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Tumah and Taharah

The Hebrew words taharah and tumah, which are the subjects of the Torah portion of Chukat (Numbers 19:1–22:1), are usually translated as ritual purity and ritual impurity respectively. This, of course, has nothing to do with physical purity or impurity, as these are strictly spiritual concepts. But what is a “spiritual concept” in the first place? The word “spiritual” is thrown around a lot by religious pundits and new age gurus. This word is anathema to scientists as anything spiritual is deemed to be antithetical to science. However, this word can be given a simple, precise and strictly scientific definition. (As Descartes famously said, most arguments would disappear if people bothered giving definitions to the concepts they argue about.) Well, one thing everyone would agree with, that spiritual is not physical. Since all [...]

By |2017-06-29T21:27:41-04:00June 19th, 2013|Chukat, Parshah, Spirituality, Time, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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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