Torah reading, Vayeitzei (Gen. 28:10-32:3) talks about three kinds of sheep: streaked, speckled, and spotted.   Streaked Sheep   Streaked sheep (“akudim”) were ankle-ringed. They looked as if their ankles were bound together with a black rope. Hence the name—"akidim" (Hebrew world for streaked, “akud” means bound as in “Akeda”—binding of Isaac). Speckled Sheep Speckled sheep (Heb. “nekudim” from sing. “nakod”.) were sheep with black dots.   Spotted Sheep   Spotted or flecked sheep (Heb. "berudim") were blotched. What is the significance of these streaks, speckles and blotches that the Torah devotes so much attention to them? The [...]