gemara

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Counting Weeks and Days

There is a Biblical Commandment to count the days between the Passover and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Pentecost). We start counting on the second day of Passover (the first day of the barley harvest in the land of Israel, when the wave-offering of the omer, i.e., “sheaf,” of ripe barley was made in the Jerusalem Temple) and finish on the eve of Shavuot—the day when two loaves of bread made of wheat were offered at the Temple. There are exactly seven weeks (forty-nine days) between these two holidays; we are commanded to count the weeks and the days. These forty-nine days are called days of Sefirat HaOmer (the ays of “counting the Omer”) or simple days of Sefirah. This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And ye shall count [...]

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 [...]

The Tree of Knowledge as a Metaphor for Superposition of States and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; and the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9) And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; 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 2:16–17) Upon creating Adam and Eve, God permitted them to eat any fruit from the Garden of Eden, except for the forbidden fruit—the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Disregarding this injunction, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden [...]

Tree of Life or Nothingness

In the Torah portion Shlach (Numbers 13:1-15:41),  Moses instructs his spies to scout the land of Canaan and to bring back a report. He says to them: … What is the soil like – is it fat or lean? Are there any trees in it or not? You shall be courageous and take from the fruit of the land. (Num. 13:20) The verse seems pretty straight-forward – bring the fruits of the land as a proof that there fruit trees in the land. The trouble is, this is not exactly what the verse says. Translated literally, the verse reads: … What is the soil like – is it fat or lean? Is there a tree in it or nothing? You shall be courageous and take from the fruit of the land. This literal [...]

By |2018-06-08T07:07:49-04:00January 22nd, 2016|Numbers, Pentateuch (Chumash), Shlach, Uncategorized|1 Comment

On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe

Presented at the International Torah and Science Conference in Miami International University on December 18, 2005 Alexander Poltorak   Introduction. This is the third in a series of articles, in which I attempt to sketch various approaches to reconciling a cosmological age of the universe currently estimated at 13.75 billion years with the Jewish tradition setting this age at less than six thousand years (5770 as of the day of this writing, to be exact). The first article [1] tackled this problem from the point of view of Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics suggesting that there were two distinct forms of existence—physical and proto-physical—and that the first conscious observers, Adam and Eve, collapsed the universal wavefunction, bringing the world from amorphous proto-physical existence into tangible physical existence.  This approach leads to two distinct [...]

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