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Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord, and died. (Lev. 16:1)   The first verse of the Torah portion of Acharei Mot, which we read yesterday, seem perfectly innocuous and, on the surface, serves as a mere introduction to the laws of Yom Kippur service that follows. Much, however, lies beneath the surface. Some of the deepest secrets of Kabbala are hidden therein. Allow me to present them along the lines of Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll. Nadab en Abihu verteerd door het vuur, gravure van Gerard Hoet, Den Haag 1728 Sex The story of two eldest sons of Aaron—Nadab (Nadav) and Abihu (Avihu)—dying is told in the Torah portion of Shemini: And Nadab and Abihu, the [...]

When was the World Created?

Today was Rosh Chodesh Nissan (the New Moon – the beginning of the months of Nissan). There is a dispute in the Talmud as to when was the world created. According to Rabbi Eliezer, the world was created in the month of Tishrei. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, the world was created in the month of Nissan (Tr. Rosh Hashanah (10b)). The Chasidic thought attempts to reconcile these opinions suggesting that both opinions are correct—the world was created in Nissan in thought and Tishrei in deed. The problem with this approach is that for halahic (Jewish ritual law) purposes of calculating Jewish calendar, the planets are deemed to have commenced their heavenly orbits in Nissan, not in Tishrei! How could planets that haven’t been actually created yet start their orbital movements in Nissan?! This can [...]

Yom Kippur – Disentangling the Entangled

When God created the first humans, Adam and Eve (Chavah), He created them as one. And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. (Gen. 1:27) Actually, as Midrash Rabbah (Gen. VIII:1) explains, Adam and Eve were created as one being as Siamese twins—attached by their side.  When the story of the creation of Adam is repeated in the next chapter, it seems as a very different story: And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the place with flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the [...]

Maarat HaMachpelah – Double Cave

Give me the Machpelah (double) Cave Bereshit-Genesis 23:9 The first legal acquisition of land in Israel takes place in this Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, when Abraham purchases a double cave, Maarat HaMachpelah, in the city of Chevron (Hebron) as an ancestral burial plot. Today, the immense rectangular structure built over the cave more than 2000 years ago during Herodian era is the oldest house of worship in the world in continuous use. Biblical commentator Rashi explains that the cave was called Machpelah (lit., double) because it had two structures—an upper chamber and a lower chamber. (Another explanation given in the Talmud relates the name of this cave to thee couples buried there—Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. According to Kabbalah, Adam and Eve are buried there as well (Zohar, Ruth 96). Cave of the Patriarchs A [...]

Passover, Shabbat and the Principle of Least Action

There is hardly a Jewish holiday more widely celebrated than Passover (Pesach). Jews of all denominations, affiliations, and levels of religious observance—if any at all—gather at the Passover Seder to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. What is often lost amid all of the beautiful rituals, not least among them the singing of Had Gadia and other Seder songs, is the deep meaning of this holiday, which is far more profound than a mere recollection of historical events, no matter how important they may be. What is, then, the deeper meaning of Pesach that transcends its historical significance? On the morrow of Shabbat One obscure and little-known (outside of the observant Jewish community) mitzvah may lead us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of Pesach – this is the commandment [...]

Two Beginnings

Two Beginnings B’reshis bara Elokim es hashamaim v’es haaretz… In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth… Alternative translations: With two beginnings G-d created heaven and earth… Genesis 1:1   *This is an abridged and updated version of the paper “Towards Reconciliation of Biblical and Cosmological Ages of the Universe” Presented at the Third Miami International Conference on Torah & Science in Dec. of 1999 and published in B’Or HaTorah, 13 (2002) p. 19.   Contemporary science places the age of the universe in the thirteen to fourteen billion years range, or 13.799 ± 0.21, [1] to be precise.  This age is derived from both theoretical models as well as experimental data.  (For an overview of theoretical and experimental approaches to dating the universe and our planet Earth see my original paper TOWARDS RECONCILIATION OF BIBLICAL AND COSMOLOGICAL AGES OF [...]

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 [...]