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The Soul is in the Blood

For the life of the flesh is in the blood." (Leviticus 17:11) The word translated here as “life” in the Hebrew original is nefesh, i.e., “soul.” Torah appears to be telling us that soul of every live creature is in its blood. Indeed, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi says so explicitly in the Tanya: The abode of the animal soul derived from kelipat nogah in every Jew is in the heart; in the left ventricle, as it is filled with blood, and it is written, 'For the blood is the soul' (nefesh)…. just as the blood has its source in the heart, and from the heart it circulates into every organ…" (Likkutei Amarim, 9)[1] The animal soul is primarily vested in the blood (from where it spreads to the whole body and beyond). What does [...]

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 [...]

Shoo Away the Mother Bird

If a bird's nest chances before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs, and the mother sitting upon the fledglings, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the mother with the young; thou shalt shoo away the mother, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. (Deut. 22:6-7) Many years ago, I was at a physics conference in Princeton in honor of the 85th birthday of Professor John Archibald Wheeler. At the lunch break, I set alone at a table to eat my kosher lunch (I am always embarrassed eating this airplane food typically served at conferences whenever I order kosher food. The sound of unwrapping the cellophane attracts everyone’s [...]

The Final Frontier

In this Torah portion, Devarim (Deuteronomy 1-3), Moses recalls the travels through the Sinai desert when God told him: Be not at enmity with Moab, neither contend with them in battle; for I will not give thee of his land for a possession. (Deuteronomy 2:9) To put this into context, let us recall the covenant of the pieces (or covenant between the parts, Heb. Brit Bein HaBetarim), when God promised Avraham: On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates; the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.” (Genesis 15:19-21) The medieval [...]

Mezuzah and Time

Bo: Exodus 10:1 – 14:16 The Erev Shabbat parshat Bo (the Eve of Sabbath of the week when we read the Torah section Bo) 2014 was my lucky day – I seem to have found an answer to a nagging question of many years. During several years from 1989 to 1996, I had been working on a book on Mezuzah.  This was not a book about halachot (ritual laws) of mezuzah – there were many books on that subject – this was a book about the meaning of mezuah – its significance in Jewish history, philosophy, ethics, and mysticism.  By 1996, the book was finished and I signed a contract with the leading publisher of English Judaica – Jason Aronson.  I was supposed to deliver the finished manuscript in a few months, but [...]

It’s the time, stupid!

There is a continuous thread about the mastery of time that weaves through the last chapters of the book of Bereshit (Genesis) and continues through the beginning of the book of Shemot (Exodus). The story of Joseph’s incarceration ends with his successful interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker. Joseph's genius was not only in interpreting ordinary objects (tendrils of grapes and baskets of bread) as symbols of the units of time but in understanding that the engagement in time (manifested in the chief butler’s personally squeezing the grapes into the cup and placing the cup in Pharaoh’s hand) symbolized life for the chief butler and the passivity of the chief baker (who dreamt of baskets of bread sitting on his head, with birds eating from the baskets) [...]

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