Sukkot

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Sukkot — Bringing Time into Space

Jews have a very strange custom to take four species (Heb. arba’a minim)—a fruit of a citron tree (etrog), a branch of a date palm (lulav), boughs from the myrtle tree (chadassim), and branches of the willow tree (aravot)—and wave them in all six directions (na’anuim) while holding the species together. The precise movements involve bringing the bunch to one’s heart, then moving them to and fro in all six directions, three in each direction each time returning the bunch to the heart. A strange sight indeed… what could it possibly mean? I’ve written before that Sukkot has to do with bringing holiness into time and space. The seven days of dwelling in the sukkah-booth (a.k.a. tabernacle) is related to the most important cycle of time – 7: there are seven days in a week, seven years in a Sabbatical cycle (shemita), seven [...]

By |2019-10-20T14:38:56-04:00October 18th, 2019|Sefirot, Space, Sukkot, Sukkot, Time, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Chol Hamo’ed — Days in Superposition

Today is Chol Hamo’ed Sukkot – the intermediate days between the first and the last days of the holiday of Sukkot. These days are not quite holidays, but they are not ordinary days either. They are a strange hybrid or a mixture of a holiday and mundane days. In physics, we have a word for that – the state of superposition. I’ve written about it in my article Pesach Sheini – in a State of Superposition. Not to repeat myself, I refer the reader to that article for background information. In short, in physics, we speak of states of the system. Say, one state of a dreidel may be spinning clockwise. Another state would be spinning counterclockwise. These are pure states. In quantum mechanics, a system could be in a mixed state. Say, [...]

Unified Field Theory and the Dew of Resurrection

And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook (Levit. 23:40) After completing his masterpiece, the General Theory of Relativity in 1916, Albert Einstein spent the rest of his life working fruitlessly on unifying gravity with electromagnetism. His quest was to develop a unified field theory that would unify his General Relativity, a theory of gravitational, with Maxwell electrodynamics. To his great dismay, Einstein never succeeded in developing a unified field theory. It was actually even worse. While working tirelessly on unifying two known classical fields – gravitational field and electromagnetic field – Einstein missed the incredible progress in quantum physics, of which he was one of the founders and for which he received his [...]

Tishrei — Past, Present, and Future

The months of Tishrei is full of holidays, and they all share a common theme—the unification of time—past, present, and future. Picart, Blowing of the Shofars on Rosh Hashanah It all starts with Rosh HaShanah. Traditionally translated as the New Year, it literally means the Head of the Year. The word shanah has the same letters as the word shinui — “change.” As Aristotle famously wrote, time is change. The sages of Kabbalah agree—time, in its essence, is change. Thus, Rosh HaShanah can be translated as the Head of Time, or the Beginning of Time (since a related Hebrew word, reshit means the “beginning”). Indeed, it is all about time. Rosh HaShanah has three main themes—Zichronot (remembrances), Shofrot (Sounds of the Shofar), and Malchiot or  Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim (acceptance of [...]

Three-and-a-half Hakafot — Topology of Simchat Torah

Why is this night different from all other nights, asks a child on the Seder night. On this Simchat Torah I asked a different question—why is the day different from the night? Indeed, on the night of Simchat Torah, we dance seven hakafot-circuits. However, during the morning service of the next day, we only dance three-and-a-half hakafot. What is the meaning of this number—three and a half? There are a few instances the Torah, Talmud, and Rabbinic instances where this number is mentioned (e.g., during the Gaonic period, c. 590–1000 CE, in some communities in the Land of Israel, the Torah reading cycle was completed in three and a half years; Maimonides rules that only half of the tzitzit string should be dyed blue leaving three and a half strings white), but none of them [...]

Unified Field Theory… and Practice

Albert Einstein had a lifelong quest—to develop a unified field theory—the theory that would describe as a single field gravity and electromagnetism (just as Maxwell unified electric and magnetic fields in a single electromagnetic field). Alas, Einstein did not succeed in his quest. Today, the goal is even more ambitious—to unify all four known fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces in a single model, the so-called Theory of Everything. If the hypothetical fifth force will be confirmed, it will also need to be included in the Theory of Everything. While theoretical physicists around the world are busy working our various approaches to such Theory of Everything (the leading candidate is the string theory), Jews around the world are practicing this unification during the holiday of Sukkot. During Sukkot, we take [...]

Shabbat in Numbers

Last week Torah portion, Emor, speaks about the prohibition of working on Shabbat. In fact, the Talmud enumerates precisely 39 categories of labor forbidden on Shabbat. But why 39? Rabbi Shimon b’ Rabbi Yossi ben Lakunya (Shabbat 49b) suggests that the number 39 can be derived from the number of times the various forms of the word “melacha” (work) appear in the Torah. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to see how this works out. In his commentary on this passage, Rabbi Hananel ben Hushiel (990-1053) already pointed out that this word appears 61 times in the Torah, not 39! Actually, this word actually appears 63 times! Another Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Chanina of Sepphoris derives the number 39 homiletically strenuously computing gematria of the phrase, “These are the things.” (Shabbat 7:2) The lack of clear [...]

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