kohen

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Wigner’s Friend Paradox

Amicus est Socrates, magister meus, sed magis est amica veritas. “Socrates is my friend but a greater friend is truth” – Plato c. 428-348 BCE. Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas. “Plato is my friend, but a greater friend is truth" – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 350 BCE. Amicus Plato amicus Aristoteles magis amica veritas. “Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but a greater friend is truth.” – Isaac Newton, Cambridge Student Notebook, 1661 You are my friend, but what is truth? – Eugene Wigner, 1961   If Isaac Newton summed up the aphorisms of Plato and Aristotle in his student notebook, exactly 300 years later, Eugene Wigner put this notion on its head. Although taking a poetic license, I put Wigner's words above in quotation marks, I do not know if [...]

By |2019-03-18T20:23:42-04:00March 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|4 Comments

Phinehas – the Slayer of Uncertainty

A strange episode at the end of the last Torah portion, Balak, where Phinehas (Pinchas) slain a Jewish prince caught in the act with a heathen woman, is rewarded in this week’s eponymous Torah portion with the priesthood.  This begs the question, what is the connection between the act of zealotry by Phinehas and the reward of priesthood he receives for it? By way of background, as we read in the previous Torah portion, the evil king, Balak, fails to bring a curse on the Jewish people by Balaam (Bilam).  According to Midrash, Balaam advises Balak to send most beautiful Midian women to seduce Jewish men (see Flavius Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter VI, Paragraphs 6-12). Balak heads the advice and uses Moabite and Midianite women to seduce Jewish men [...]

Korach Disentangled

Korah the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehos, the son of Levi took [himself to one side] along with Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav, and On the son of Peles, descendants of Reuven. (Num. 16:1) There is a curious aspect to the story of Korach’s rebellion. We can understand why Korach (Korah), being of the tribe of Levi, may have had a claim to the priesthood thus causing a rebellion against Moshe and Aaron HaKohen, the High Priest.  The Torah tells us, however, that some Reubenites, i.e., members of the tribe of Reuven, got entangled with the followers of Korach in this rebellion as well.  But what did they have to do with it?  Not being descendants of Levi, they surely had no claim on the priesthood!  Why did they [...]

Tale of Entangled Goats

And he shall take the two he goats, and place them before the Lord at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. And Aaron shall place lots upon the two he goats: one lot "For the Lord," and the other lot, "For Azazel." (Leviticus 16:7-8) In the last Torah portion, Metzorah, we learned about two entangled birds. This week, we learn about two entangled goats. I don’t know if these goats studied quantum mechanics, but they can sure teach us a thing or two about quantum entanglement. Entanglement is one of the mysteries of quantum mechanics. On a macro level, entanglement is easy to understand. Imagine a coin sawn into two halves along the plane parallel to the face of the coin. One half has only heads and the other half has only [...]

Leprous Cats and Angry Birds

In the Torah portion Tazriah (Leviticus 13), the Schrödinger cat[1] gets leprosy. Well, it’s not really leprosy, it’s a mysterious supernatural disease called tzara’as, nowadays translated as psoriasis. And it’s not a cat, but a Jew who gets afflicted by tzara’as. In fact, cats, other animals, and even gentiles (i.e., non-Jewish humans) are immune to this spiritual malady. So why do I call a poor Jew afflicted with tzara’as a “Schrödinger cat”? Because he sure acts like one. Indeed, had I not studied quantum mechanics and had I not learned about the collapse of the wave function[2] back at the university, I would have surely discovered it by reading this Torah portion (parshah)! A Jewish person with a skin lesion or boldness (present company excluded) is brought to a priest (kohen), who examines it [...]

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