Haftorah

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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 [...]

Grand Unification

In physics, we seek Grand Unification, also known as the Theory of Everything. The Standard Model describes three out of the four fundamental forces: the strong (nuclear) force, the weak force (beta decay), and the electromagnetic force. The gravitational force, described by the General Theory of Relativity, does not fit into the Standard Model. Developing a quantum theory of gravity, and unifying gravity with the other three forces is the holy grail of theoretical physics. Jewish people are also in need of Grand Unification. There is a schism that runs through the history: it is the schism between Joseph (Yosef) and Judah (Yehuda). Judah represents a “shtetl yid,” a Jew who lives in a ghetto, who sits in a yeshivah, who learns Torah, and who sees the world outside as hostile, as a [...]

Thou Shall Not Be a Flipper

Reading the Haftorah this Shabbat brought to mind scenes from the 2004 Republican National Convention in Madison Square Garden in New York City where attendees where waving pictures of John Kerry  chanting “Flip-flop, flip-flop…” referring to Kerry’s ever changing position on the war in Iraq (“First I voted for it, before I voted against it”) and other political issues.  Former Governor of New York State, George Pataki, said there, “This year, we will win one for the Gipper, and they will lose one with the Flipper.” Kerry lost, as flippers usually do. This Haftorah (weekly portion of Prophets read publicly in Synagogues) starts with an astonishing statement of Elyahy Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet), “How long will you waver between two ideas? If the Lord is God, follow Him, and if the Baal, follow him.” (Melachim-I [...]

The Entangled Twins

Entanglement is often called the most baffling and the most quintessential aspect of quantum mechanics. What is entanglement, in a nutshell? Two particles born out of one reaction (or two particles that interacted through a collision) remain connected, no matter how distant from each other. A change in the status of one particle instantaneously causes a change in the status of the other particle. Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance." Entanglement is often associated with a certain symmetry and corresponding conservation laws. For example, the law of conservation of angular momentum requires that the spin (the quantum-mechanical analog of the angular momentum) of two entangled particles always point in the opposite directions. This means that, if two entangled particles have their spin in a state of superposition of Up (↑) and Down (↓), and we collapse [...]

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