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Counting Weeks and Days

There is a Biblical Commandment to count the days between the Passover and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Pentecost). We start counting on the second day of Passover (the first day of the barley harvest in the land of Israel, when the wave-offering of the omer, i.e., “sheaf,” of ripe barley was made in the Jerusalem Temple) and finish on the eve of Shavuot—the day when two loaves of bread made of wheat were offered at the Temple. There are exactly seven weeks (forty-nine days) between these two holidays; we are commanded to count the weeks and the days. These forty-nine days are called days of Sefirat HaOmer (the ays of “counting the Omer”) or simple days of Sefirah. This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And ye shall count [...]

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 [...]

In the Beginning — It’s All About Change

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)   The first verse in the Torah is key to understanding the fundamentals of creation. As far as physics is concerned, there are three key words in this verse, which are highlighted in bold: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. According to Nachmanides, these three words—“beginning,” “heaven,” and “earth”—represent, respectively, time, space, and matter. It is easy to see that the “beginning” stands for time, because the “beginning” is clearly a temporal concept that sets off the beginning of time; that “heaven” is a metaphor for space, because the stars and the planets are perceived to be in the sky (i.e., heaven) when, in fact, they are moving in space;[1] and that “earth” is emblematic of matter, [...]

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 [...]

The Beard of the Long Face is Found

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz (a.k.a. the Fridriker Rebbe) told the story about his father, the Rebbe Rashab. Once the brother of Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (a.k.a. the RM”M) told him that he read in a magazine an article that stated that scientists found a nerve in the brain regulating the cognitive function so that when a person needed to remember something he would tilt his head looking up, whereas when the person needed to concentrate, he’d tilt his head down. The Rebbe Rashab took his brother to his study, took from the shelf a book by the Second Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Mittler Rebbe, in which it stated the same thing. The Rebbe Rashab said to his brother, “You’d think he was a doctor, but he wasn’t. He saw Adam [...]

The Fifth Force

Now, therefore, write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel.” (Deut. 31:19) The four known fundamental forces are: gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong (nuclear) force, and the weak force (beta decay). Newton first described the gravitational force in his famous universal law of gravity. Today, we use Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to describe gravitation fields. Electromagnetism was described in the 19 c. by Faraday and Maxwell. Strong and week forces were discovered much later, in the second half of the 20 c. Since Albert Einstein started a search for unified field theory, unsuccessfully trying to unify (describe by a single theory) gravity and electromagnetism, the quest for a unified field theory – the “Theory of Everything” – became the holy grail of theoretical physics. Strong and [...]

Jacob’s Sheep—Particles, Fields and Strings

And it came to pass at the time that the flock conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the he-goats which leaped upon the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. (Gen. 31:10)   This week’s Torah reading, Vayeitzei (Gen. 28:10-32:3) talks about three kinds of sheep: streaked, speckled, and spotted.   Streaked Sheep   Streaked sheep (“akudim”) were ankle-ringed. They looked as if their ankles were bound together with a black rope. Hence the name—"akidim" (Hebrew world for streaked, “akud” means bound as in “Akeda”—binding of Isaac). Speckled Sheep Speckled sheep (Heb. “nekudim” from sing. “nakod”.) were sheep with black dots.   Spotted Sheep   Spotted or flecked sheep (Heb. "berudim") were blotched. What is the significance of these streaks, speckles and blotches that the Torah devotes [...]

Adam Kadmon and Holographic Universe

Dedicated to the memory of Professor Yaakob David Bekenstein   The Torah opens with the word “Bereshit” – in the Beginning – whose first letter, Bet, is written large to signify that it contains a hidden meaning. The gematriah (numerical value) of the letter Bet is 2. It has three sides – top (“roof”), bottom (“floor”) and the right “wall”:   Letter Bet of Bereshit may be viewed as the “event horizon” of the Torah. In General Relativity, the event horizon is the area of spacetime beyond which information is inaccessible to an outside observer. For example, the event horizon of a black hole is the boundary surrounding every black hole that acts as information firewall – the light from within the event horizon cannot escape outside and, therefore, information is invisible to an [...]

Joseph and His Brothers

I grew up In Russia and was raised on the metric system based on the decimal arithmetic. When we immigrated to the U.S., I had to learn a new to me (but, actually, very old) Imperial system of measurements having 12 inches to a foot. I still struggle with it (decimal system, apparently, was hardwired in my brain). There are many number systems or positional notation systems. Ancient Babylonians used base-60, Hindu-Arabic system uses familiar decimal base-10 system, Mayans used base-20 system. There are base-2 binary, base-12 duodecimal, and base-16 hexadecimal systems, to name a few. Aside from the binary system used by computers, we humans mostly use decimal and, sometimes, duodecimal systems. The all-familiar decimal system is used in the metric system of measurements. In base-10 positional notation, there are 10 decimal [...]

From Purim to Passover

The Shulchan Aruch – the Code of Jewish Law – states that 30 days before Pesach (Passover) one needs to start learning the laws of Pesach. The simple meaning of this directive is clear – the laws are many and complicated and there is a lot to learn – so one needs to start early. There may be a deeper meaning in this, however. Let us recall that Pesach and Purim are exactly 30 days apart. To start learning about Pesach 30 days before, means to start learning about Pesach on Purim. Or, perhaps, the message is that from Purim we can learn about Pesach. The word Purim means “lot.” The story of Purim is about throwing lots. Evil Haman threw one lot to choose a month for the pogrom against Jews of [...]

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