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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 [...]

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 [...]

Let There Be Light

And God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God separated between the light and between the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)   This short passage from Genesis presents several difficulties that many classical commentators struggle to address. The first problem has to do with darkness and the separation of light from darkness. As we know today, darkness is not a substance—it is merely the absence of light. The verse states that God separated between the light and the darkness. Presumably, before this “separation,” the light and the darkness existed together. How is this possible? By definition, the presence of light [...]

Nadab and Abihu — Tragedy in Time

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Eternal, which He had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before the Eternal and devoured them, and they died before the Eternal. (Exodus 10:1-2) And Aaron spoke unto Moses: ‘Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the Eternal, and there have befallen me such things as these; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the Eternal? And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight. (Leviticus 10:19) The Torah Portion Shemini tells two stories: One of the tragic death of two sons of Aaron—Nadab (Nadav) and Abihu [...]

In the Beginning — It’s All About Change

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)   The first verse in the Torah is key to understanding the fundamentals of creation. As far as physics is concerned, there are three key words in this verse, which are highlighted in bold: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. According to Nachmanides, these three words—“beginning,” “heaven,” and “earth”—represent, respectively, time, space, and matter. It is easy to see that the “beginning” stands for time, because the “beginning” is clearly a temporal concept that sets off the beginning of time; that “heaven” is a metaphor for space, because the stars and the planets are perceived to be in the sky (i.e., heaven) when, in fact, they are moving in space;[1] and that “earth” is emblematic of matter, [...]

Primordial Serpent—the Incurable Atomist

Now the Serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Eternal God had made. (Genesis 3:1)   When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, He issued a decree: And the Eternal God commanded the man, saying: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” (Genesis 2:16) Having commanded man to eat from every tree of the garden, including the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, God qualified His command: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) There appears to be some dissonance between verses 16 and 17. Verse 16 uses two words, akhol tokhel, each of which shares the [...]

It Is Not Good For Man To Be Alone

And the Eternal God said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate opposite him.” (Genesis 2:18)   The end of this verse is rather puzzling. Why would the woman designated as a helpmate for Adam be opposite (literally “against”) him? One can perhaps soften things by translating the Hebrew eizer kenegdo as “counterpart.” However, in a literal translation, the question remains. A simple explanation is well known: if a man is worthy, his wife would be his best friend, ally, partner, companion, and helpmate. If the man is not worthy, however, his wife would be his opponent and antagonist. An esoteric interpretation offered by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, in his commentary on this verse in “Torah Ohr,”[1] provides a deeper meaning. He writes [...]

Three Angels: Past, Present, and Future

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men stood over against him… (Genesis 18:1-2)   In the Torah portion Vayeira, three men appeared to Abraham as he was sitting at the entrance to his tent. The Talmud states that these three men were angels: Michael, Gabriel, and Rafael. Michael came to tell that Sarah will give birth to a son; Raphael came to heal Abraham after his circumcision; and Gabriel came to destroy Sodom. However, on a metaphorical level, it appears to me that these three angels personify three aspects of time: past, present, and future. Here are several clues that hint at [...]

Noah’s Ark — Sailing through the Flood of Time

Time is a storm in which we are all lost. " (William Carlos Williams, Introduction to "Selected Essays") I always had a hard time relating to the story of the Flood on a literal level. Why would God want to wipe out all people He created in full knowledge that they would sin? Like it was a surprise for God! God, who exists above time, which He created, cannot be surprised—He knows the future. Then why to create humanity, just to destroy it later? And animals. . . what was their fault? They have no freedom of choice. They act on instincts hardwired in their genome as they were created. Why punish them? Lots of questions, few answers. If the Torah says the flood happened, it must have happened. However, the Torah is [...]

Cosmic Symphony

Strings vibrate, Souls tremble, Angels are running and returning, God is touching and not touching – The rhythms of the universe… Nothing stays still… all is in flux. The inexorable flow of time is synonymous with the existence itself. Indeed, everything exists in time. However, from where does the time come? This is, perhaps, the greatest mystery of science. In modern physics, we do not know what time is, let alone from where it comes. We only know how to measure it – by counting the number of periodic intervals, which we accept as a unit of time. For example, in antiquity, people used a night-day cycle as the basic unit of time. This cycle was born out of observations of the apparent rotation of the sun around the earth (although, in reality, [...]

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