Pesach

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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 [...]

Brit Milah in Six Dimensions

Sefer Yetzira speaks of three dimensions: Olam, Shanah, and Nefesh.  Olam literally means "world" and signifies space. Shanah literally means "year" and signifies the dimension of time. Nefesh literally means "soul" and signifies the spiritual dimension. In another place, recognizing the space itself is three dimensional, Sefer Yetzira speaks of five-dimensional space which is a Minkowski spacetime with an addition of the fifth spiritual dimension. This construct is very similar to the Kaluza-Klein five-dimensional generalization of the General Theory of Relativity (a theory that is near and dear to my heart, because, unaware of its existence, I independently rediscovered it as a teenager.) Kaluza-Klein, first forgotten, is now experiencing a revival as a special case of the string theory. Sefer Yetzirah In every one of these dimensions, God created the domain of holy [...]

By |2018-09-23T03:48:50-04:00September 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Sabbatical Year – when the Wavefunctions are Collapsed

The Torah portion, Re’eh, talks about the Sabbatical Year—in Hebrew, Shemitah—the Seventh year. When the Sabbatical year comes, all loans are forgiven, and Jewish servants go free. This is difficult to understand. Why would a lender forgive a loan just because it’s the seventh year in the Shemitah cycle? Why would slaves be set free just because it’s the Sabbatical year? Another question is why do we translate Shemitah as the “Sabbatical year”? Besides the fact that it is the seventh year, and Shabbat is the seventh day, what connects the word “shemitah” with Shabbat? As Rabbi Yehoshua Steinberg writes in Biblical Hebrew Etymology, (see Re’eh: The Slippery Year? – The Wonders of the Holy Tongue), the three-letter root of the word “shemitah” – Shin-Mem-Tet – connote falling, collapsing, slipping, weakening, or disintegration. The two-letter [...]

Passover Seder—The Arrow of Time

The Passover Seder is called seder, i.e., "order" not without a reason. It is a highly structured and orchestrated ceremony that follows the ancient script—Passover Haggadah. The Seders is a play in four acts: Kiddush (sanctification), Magid (telling the story of the Exodus), Shulchan Orech (the festive meal), and Nirtzah (Hallel—the prayer for the Messianic redemption). This sequence sets the natural arrow of time past-present-future. The Past. During the Magid part of the Seder, we retell the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt—the narrative of our history. Eating of the matzah, drinking four cups of wine and other "simonim" (symbols) of the Seder table—bitter herbs, an egg, a bone, charoset, etc.—are all symbols that have historical significance. This part of the Seder clearly represents the past. The Present. During [...]

By |2019-04-14T16:45:56-04:00March 30th, 2018|Passover (Pesach), Time, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Four Cups and Three Matzoth

On Seder night we drink four cups of wine and eat three matzoth. Why four cups and not three? Why three matzoth and not four? The same numerical relationship exists among our forefathers. We have the patriarchs – Avraham (Abraham), Yitzchak (Isaac) and Yaakov (Jacob). But we have four matriarchs – Sarah, Rivkah (Rebeca) Rachel, and Leah. This dynamics also manifests itself in the holiest name of God – Tetragrammaton – YHWH. Why does the four-letter Name have only three unique letters, Yud, Heh, and Vav? According to Sefer Yetzirah – a classic text of Kabbalah attributed to Abraham or to Rabbi Akiva – there are three letters of Hebrew Alef Bet called mothers: Alef, Mem, and Shin, which are considered to be “primary” letters. The three mothers represent the basic logical triad [...]

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 [...]

Pesach – Time of our Freedom

The holiday of Passover – Pesach – is called zman cheruteinu– time of our freedom. As we have discussed many times on this blog (see Interpreting Dreams; It’s the time, stupid! Carpe Diem; Mezuzah and Time; Riddle — the answer; Splitting the Sea), freedom can only be obtained by mastering time. Everything about celebrating Passover is related to time. It all starts on the Rosh Chodesh Nissan (the New Moon, the beginning of the month of Nissan – marked by the renewal of the monthly lunar cycle – during which we celebrate Passover).  On that day, the very first commandment was given to the Jewish people – the commandment to set the calendar by the lunar cycle, i.e., the commandment of keeping time. Classical commentators ask: Why the Torah (which means “Instruction”) does not have as [...]

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) [...]

Paradox of the Red Heifer

Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid… The cow shall then be burned in his presence… The one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water and cleanse his body in water, and he shall be unclean until evening… Anyone touching the corpse of a human soul shall become unclean for seven days. On the third and seventh days, he shall cleanse himself with it, so that he can become clean. But if he does not sprinkle himself with it on the third and seventh days, he shall not become clean… They shall take for that unclean person from the ashes of the burnt purification offering, and it shall be placed in a vessel [filled] with [...]

Passover, Shabbat and the Principle of Least Action

There is hardly a Jewish holiday more widely celebrated than Passover (Pesach). Jews of all denominations, affiliations, and levels of religious observance, if any at all, gather at the Passover Seder to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. What is often lost amid all of the beautiful rituals, not least among them the singing of Had Gadia and other Seder songs, is the deep meaning of this holiday, which is far more profound than a mere recollection of historical events, no matter how important they may be. What is, then, the deeper meaning of the Passover that transcends its historical significance? On the morrow of Shabbat One obscure and little-known (outside of the observant Jewish community) commandment ("mitzvah") may lead us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Passover [...]

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