Pentateuch (Chumash)

/Pentateuch (Chumash)

Torah – Five Books of Moses

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 [...]

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 [...]

Symmetry and Love — Jewish Chromodynamics

Ye are standing this day all of you before the Lord your God: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water; that thou shouldest enter into the covenant of the Lord thy God—and into His oath—which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. (Deut. 29:9-11) The above verses at the beginning of the Torah portion Nitzavim that is always read in the week preceding the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah, are usually interpreted in terms of the unity of Jewish people: You are standing this day all of you [read: standing together in perfect unity]. This is not [...]

First Fruits and the Wave-Particle Duality of Nature

…Thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee; and thou shalt put it in a basket and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. And thou shalt come unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him: 'I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the land which the Lord swore unto our fathers to give us.' And the priest shall take the basket out of thy hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord thy God. (Deut. 26:2-4) And the priest shall take the basket out of [...]