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Shabbat in Numbers

Last week Torah portion, Emor, speaks about the prohibition of working on Shabbat. In fact, the Talmud enumerates precisely 39 categories of labor forbidden on Shabbat. But why 39? Rabbi Shimon b’ Rabbi Yossi ben Lakunya (Shabbat 49b) suggests that the number 39 can be derived from the number of times the various forms of the word “melacha” (work) appear in the Torah. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to see how this works out. In his commentary on this passage, Rabbi Hananel ben Hushiel (990-1053) already pointed out that this word appears 61 times in the Torah, not 39! Actually, this word actually appears 63 times! Another Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Chanina of Sepphoris derives the number 39 homiletically strenuously computing gematria of the phrase, “These are the things.” (Shabbat 7:2) The lack of clear [...]

Jacob’s Ladder

And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it. Gen. 28:12   Last night I dreamed of an atom with a ladder wedged in the nucleus of the atom, with electrons jumping up and down the ladder. For those readers unencumbered by the knowledge of atomic theory, a brief historical introduction may be in order. When the planetary theory of the atom was fir Ernest Rutherford st proposed by Ernest Rutherford in 1909, it depicted an atom as a solar system wherein a nucleus was positioned at the center of the atom, with electrons orbiting around the nucleus as planets orbit the Sun. However, there was a problem. According to Maxwell’s [...]

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