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Mishkan – a Metaphor for Quantum Reality, II

Continuing the theme of my last post, Mishkan – a Metaphor for Quantum Reality, the analogy between the Tabernacle (“Mishkan”) and quantum reality goes even deeper. The quantum world is best described today by the Quantum Field Theory. According to this theory, there are no particles, only fields. When we interact with a field, it manifests itself as a quantum of the field, which, to some extent, looks and behaves like a particle. For example, when we interact with an electromagnetic field, it manifests itself as a photon – a quantum of the electromagnetic field. An electron, according to the Quantum Field Theory, is not really a particle but a quantum of the electron field, which is a quantum field that is spread across the entire universe. This quantum is an excitation of [...]

Five Worlds

Today, Yud Shvat, is the yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, a.k.a. the Rebbe Rayatz, or the Frierdiker Rebbe. On the day of his yartzeit, it is customary to study his last maamar (Chassidic discourse), Basi LeGani. One of the themes expounded in the first chapter of this discourse is the concepts of four worlds: Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah (collectively referred to as ABYA). Actually, in Kabbala and Chassidic philosophy, we speak of five worlds and the “world,” which precedes Atzilut is call Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man, often referred to by its acronym as the A”K). In this post, I will draw a parallel between these spiritual worlds and stages of the creation of our physical world. Why do that? It is axiomatic in Jewish mysticism [...]

Big Bang

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא The Torah starts with two words—Bereshit bara—“In the beginning, [God] created…” Bereshit in Hebrew means “in the beginning,” and bara means “created.” What is interesting is that both words begin with the same letter, bet, the equivalent of b. Another two-word expression that describes the process of creation and each of whose two words also starts with the letter b is, of course, the Big Bang. This similarity could be a coincidence, but not according to Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi, known by the Hebrew acronym Ramban, 1194–1270). Here is Nahmanides’s description of the initial moments of the creation: At the briefest instant following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. . . . From the [...]

Fractal Patterns in the Torah

In the Torah portion Emor (Leviticus 21:1–24:23), we are instructed to abstain from work every seventh day on Shabbat. Next week’s Torah portion, Behar, continues this theme and instructs us to abstain from agricultural work every seventh 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 [...]

Mezuzah in Three Dimensions

The mezuzah is one of the few mitzvot (divine commandments) for which the Torah states its reward. In this case, the reward is long life for oneself and one's children: And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts ("mezuzot") of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers for as long as the heavens are above the earth (Deuteronomy 11:20-21). According to the Tosafot and the Shulchan Aruch, the main function of the mezuzah is to protect the house from evil. Because of this attribute, the mezuzah has been called "the coat of arms in the knighthood of God."*  To begin to understand the mechanism of this effect of the mezuzah, [...]

Menorah

Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him: "When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the menorah." (Num. 8:1) In the Torah portion Behaalotecha (Num. 8:1), Aaron is commanded to light the Menorah so that three light on the right and three lights on the left are directed towards the middle light. On the first blush, it appears to be a very strange commandment. Why would lights on the right and on the left need to be directed towards the center light? What is the significance of that? It seems to me that this unusual arrangement hints at fundamental structure of our world. Sefer Yetzirah states that this world is created in three domains – Olam (“World” – meaning space), Shanah (“Year” – meaning time) and Nefesh (“Soul” [...]

613 Degrees of Freedom

Passover has ended.  All Jews hastily remove their Passover dishes into special cabinets or the attic until next Passover.  After an eight-day break, home becomes filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread.  Passover leaves us with the pleasant taste of burnt matzot, memories of the Seder spent with family, and stories of the Exodus.  But did Passover really end? In the Mishnah (the precursor of Talmud), the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) is called “Atzeret.”  This word is familiar to us from Shemini Atzeret—the holiday that follows immediately after the seven days of Sukkot, often simply viewed as the last day (or, in Diaspora, the last two days) of Sukkot.  Either way, Shemini Atzeret is the conclusion of the festival of Sukkot.  By designating Shavuot as Atzeret, the Mishnah seems to imply that it is [...]

Ye Shall be Disentangled

Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. Leviticus 19:2 This Torah portion begins with an astonishing statement: Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. Leviticus 19:2 The gist of this commandment is “Be kadosh (or pl., kedoshim) because I, the Lord, your God, am kadosh.” The question is, what does the word “kadosh” mean. It is usually translated as “holy.” The word “holy” means sacred, sanctified, blessed, divine. But this translation presents a problem. It would be a tautology to say that God is divine. It is also self-understood that God is holy. He is the definition and the source of all that is divine and holy, i.e., godly. [...]

Maarat HaMachpelah – Double Cave

Give me the Machpelah (double) Cave 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 [...]

Cosmological Rosh HaShanah

This Rosh HaShanah I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that I was giving a lecture in cosmology at a university when I suddenly realized that it was Rosh HaShanah. I panicked… What was I doing at the university on such a day instead of being in my synagogue, praying and listening to sounds of a shofar?! I decided to save the day by trying to weave the three main themes of Rosh HaShanah into my lecture on cosmology. And so I began… NASA/WMAP Science Team - Original version: NASA; modified by Cherkash In the Rosh HaShanah liturgy, we refer to this day as yom harat olam – the birthday of the world (Machzor Rosh HaShanah). According to modern cosmology, the world was born in an unfathomable explosion called the Big [...]

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