Torah

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Jacob and Esau—Thermodynamics of Order and Chaos

And these are the chronicles of Isaac… (Genesis 25:19) So Esau went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife. (Genesis 28:9)   This Torah portion is called Toledot. In Hebrew, toledot means “generations” or “chronicles.” Indeed, this Torah portion starts with the phrase, “These are the chronicles of Isaac.” This is not the first or the last time this word appears in Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures). It appears for the first time in the opening verse of chapter 2 of Genesis: These are the chronicles of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Eternal God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4) The second time it appears in [...]

Steering Isaac’s Blessing

And Rebekah spoke unto Jacob, her son, saying: “Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying: Bring me venison, and make me savoury food, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Eternal before my death. Now, therefore, my son, hearken to my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury food for thy father, such as he loveth; and thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, so that he may bless thee before his death.” And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother: “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. My father peradventure will feel me, [...]

My Name Is God, and I Am Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth...[1] (Genesis 1:1)   Classical biblical commentators have given the first words of the Torah many different translations and have interpreted them to have many different meanings. That said, one simple aspect has received little attention—that God is introducing Himself to us. If we take poetic license and change the order of the words, the first phrase in the Torah could be loosely translated as: “[My name is] God—[Who], in the beginning, created the heaven and the earth.” God is introducing Himself to us as the Creator of everything—heaven (i.e., the spiritual) and earth (i.e., the material). This interpretation of the first verse in the Torah may be helpful for the following reason. In truth, God is entirely unknowable. The Creator of everything, including [...]

Shavuot (in Russian)

Шавуот Праздник Дарования Торы Aлександр Полторак    Закончился праздник Песах.  Все евреи поспешно убрали пасхальную посуду в особые шкафы или на чердаки до следующего Песаха.  В домах появились после восьмидневного перерыва свежеиспечённые булки. Наступили будни... Прошедший праздник оставил во рту приятный привкус подгоревшей мацы, воспоминания о Седере, проведенном в кругу семьи, рассказы об Исходе. Но закончился ли на этом Песах? Мораль и Свобода Выбора Вспомним, что главная идея Песаха это идея свободы, свободы от рабства Египетского или иного, физического или духовного. Итак, Бог вывел еврейский народ из Египта, сделал нас свободными людьми. Но стали ли мы свободными, освободившись от гнёта египетских надсмотрщиков?  Подчас, раб, освобождённый своим хозяином, остаётся у него добровольно, ибо некуда и незачем ему идти, нет у него ни места, ни смысла жизни...  Что же это всё-таки такое, свобода? О свободе [...]

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 [...]

Salt: The Covenant of the Opposites

And every meal-offering of thine shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal-offering; with all thy offerings thou shalt offer salt." (Leviticus 2:13)   Torah dictates that all offerings to God must be brought together with salt. Classical commentators ask: What is so special about salt that it is an indispensable ingredient of any sacrifice? Moreover, why is it called the covenant of salt? Nachmanides explains: The Torah also uses this covenant as a model for other covenants, as both the priestly covenant[1] and the Davidic covenant[2] are called “covenant of salt” because they are upheld just as the sacrificial covenant of salt…. I am of the opinion that the significance is that the salt is water, which [...]

The Surrounding Light and the Penetrating Light

The Torah portion Vayakhel deals with the construction of the Mishkan, i.e., the “Tabernacle.” In Kabbalah, the Mishkan is viewed as a microcosm that represents a miniature model of the entire universe—both physical and spiritual. The Mishkan was comprised primarily of two categories of objects. The first category included the coverings that made up the roof and the walls surrounding the Mishkan. The second category included kelim—the objects inside the Mishkan. This is not the first time the description of the coverings and kelim appear in the Torah. In the Torah portion Teruma, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the Mishkan. Interestingly, in Teruma, God first speaks of the kelim and then of the coverings, whereas in Vayakhel, when Moses instructs the Jewish people, he reverses the order and first [...]

Daughters of Zelophehad

Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad …. of the families of Manasseh, the son of Joseph; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar, the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, saying: “Our father died in the desert, …. and he had no sons. Why should our father's name be done away from among his family, because he had no son? Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.” (Numbers 27:1-4) In the Torah portion that was read last Shabbat in the Diaspora, Phineas (Pinchas), we read the story of the five daughters of Zelophehad who brought the claim for inheritance in [...]

Day Six – the State of Superposition

And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good, and it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day. (Gen. 1:31)   The Biblical narrative of creation concludes with the above verse. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (a.k.a. Rashi) comments on this verse: the sixth day: Scripture added a “hey” on the sixth [day], at the completion of the Creation, to tell us that He stipulated with them, [“you were created] on the condition that Israel accept the Five Books of the Torah.” [The numerical value of the “hey” is five.] (Tanchuma Bereishith 1). Another explanation for “the sixth day”: They [the works of creation] were all suspended until the “sixth day,” referring to the sixth day of Sivan, which was prepared for the giving of the Torah (Shab. 88a). [...]

Tishrei — Past, Present, and Future

The months of Tishrei is full of holidays, and they all share a common theme—the unification of time—past, present, and future. Picart, Blowing of the Shofars on Rosh Hashanah It all starts with Rosh HaShanah. Traditionally translated as the New Year, it literally means the Head of the Year. The word shanah has the same letters as the word shinui — “change.” As Aristotle famously wrote, time is change. The sages of Kabbalah agree—time, in its essence, is change. Thus, Rosh HaShanah can be translated as the Head of Time, or the Beginning of Time (since a related Hebrew word, reshit means the “beginning”). Indeed, it is all about time. Rosh HaShanah has three main themes—Zichronot (remembrances), Shofrot (Sounds of the Shofar), and Malchiot or  Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim (acceptance of [...]

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