topology

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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 [...]

Tumah and Taharah

The Hebrew words taharah and tumah, which are the subjects of the Torah portion of Chukat (Numbers 19:1–22:1), are usually translated as ritual purity and ritual impurity respectively. This, of course, has nothing to do with physical purity or impurity, as these are strictly spiritual concepts. But what is a “spiritual concept” in the first place? The word “spiritual” is thrown around a lot by religious pundits and new age gurus. This word is anathema to scientists as anything spiritual is deemed to be antithetical to science. However, this word can be given a simple, precise and strictly scientific definition. (As Descartes famously said, most arguments would disappear if people bothered giving definitions to the concepts they argue about.) Well, one thing everyone would agree with, that spiritual is not physical. Since all [...]

By |2017-06-29T21:27:41-04:00June 19th, 2013|Chukat, Parshah, Spirituality, Time, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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