partzufim

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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 [...]

It Is Not Good For Man To Be Alone

And the Eternal God said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate opposite him.” (Genesis 2:18)   The end of this verse is rather puzzling. Why would the woman designated as a helpmate for Adam be opposite (literally “against”) him? One can perhaps soften things by translating the Hebrew eizer kenegdo as “counterpart.” However, in a literal translation, the question remains. A simple explanation is well known: if a man is worthy, his wife would be his best friend, ally, partner, companion, and helpmate. If the man is not worthy, however, his wife would be his opponent and antagonist. An esoteric interpretation offered by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, in his commentary on this verse in “Torah Ohr,”[1] provides a deeper meaning. He writes [...]

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 [...]

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) [...]

Entangled Sisters

The story of entangled twins is continuing in the Torah portion Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10–32:3.)  Structurally, it is very similar to the story in the previous Torah portion, Toldot (see “Entangled Twins”).  In this portion, we again read about two entangled siblings—albeit, this time, sisters—about deception and spontaneous symmetry breaking. Two sisters were Rachel and Leah. Moreover, according to Midrash, Rachel and Leah were also twins (Seder Olam Rabbah).[1] As inseparable twins, they were “entangled,” as it were. They were somewhat opposite—one introvert, the other extrovert; one beautiful, the other, perhaps not so much (she had “weak eyes”): Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah’s eyes were weak; but Rachel was of beautiful form and fair to look upon (Genesis 29:17). Rachel and [...]

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