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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 [...]

The Fifth Force

“Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel.” Deut. 31:19 The four known fundamental forces are: gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong (nuclear) force and weak (betta decay) force. Newton first described gravitational force in his famous universal law of gravity. Today, we use Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to describe strong gravitation fields. Electromagnetism was described in the 19 c. by Faraday and Maxwell. Strong and week forces were discovered much later, in the second half of the 20 c. Since Albert Einstein started a search for a unified field theory, unsuccessfully trying to unify (describe by a single theory) gravity and electromagnetism, the quest for a unified field theory – the “Theory of Everything” – became the holy grail of theoretical physics. Strong and [...]

Fractal Patterns in Time

In the current Torah portion Emor, we are instructed to abstain from work on Shabbat—every seventh day. Next week’s Torah portion, Behar, continues this theme and instructs us to abstain from agricultural work every Sabbatical year, Shmita. And the Torah doesn’t stop there. It instructs us to count seven Shmitas and then observe a Jubilee, Yovel. Do you notice a pattern? Every seven days, every seven years, every seven Shmitas… Furthermore, the Midrash states the world will exist for seven thousand years with the seventh millennium being a thousand years of the kingdom of Mashiach (Messiah)—yom shekuloy Shabbat—one long Shabbat. A second-century sage, Rabbi Huniah ben HaKanah, interprets this Midrash to mean that the world will last seven Cosmic Shmitas, i.e., 49 thousand years (which, according to a prominent 13th–14th c. kabbalist Rb. Isaac [...]

The End of Days I

In this Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob, gathers his children to reveal to them “Ketz HaYamim”–“the End of Days.” Rashi explains that Jacob’s intention was to reveal the date of the coming of Mashiach (Messiah). Jacob called for his sons and said, "Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days. (Gen. 4:1) However, he proceeds rebuking his sons without revealing to them the Ketz — End of Days. Rashi says that Jacob looked into the future and saw his children being in exile for a long time. Rashi says that the word “ketz” (end)—spelled in Hebrew Kof-Tzadik—has the numerical value of 190. (Kof=100, Tzadik=90. 100+90=190). Jacob gazed 190 years into the future and saw his children still enslaved in Egypt. He became depressed and Shechinah (Divine Presence) left him. [...]

The Final Frontier

In this Torah portion—Devarim (Deuteronomy 1-3)—Moses recalls the travels through the Sinai desert when God told him: Be not at enmity with Moab, neither contend with them in battle; for I will not give thee of his land for a possession. Deut. 2:9 To put this into context, let us recall the covenant of the pieces (or covenant between the parts, Heb. Brit Bein HaBetarim), when God promised Avraham: On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates; the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.” Gen. 15:19-21 The medieval Biblical commentator, Rabbi [...]

Forty Two Journeys to the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

These are the journeys of the children of Israel… (Numbers 33:1) When G-d brought the Jews out from Egypt, He brought them out with the mystery of the 42-letter name, just as He created heaven and earth… (Zohar Chadash) The forty-two "stations" from Egypt to the Promised Land are replayed in the life of every individual Jew, as his soul journeys from its descent to earth at birth to its return to its Source. (Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov) Torah portion Massei (Num. 33-35) recalls forty-two journeys of the Children of Israel in the Sinai desert after the Exodus from Egypt.  This is not the first time the concept of forty-two journeys appears in the Torah.  Commenting on the Biblical verse, “And God said, ‘Behold, I Will Cause to Rain Bread from Heaven for You,’” (Ex. 25:5) the Midrash [...]

Four Cups and Three Matzoth

On Seder night we drink four cups of wine and eat three matzoth. Why four cups and not three? Why three matzoth and not four? The same numerical relationship exists among our forefathers. We have the patriarchs – Avraham (Abraham), Yitzchak (Isaac) and Yaakov (Jacob). But we have four matriarchs – Sarah, Rivkah (Rebeca) Rachel, and Leah. This dynamics also manifests itself in the holiest name of God – Tetragrammaton – YHWH. Why does the four-letter Name have only three unique letters, Yud, Heh, and Vav? According to Sefer Yetzirah – a classic text of Kabbalah attributed to Abraham or to Rabbi Akiva – there are three letters of Hebrew Alef Bet called mothers: Alef, Mem, and Shin, which are considered to be “primary” letters. The three mothers represent the basic logical triad [...]

Pesach – Time of our Freedom

The holiday of Passover – Pesach – is called zman cheruteinu– time of our freedom. As we have discussed many times on this blog (see Interpreting Dreams; It’s the time, stupid! Carpe Diem; Mezuzah and Time; Riddle — the answer; Splitting the Sea), freedom can only be obtained by mastering time. Everything about celebrating Passover is related to time. It all starts on the Rosh Chodesh Nissan (the New Moon, the beginning of the month of Nissan – marked by the renewal of the monthly lunar cycle – during which we celebrate Passover).  On that day, the very first commandment was given to the Jewish people – the commandment to set the calendar by the lunar cycle, i.e., the commandment of keeping time. Classical commentators ask: Why the Torah (which means “Instruction”) does not have as [...]

Splitting the Sea

Do you like riddles?  Here is a riddle – what do these two figures represent in the context of Exodus?   No Idea?  How about a hint? Still no idea? Okay, here is the answer: Yes, the first figure represents two doorposts and the lintel marked with the blood of Passover sacrifice, as it says: וְלָקְחוּ, מִן-הַדָּם, וְנָתְנוּ עַל-שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת, וְעַל-הַמַּשְׁקוֹף--עַל, הַבָּתִּים, אֲשֶׁר-יֹאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ, בָּהֶם  And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it.  (Ex. 12:7) The second picture is of the splitting of the sea, as it says: וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם, בַּיַּבָּשָׁה; וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חוֹמָה, מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the [...]

Mezuzah and Time

Bo: Exodus 10:1 – 14:16 The Erev Shabbat parshat Bo (the Eve of Sabbath of the week when we read the Torah section Bo) 2014 was my lucky day – I seem to have found an answer to a nagging question of many years. During several years from 1989 to 1996, I had been working on a book on Mezuzah.  This was not a book about halachot (ritual laws) of mezuzah – there were many books on that subject – this was a book about the meaning of mezuah – its significance in Jewish history, philosophy, ethics, and mysticism.  By 1996, the book was finished and I signed a contract with the leading publisher of English Judaica – Jason Aronson.  I was supposed to deliver the finished manuscript in a few months, but [...]