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Second Derivative – Secrets of the Double Cave

And he [Avraham] spoke with them, saying, “…Listen to me and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar. That he may give me the Machpelah (Double) Cave, which belongs to him, which is at the end of his field…" (Gen. 23:8-9) double: A house with an upper story over it. Another interpretation: because it was doubled with couples (Er. 53a) (Rashi on Gen. 23:9) In the Torah portion Chayei Sarah, Avraham purchases a Double Cave, Machpelah, as the ancestral burial plot. Almost all Biblical commentators interpret Machpelah-double to mean a cave with two chambers. Rashi takes an entirely different approach and states that the cave was known for a two-story house built on top of it. So, the word “Machpelah” (lit. “double”) refers not to the cave itself, but to the house [...]

Biblical Relativity

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years... (Gen. 23:1) Why did Esther merit to rule over 127 countries? Said God: “Let Esther, the descendant of Sarah who lived 127 years, come and rule over 127 lands. (Esther Rabbah 1:8) The Midrash Ester Rabbah compares 127 years of Sarah’s life with 127 provinces that Esther ruled. How can one compare time with space? When the Midrash says that Adam gifted 70 years of his life to his descendant, King David, it’s understandable – a year for a year. But a year for a province? What’s the connection? Hermann Minkowski When, in 1905, Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity, it was nothing short of a scientific revolution. For the first time, Einstein showed [...]

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 [...]

The Beard of the Long Face is Found

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz (a.k.a. the Fridriker Rebbe) told the story about his father, the Rebbe Rashab. Once the brother of Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (a.k.a. the RM”M) told him that he read in a magazine an article that stated that scientists found a nerve in the brain regulating the cognitive function so that when a person needed to remember something he would tilt his head looking up, whereas when the person needed to concentrate, he’d tilt his head down. The Rebbe Rashab took his brother to his study, took from the shelf a book by the Second Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Mittler Rebbe, in which it stated the same thing. The Rebbe Rashab said to his brother, “You’d think he was a doctor, but he wasn’t. He saw Adam [...]

Sanctuary in Five Dimensions

In my last post, Tisha B’Av on Shabbat – A Relativistic Perspective, I wrote that God created His sanctuary in four dimensions — Bet HaMikdash (preceded by the Mishkan in the desert) in the three spatial dimensions, and Shabbat in the fourth dimension, time. I emphasized four dimensions because that was all we needed to explain the connection between the Temple and Shabbat and why we do not fast when Tish B’Av falls on Shabbat (but, instead, fast on the following day—Sunday). In truth, however, God created His sanctuary in five dimensions. As we discussed in a number of posts on this blog (On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe, The Fifth Force, The Fifth Force – Epilog, Tumah and Taharah), Sefer Yetzirah, the oldest surviving book of Kabbalah, [...]

Tisha B’Av on Shabbat – A Relativistic Perspective

Yesterday was the 9th day of the month of Av or, in Hebrew, Tisha B’Av. Usually, Tisha B’Av is marked by mourning and fasting. Yesterday, however, we ate festive meals, drank wine and were prohibited from fasting or displaying any signs of mourning. Because yesterday was Shabbat. Shabbat pushes off the observances of Tisha B’Av by a day. Indeed, today, Sunday, we fast and mourn the destruction of the First and the Second Holy Temple  – Bet Hamikdash – in Jerusalem, we remember the Holocaust and many other tragedies that befell the Jewish people. Why couldn’t we observe Tisha B’Av on Shabbat? After all, that was the day when on the 9th of Av, both Temples were destroyed! The simple explanation, of course, is that on Shabbat there is no mourning. On Shabbat, [...]

Purim—the Day when We Celebrate Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking

The Zohar compares Yom Kippur to Purim stating that Yom HaKipurim may be interpreted as “a day like Purim” (k-purim in Hebrew means “like purim”).  On Purim we feast; on Yom Kippur we fast—what the two can have in common? Indeed, Purim and Yom Kippur have something very important in common.  Both days share a common root—pur—meaning  a “lot” (or pl. purim—“lots”). On Yom Kippur, two lots were placed in a wooden  box—one say “to God”, and the other “to Azazel.”  (See my post, “Tale of Entangled Goats”). The High Priest relied on a lottery to choose which goat would be used for a sacrifice to God and which to atone for the sins of Jewish People. On Purim, Haman threw two lots to determine the month and the day of a pogrom, [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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