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Jacob and Esau—Thermodynamics of Order and Chaos

And these are the chronicles of Isaac… (Genesis 25:19) So Esau went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife. (Genesis 28:9)   This Torah portion is called Toledot. In Hebrew, toledot means “generations” or “chronicles.” Indeed, this Torah portion starts with the phrase, “These are the chronicles of Isaac.” This is not the first or the last time this word appears in Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures). It appears for the first time in the opening verse of chapter 2 of Genesis: These are the chronicles of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Eternal God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4) The second time it appears in [...]

Keturah and Hagar III—A Metaphor for Unification

And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah. (Genesis 25:1) Keturah: This is Hagar. She was called Keturah because her deeds were as pleasant as keturah (incense). (Genesis Rabbah 61:5) Keturah is Hagar. (Zohar 133)   As we discussed earlier, Abraham had a concubine, Hagar. Later in life, after the passing of Sarah, Abraham took another wife whose name was Keturah. Midrash, the Zohar, Rashi, and other commentators state that Keturah is Hagar. To distill this situation to its essence, we have here two seemingly distinct individuals who, in the view of at least some biblical commentators, are one and the same person. To any physicist, this narrative bespeaks a unification. Indeed, this situation is analogous to the unification tendency in theoretical physics, where different fundamental interactions are unified into one. [...]

Noah’s Ark—Three Layers of Reality

A light shalt thou make to the ark…with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:16) We mentioned in the previous posts that Noah’s ark was a microcosm.[1] As we discussed in the previous post, “Noah’s Ark—Three Layers of Being Human,” most structural parallels related to Noah’s ark are based on its tripartite structure —that is, its having three tiers. In Chasidic thought, the three levels of Noah’s ark correspond to three worlds of BiYA—Beriyah (the World of Creation), Yetzirah (the World of Formation), and Asiyah (the World of Action). In this essay, we will investigate how the tripartite structure of Noah’s ark is reflected in the structure of reality. We might say that the totality of existence comprises three layers—physical, informational, and spiritual. The classification of reality into three [...]

Tzimtzum III—Renormalization—Sweeping Infinites Under the Rug

Sweeping Infinities Under the Rug—or Renormalization Having dealt with internal contradictions in the previous section (see Physics of Tzimtzum I — The Quantum Leap and Physics of Tzimtzum II — Collapse of the Wave Function), we are left with another problem—infinity. Although God concealed His self-contradictory nature by “sweeping paradoxes under the rug” in the process akin to the collapse of the wave function, the Light of the Infinite (Ohr Ein Sof) filled the whole of existence with infinite Divine emanation. This infinite radiation left no room for any finite creation to emerge. What was God to do? Having aced the exam on quantum field theory with flying colors, God employed the favorite trick of theoretical physicists in sweeping infinities under the rug using what is called “renormalization.”[1] Roughly speaking, renormalization solves the [...]

Physics of Tzimtzum II — Collapse of the Wave Function

In the previous post “Physics of Tzimtzum I—The Quantum Leap”, we gave a general overview of the mystical doctrine of tzimtzum—the cornerstone of Lurianic Kabbalah. It is time to get into the details. The first phrase that describes the process of tzimtzum in Etz Chaim states: Ein Sof “contracted” (tzimtzem) Himself in the point at the center, in the very center of Ohr Ein Sof. This sentence raises several difficult questions: First, what could it possibly mean that the Infinite (Ein Sof) “contracted” (tzimtzem) Himself? In Hebrew, the word tzimtzum comes from the root TZM, which means “to diminish” or “to fast,” that is, to “diminish” oneself.[1] It can also mean “to be precise,” that is, to remove ambiguity.[2] The repetition of the root TZM is a grammatical form of doubling down, an extreme [...]

Physics of Tzimtzum I — The Quantum Leap

Introduction “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” the Torah says. However, what was before the “beginning”? It is like asking, What was before the Big Bang? In physics, until relatively recently, such questions were discouraged. The prevailing wisdom was that time and space had been created by the Big Bang, and there was no “before” before the Big Bang. Mishnah discourages such thinking, too. The sages point out that the first letter of the Torah, the letter bet, is open on the left and closed on the right:[1] The text of the Torah and the history of the world proceed from that opening on the left. The closed right side of the letter bet visually walls off [...]

Getting a Blessing Through a Wormhole

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and put forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. (Bamidbar 17:23)   In the Torah portion we read last Shabbat, God instructs Moses to Speak to the children of Israel and take of them rods, one for each fathers’ house… thou shalt write every man’s name upon his rod.” (Bamidbar 17:17) As we read in verse 23, the next morning, Aaron’s rod (i.e., staff) bore ripe almonds. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi asks the question, why almonds?[1] If the staff of Aaron had blossomed with any flowers or fruits, that would have been enough to miraculously demonstrate to the children of [...]

My Name Is God, and I Am Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth...[1] (Genesis 1:1)   Classical biblical commentators have given the first words of the Torah many different translations and have interpreted them to have many different meanings. That said, one simple aspect has received little attention—that God is introducing Himself to us. If we take poetic license and change the order of the words, the first phrase in the Torah could be loosely translated as: “[My name is] God—[Who], in the beginning, created the heaven and the earth.” God is introducing Himself to us as the Creator of everything—heaven (i.e., the spiritual) and earth (i.e., the material). This interpretation of the first verse in the Torah may be helpful for the following reason. In truth, God is entirely unknowable. The Creator of everything, including [...]

Shavuot (in Russian)

Шавуот Праздник Дарования Торы Aлександр Полторак    Закончился праздник Песах.  Все евреи поспешно убрали пасхальную посуду в особые шкафы или на чердаки до следующего Песаха.  В домах появились после восьмидневного перерыва свежеиспечённые булки. Наступили будни... Прошедший праздник оставил во рту приятный привкус подгоревшей мацы, воспоминания о Седере, проведенном в кругу семьи, рассказы об Исходе. Но закончился ли на этом Песах? Мораль и Свобода Выбора Вспомним, что главная идея Песаха это идея свободы, свободы от рабства Египетского или иного, физического или духовного. Итак, Бог вывел еврейский народ из Египта, сделал нас свободными людьми. Но стали ли мы свободными, освободившись от гнёта египетских надсмотрщиков?  Подчас, раб, освобождённый своим хозяином, остаётся у него добровольно, ибо некуда и незачем ему идти, нет у него ни места, ни смысла жизни...  Что же это всё-таки такое, свобода? О свободе [...]

The Surrounding Light and the Penetrating Light

The Torah portion Vayakhel deals with the construction of the Mishkan, i.e., the “Tabernacle.” In Kabbalah, the Mishkan is viewed as a microcosm that represents a miniature model of the entire universe—both physical and spiritual. The Mishkan was comprised primarily of two categories of objects. The first category included the coverings that made up the roof and the walls surrounding the Mishkan. The second category included kelim—the objects inside the Mishkan. This is not the first time the description of the coverings and kelim appear in the Torah. In the Torah portion Teruma, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the Mishkan. Interestingly, in Teruma, God first speaks of the kelim and then of the coverings, whereas in Vayakhel, when Moses instructs the Jewish people, he reverses the order and first [...]

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