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Witnesses

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God Collapses the Sotah’s Wavefunction

The story of Sotah, a suspected adulteress, is very troubling on the first blush. Why would a woman be subjected to such humiliation?  The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, points out that, to the contrary, the story of Sotah is the story of boundless love of the Creator for his people.  Notwithstanding the strict Biblical prohibition of erasing God’s name, to vindicate the wrongly accused woman, God allows and, indeed, decrees to erase His holy Name by dissolving the scriptural verses written on a parchment in the water that the woman would drink to clear her name.  For as long as a woman is being suspected of infidelity, she cannot be intimate with her husband.  It takes a Divine intervention, whereby God sacrifices His honor in allowing erasing His holy Name, to restore [...]

Carpe Diem

As we have discussed in the previous blog, It’s the time, stupid, Pharaoh never got the message that it’s all about mastery of time.  To make sure Jews did get this message, God gave them the very first commandment – the commandment of keeping time, of marking new months: This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. (Ex. 12: 2) It is important to note that Jews were not only commanded to keep time, they were commanded to “make” time.  Indeed, in Biblical times, the new month was not calculated according to a calendar as it is done today.  It was proclaimed by a Bet Din (an ecclesiastic court) based on the testimony of two live witnesses who observed the [...]

Witnesses – See and be Seen

עַל פִּי שְׁנַיִם עֵדִים אוֹ שְׁלֹשָׁה עֵדִים יוּמַת הַמֵּת לֹא יוּמַת עַל פִּי עֵד אֶחָד: By the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall the one liable to death be put to death; he shall not be put to death by the mouth of one witness. (Devarim-Deuteronomy 17:6) Earlier this summer, I wrote about witnesses in the post imaginatively called Witnesses. As Deuteronomy, restates many mitzvoth (commandments) introduced earlier, which is why it is also called Mishneh Torah – the repetition of Torah – the parshah Shoftim, which we read yesterday in Synagogues, restates the law of witnesses first introduced in in the book of Bamidbar-Numbers, parshat Massei. So we shall revisit this fascinating subject. The Judgment of the Sanhedrin: "He is Guilty!" (1892 painting by Nikolai Ge) I.     An accused criminal and a Schrödinger cat Most criminals are convicted [...]

Witnesses

Massei -- Bamidbar-Numbers 35 Whoever kills a person, based on the testimony of witnesses, he shall slay the murderer. A single witness may not testify against a person so that he should die. Bamidbar-Numbers 35:30 In this verse, the Torah states that a murderer can only be convicted based on testimony of live witnesses. Contrary to common law jurisprudence in the US and the UK, and civil law jurisprudence of most other western countries, circumstantial evidence cannot be used alone to convict according to the Torah law. (It may, however, be used to interrogate witnesses in order to ascertain their truthfulness or to acquit the accused.) The only basis for a Torah conviction is eye-witness testimony. This seems strange, though. Why, for example, may fingerprints or DNA evidence, which is, surely, incontrovertible, not be used to [...]

On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe

Presented at the International Torah and Science Conference in Miami International University on December 18, 2005 Alexander Poltorak   Introduction. This is the third in a series of articles, in which I attempt to sketch various approaches to reconciling a cosmological age of the universe currently estimated at 13.75 billion years with the Jewish tradition setting this age at less than six thousand years (5770 as of the day of this writing,[1] to be exact). The first article tackled this problem from the point of view of Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics suggesting that there were two distinct forms of existence—physical and proto-physical—and that the first observers, Adam and Eve, collapsed the universal wavefunction, bringing the world from amorphous proto-physical existence into tangible physical existence.  This approach leads to two timelines and two [...]