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 [...]

Wigner’s Friend Receives a Death Threat

It is related that on the day that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi died, the Sages decreed a fast, and begged for divine mercy so that he would not die. And they said: Anyone who says that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi has died will be stabbed with a sword. (Talmud, tr. Ketubot 104a)   We find an interesting example of the Wigner’s Friend paradox in the Gemara quoted above. The Gemara discusses the circumstances surrounding the death of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Juda the Prince, knows simply as the Rebbi), one of the greatest sages of Israel, who compiled Oral Torah in the Mishnah. Why did the Sages issued a death threat to “anyone who says that Rabbi has died” promising that he “will be stabbed with a sword”? The medieval Talmudist Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi (1520-1592), in [...]

Ki Tisa Hints at the Coronavirus

On the Eve of Shabbat, we received a government mailing containing documents that we were required to fill out and send back to the Census Bureau. The connection between the Census and the plague was not lost on me. The Torah portion we read last Shabbat, Ki Tisa. It begins with the story of the census: When you count the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” (Exodus 30:12) This verse, linking the census with a plague, was uncanny in view of the COVID-19—Coronavirus pandemic—the modern-day plague, in the midst of which we find ourselves today. Interestingly, the word “count” in the verse above is [...]

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, [...]

Abel and Cain Conflict—Wave-Particle Duality

…And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Eternal. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Eternal had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Eternal said unto Cain: “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.” And Cain spoke unto Abel [...]

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 [...]

Cosmology and the Tetragrammaton

As we discussed in the previous post “Singularity and Paradise,” Paradise offers a beautiful metaphor for modern cosmology wherein Eden is the initial singularity preceding the Big Bang, the river flowing from Eden to water the garden[1] is the expanding universe, and the garden itself is our planet Earth. This metaphor fits nicely with an old Kabbalistic allegory of a glassblower who maps the various stages of the glassblowing process with the four letters of the Tetragrammaton—YHWH, or yud-heh-vav-heh. To create a glass object, the glassblower must first have a seminal idea of what he desires to create—this corresponds to the letter י (yud) of the Tetragrammaton, because yud represents Chokhmah, which itself represents the seminal idea and inspiration. Before the process of creation begins, the glassblower must inhale air into his lungs—this [...]

Singularity and Paradise

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 chapter of Genesis contains many repetitions, the most famous of which is the second rendering of the story of the creation of Adam and Eve. The classical commentators explain that this chapter adds further details to the original story of creation told in chapter one. Indeed, the Torah itself makes it clear by stating that “these are chronicles of the heaven and the earth…” Thus, the biblical cosmology sketched out in the first chapter of Genesis is retold here in greater detail. *** And a river went out of Eden to water the garden. (Genesis 2:8-10) This verse positions Eden as the wellspring [...]

The Tree of Life and Wave Mechanics

As we discussed in the earlier post, The Tree of Knowledge as a Metaphor for Superposition of States and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a direct consequence of wave-particle duality. If so, shouldn’t we expect to see some hints at the wave nature of reality in the narrative of the Garden of Eden? And the Tree of Life (Etz HaChaim): what was it doing in Eden? It appears in the narrative only twice—in the very beginning and at the very end of the story of the primordial sin—almost as if to put a frame around the picture. At the start of this narrative, the verse states: And the Lord God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground [...]