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About Midnight

And Moses said: “Thus saith the Lord: About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill; and all the first-born of cattle.  (Ex. 11:4-6) In the original verse, in Hebrew, Moses uses an unusual expression “k’hatzot halayalah.” The normal way of saying would be, “hatzot halailah” – at the midnight. (in Heb. laila means “night,” and hatzot means “the middle,” i.e., the middle of the night, or midnight.) However, the verse says, “k’hatzot halayalah.” Every commentator struggles with the addition of “k” before “hatzot.” Grammatically, the prefix “k” in Heb. is called kaf hadimiyan and signifies a likeness or [...]

By |2019-01-15T09:57:44-05:00January 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Breaking Symmetry

And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand; tablets that were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables… And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount. (Ex. 32:15-19) The Torah portion Ki Tisa (Ex. 30:11-34:35) is, perhaps, has one of the most enigmatic episodes in the Torah—the breaking of the Tablets of the Covenant. The sin of the Golden [...]

By |2018-03-04T18:54:42-05:00March 4th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

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 [...]

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

The End of Days II

This post is a continuation of the earlier post, The End of Days I. In this Torah Portion, Shemot, we read about the encounter between Moses and the Almighty at the Burning Bush. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him (Moses) in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed… Moreover, He said: 'I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. And the Lord said: 'I have surely seen the affliction of My people that are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their [...]

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 [...]

Prophesy by Entanglement

…And they prophesied in the camp. (Num. 11:27) In the Torah portion Behaalotecha, there is an interesting narrative: And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and speak with thee there; and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them… And the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and put it upon the seventy elders; and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but [...]

Splitting of the Sea

Do you like riddles?  Here is a riddle – what do these two figures represent in the context of Exodus?   No Idea?  How about a hint? Still no idea? Okay, here is the answer: Yes, the first figure represents two doorposts and the lintel marked with the blood of Passover sacrifice, as it says: וְלָקְחוּ, מִן-הַדָּם, וְנָתְנוּ עַל-שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת, וְעַל-הַמַּשְׁקוֹף--עַל, הַבָּתִּים, אֲשֶׁר-יֹאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ, בָּהֶם And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it.  (Ex. 12:7) The second picture is of the splitting of the sea, as it says: וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם, בַּיַּבָּשָׁה; וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חוֹמָה, מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the [...]

It’s the time, stupid!

There is a continuous thread about the mastery of time that weaves through the last chapters of the book of Bereshit (Genesis) and continues through the beginning of the book of Shemot (Exodus). The story of Joseph’s incarceration ends with his successful interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker. Joseph's genius was not only in interpreting ordinary objects (tendrils of grapes and baskets of bread) as symbols of the units of time but in understanding that the engagement in time (manifested in the chief butler’s personally squeezing the grapes into the cup and placing the cup in Pharaoh’s hand) symbolized life for the chief butler and the passivity of the chief baker (who dreamt of baskets of bread sitting on his head, with birds eating from the baskets) [...]

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