sefiros

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Sukkot — Bringing Time into Space

Jews have a very strange custom to take four species (Heb. arba’a minim)—a fruit of a citron tree (etrog), a branch of a date palm (lulav), boughs from the myrtle tree (chadassim), and branches of the willow tree (aravot)—and wave them in all six directions (na’anuim) while holding the species together. The precise movements involve bringing the bunch to one’s heart, then moving them to and fro in all six directions, three in each direction each time returning the bunch to the heart. A strange sight indeed… what could it possibly mean? I’ve written before that Sukkot has to do with bringing holiness into time and space. The seven days of dwelling in the sukkah-booth (a.k.a. tabernacle) is related to the most important cycle of time – 7: there are seven days in a week, seven years in a Sabbatical cycle (shemita), seven [...]

By |2020-10-15T23:06:22-04:00October 18th, 2019|Sefirot, Space, Sukkot, Sukkot, Time, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Relational Space

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – II This post is a sequel to my previous post, “Space – Between Future and Past.” For background information, the reader is referred to that post. My second Shavuot “epiphany” was that space is relational. Not that I realized that space was relational for the first time – I always thought so. But, for some reason, thinking about the meaning of the four faces of Chayot, the "living creatures" – the angelic beings described in the prophecy of Ezekiel that we read on Shavuot – made it absolutely clear in my mind. Isaac Newton The debate about the nature of space goes back at least to the times of Newton and Leibniz. Isaac Newton believed (as it is apparent from his mechanics and as it [...]

Space – Between Future and Past

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – I We do science by studying nature. We study physics in a lab, peering into space, or working out mathematical models with pencil and paper to see if they fit experimental data. However, great mystics of the past were able to see how this world operates by gazing into spiritual worlds above. On Shavuot, the holiday when we celebrate the revelation on Mount Sinai, we read the prophecy of Ezekiel (the First Vision of Ezekiel) called Maaseh Merkavah (or Ma'aseh Merkabah) – Work of the Chariot. Masters of Kabbalah have taught us that understanding the Work of the Chariot gives the initiated an understanding of the works of nature. This Shavuot, studying and thinking about Maaseh Merkavah, I came to understand some profound insights about the physics [...]

Ten Sephirot and Special Relativity

The Special Theory of Relativity, published by Albert Einstein in 1905, was a game changer. It ushered the era of new physics dubbed by some as the “Jewish physics.” And Jewish physics it was. At the core of Special Relativity is the notion of the relativity of motion – all motion is not absolute, as Newton thought, but is relative to something else, to a particular point of view. In physics, we define a point of view as a frame of reference. If you are standing in a moving train, leaving the railroad platform, in your frame of reference (which is always at rest) the train is at rest relative to your frame of reference. The railroad platform, on the other hand, is moving with respect to your frame of reference. For someone [...]

The Entangled Tenth

And all the tithe of the herd or the flock, whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” (Leviticus 27:32) This Shabbat, I was called up to the Torah for the last aliyah (lit. “ascent”, meaning the reading from the Scroll) of the book of Leviticus. This portion talks about tithing animals, giving the precise procedure for doing so – every animal is released from a pen one by one while being counted – one, two, three, … , ten. The tenth animal is touch by the rode and consecrated as the ma’aser – tithe. The Torah states that every tenth animal is holy unto God. What is the state of the animals before counting? They have two possible states: (1) chulin, i.e., “not sacred” and (2) ma’aser, [...]

Fractal Tu B’Shevat

When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by wielding an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, but thou shalt not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of thee? (Deut. 20:19) On Tu B’Shevat we celebrate the New Year of the trees. There is much to be said about the legal, ecological, homiletical, and mystical meaning of this day. And, indeed, much has been written about this minor holiday from these perspectives. In this post, however, I’d like to focus on the mathematical and biological aspects of this holiday that, to my knowledge, had not been discussed until now. When the Torah rhetorically asks, [...]

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 [...]

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

Three-and-a-half Hakafot — Topology of Simchat Torah

Why is this night different from all other nights, asks a child on the Seder night. On this Simchat Torah I asked a different question—why is the day different from the night? Indeed, on the night of Simchat Torah, we dance seven hakafot-circuits. However, during the morning service of the next day, we only dance three-and-a-half hakafot. What is the meaning of this number—three and a half? There are a few instances the Torah, Talmud, and Rabbinic instances where this number is mentioned (e.g., during the Gaonic period, c. 590–1000 CE, in some communities in the Land of Israel, the Torah reading cycle was completed in three and a half years; Maimonides rules that only half of the tzitzit string should be dyed blue leaving three and a half strings white), but none of them [...]

Five Worlds

Today, Yud Shvat, is the yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, a.k.a. the Rebbe Rayatz, or the Frierdiker Rebbe. On the day of his yartzeit, it is customary to study his last maamar (Chassidic discourse), Basi LeGani. One of the themes expounded in the first chapter of this discourse is the concepts of four worlds: Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah (collectively referred to as ABYA). Actually, in Kabbala and Chassidic philosophy, we speak of five worlds and the “world,” which precedes Atzilut is call Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man, often referred to by its acronym as the A”K). In this post, I will draw a parallel between these spiritual worlds and stages of the creation of our physical world. Why do that? It is axiomatic in Jewish mysticism [...]

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