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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 [...]

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

Purim—the Day when We Celebrate Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking

The Zohar compares Yom Kippur to Purim stating that Yom HaKipurim may be interpreted as “a day like Purim” (k-purim in Hebrew means “like purim”).  On Purim we feast; on Yom Kippur we fast—what the two can have in common? Indeed, Purim and Yom Kippur have something very important in common.  Both days share a common root—pur—meaning  a “lot” (or pl. purim—“lots”). On Yom Kippur, two lots were placed in a wooden  box—one say “to God”, and the other “to Azazel.”  (See my post, “Tale of Entangled Goats”). The High Priest relied on a lottery to choose which goat would be used for a sacrifice to God and which to atone for the sins of Jewish People. On Purim, Haman threw two lots to determine the month and the day of a pogrom, [...]

Purim: Celebrating Randomness

The story of Purim, which we read in the Book of Esther, is a story about a righteous Jewish leader who held fast to his principles refusing to bow down to a rabid anti-Semite. It’s a story about a courageous Jewish queen, Esther, who saved her people risking her life. And yet, this holiday is not called by the name of Mordechai or Esther, it  is called Purim, because, as the Book of Esther informs us: For Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had devised to destroy the Jews, and he cast the pur—that is the lot—to terrify them and destroy them… Therefore, they called these days Purim after the name pur. (Book of Esther, 9:24,26) This is odd because the casting of the lot (pur) [...]

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 [...]

The Entangled Twins

Entanglement is often called the most baffling and the most quintessential aspect of quantum mechanics. What is entanglement, in a nutshell? Two particles born out of one reaction (or two particles that interacted through a collision) remain connected, no matter how distant from each other. A change in the status of one particle instantaneously causes a change in the status of the other particle. Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance." Entanglement is often associated with a certain symmetry and corresponding conservation laws. For example, the law of conservation of angular momentum requires that the spin (the quantum-mechanical analog of the angular momentum) of two entangled particles always point in the opposite directions. This means that, if two entangled particles have their spin in a state of superposition of Up (↑) and Down (↓), and we collapse [...]

Saved by Randomness

In his book, “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets,” Nissim Taleb argues that the human brain abhors randomness. Our brain is hard-wired to see patterns everywhere. We need to make sense of our surroundings and events around us. Sometimes, an ability to discern a pattern is very useful but, other times, we simply fool ourselves into seeing a pattern where there is none. We just can't deal with randomness. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why quantum physics—random at its core—is so hard to understand. It is difficult for us to accept that at the core of our reality, there is nothing but randomness. Even Einstein, himself one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, could not accept it. He famously said to Neils Bohr, “God does [...]

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