menachem mendel schneerson

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My Name Is God, and I Am Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth...[1] (Genesis 1:1)   Classical biblical commentators have given the first words of the Torah many different translations and have interpreted them to have many different meanings. That said, one simple aspect has received little attention—that God is introducing Himself to us. If we take poetic license and change the order of the words, the first phrase in the Torah could be loosely translated as: “[My name is] God—[Who], in the beginning, created the heaven and the earth.” God is introducing Himself to us as the Creator of everything—heaven (i.e., the spiritual) and earth (i.e., the material). This interpretation of the first verse in the Torah may be helpful for the following reason. In truth, God is entirely unknowable. The Creator of everything, including [...]

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 [...]

The Land We Married

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Command the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye come into the land of Canaan, this shall be the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to the borders thereof.” (Numbers 34:1-2) And ye shall inherit the land by lot according to your families—to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer, thou shalt give the less inheritance; wheresoever the lot falleth to any man, that shall be his; according to the tribes of your fathers shall ye inherit.” (Numbers 33:54) And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the [...]

Shabbat Bereshit – Past, Present, and Future

In the last post, Tishrei—Past, Present, and Future, we discussed how all Tishrei holidays – Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah – are connected by the same thread of time and, more specifically, the unification of past, present, and future. This cluster of Tishrei holidays is culminated and concluded with Shabbat Bereshit, when we start the new annual cycle of reading the Torah. Not surprisingly, Shabbat Bereshit follows the same pattern of unification of past, present, and future. The Torah starts with the creation of the world. The story of Creation, obviously, relates to the past. The word “bereshit,” means, in the beginning. The root of “bereshit" is “reshit” – beginning. Beginning, however, points into the future – to something that will follow the beginning in the future. The Lubavitcher [...]

Scientists are Clarifying Witnesses

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth! (Deut. 32:1) In this Torah portion Haazinu, Moses appeals to heavens and earth as witnesses. However, a few verses later, he extorts the Jewish people: “Ask your father, and he will tell you; your elders, and they will inform you” (Deut. 32:7) as if to confirm the testimony of heavens and earth. Why wasn’t the testimony of heavens and earth enough? Why did their testimony need to be corroborated by “your father” and “your elders”? The Lubavitcher Rebbe The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in one of his talks (see R’ Schneerson, M.M. Likute Sihot (Brooklyn, NY: Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos, 1998) v. XIX, Devorim, pp. 188-196) discusses the Talmudic concept of two types of witnesses: [...]

Re’eh – the Power of Seeing the Blessings

The Torah portion Re’eh, begins with the verse: Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse. (Deut. 11:26) The first word of this verse, re’eh, literally means “see” in Hebrew. So, literally, this verse should be translated as: See, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse Spoken words are heard, not seen. Why did Moses implore people to see, as he was about to set before them a blessing and a curse? To understand this, we need to look at the following verses defining the blessing and the cure: The blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your God… (Deut. 11:27) …and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your God… (Deut. 11:28) Does this [...]

Miracle of Chanukah—Seeing and not Collapsing

As I wrote in my post, Schrödinger  Menorah:  Burning  And  Not  Burning, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, explains the miracle of Chanukah as a paradox of the menorah (chanukiah or hanukkiah) burning and not burning, thereby embodying the absolute nature of God, who is not limited by His infinity and combines all possibilities including the infinitude (ko’ach bli gvul) and the finitude (ko’ach hagvul). The notion of the menorah burning and not burning easily lends itself to be cast in terms of the quantum superposition of states of burning and not burning. I couldn’t help myself to call it the Schrödinger Menorah. There a couple of problems, however, with this idea. Firstly, as the Rebbe wrote in 1971 in a letter to the editor of the Journal of the Association of [...]

Fig of Rabbi Akiva

What came first, the Schrödinger cat or the fig of Rabbi Akiva? You be the judge. Today we present a guest post by Rabbi Dr. David Kagan. Fig of Rabbi Akiva By Rabbi David Kagan, Ph.D. If Trumah (Trumah is a tithe separated from produce and given to a priest (Kohen) to be eaten with strict laws of purity) is mixed into ordinary food (chulin), and if the ratio of trumah to chulin  is less than 1:100, the Trumah is nullified (batel) and the mixture may be eaten as ordinary food. (The law of nullification, bitul, applies to mixtures of two types of food – one being forbidden one allowed. With certain ratios, the minority is nullified and it has the same status as the majority. For example, if some non-kosher food was mixed [...]

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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