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Bereshit — the First Book of Torah

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 [...]

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 [...]

Covenant between the Parts as a Metaphor for Quantum Entanglement

And he took him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each half over against the other… And it came to pass, that, when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a dread, even a great darkness, fell upon him…  And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and there was thick darkness, behold a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces. Gen. XV, 10-17 The above verses from this week’s parshah (Torah portion) Lech Lecha (Gen. XII,1–XVII,27) describe the Covenant between the Parts (ברית בין הבתרים), a.k.a. the Covenant of the Pieces, when God entered into eternal covenant with Abraham (at the time called Abram)—a covenant symbolized by halved animals. The simple meaning of this ritual is apparent: just [...]

Adam Kadmon and Holographic Universe

Dedicated to the memory of Professor Yaakob David Bekenstein   The Torah opens with the word “Bereshit” – in the Beginning – whose first letter, Bet, is written large to signify that it contains a hidden meaning. The gematriah (numerical value) of the letter Bet is 2. It has three sides – top (“roof”), bottom (“floor”) and the right “wall”:   Letter Bet of Bereshit may be viewed as the “event horizon” of the Torah. In General Relativity, the event horizon is the area of spacetime beyond which information is inaccessible to an outside observer. For example, the event horizon of a black hole is the boundary surrounding every black hole that acts as information firewall – the light from within the event horizon cannot escape outside and, therefore, information is invisible to an [...]