Yom Kippur means “The Day of Atonement.” However, on a deeper level, Yom Kippur is the day of pure delight. To understand why, let us start with the day before—Erev Yom Kippur, the Eve of Yom Kippur. Erev Yom Kippur is considered a semi-holiday—a festive day, on which we do not say tachanun (penitent prayers) and on which we wear festive attire and eat two festive meals (as required on holidays). This is rather strange. The Eve of Yom Kippur is one of the Ten Days of Repentance (Asseret Yemei Teshuvah). Shouldn’t we be busy regretting past mistakes (and, indeed, we do!) and repenting our evil ways, instead of indulging in sumptuous meals? Moreover, it’s the day before Yom Kippur—the day on which every person is judged, and everyone’s fate is sealed for [...]
. . . Thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee; and thou shalt put it in a basket and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. . . . And the priest shall take the basket out of thy hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord thy God.Deuteronomy 26:2,4 And He garbed Himself with righteousness as a coat of mail, and a helmet of salvation upon His head . . .Isaiah 59:17 The Torah portion Tavo begins with the commandment of the offering of the First Fruits (bikkurim). The simple meaning of this mitzvah is self-evident. [...]
The world has lost one of the greatest theoretical physicists of our time—Steven Weinberg (1933–2021). I never met him in person. But I studied his textbooks at university. His Gravitation and Cosmology, translated into Russian, was one of the few books I brought with me when we left the Soviet Union in 1982. This book is still on my shelf. Weinberg’s contribution to physics was enormous. His electroweak theory earned him a 1979 Nobel Prize in physics (which he shared with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow). His work played an essential role in laying the foundation for the Standard Model of particle physics. He made significant contributions to the theory of strong nuclear forces, formulating the quark theory of strong interactions called “technicolor.” His idea of effective field theory changed our understanding of [...]
The Genetic Alphabet Has Nothing to Do with the Name of God… Other Than That Everything Has to Do with the Name of God
On this blog, we search for structural parallels between the Torah and science; we look for scientific metaphors that help us to understand the Torah better; and we look for Torah insights to help us understand science more deeply. However, this endeavor is fraught with peril. Using superficial parallels that don’t hold up under scrutiny serves neither the Torah nor the science and likely discredits this interdisciplinary research. I don’t like to criticize others, as my own work is not free from errors. But I feel compelled to sound a cautioning note. One such unfounded “parallel” that has troubled me for years is the purported analogy between the four bases (“letters”) of the genetic code and the four letters of the Tetragrammaton—the proper name of God. This parallel, advocated by some highly intelligent [...]
Now as I beheld the Chayot [living creatures], behold one Ophan [wheel] at the bottom hard by the living creatures, at the four faces thereof. The appearance of the Ophanim [wheels] and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl; and they four had one likeness; and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel within a wheel. . . . As for their rings, they were high and they were dreadful; and they four had their rings full of eyes round about. Ezekiel 1:15–18 One of the most difficult theological questions is how Eternal God relates to the world created by Him, the world that is always in flux. Indeed, the prophet Malachi says in the name of God: For I the Eternal change not.Malachi 3:6 God does [...]
A day of joyful festivities turned into a day of tears and mourning. When tragedy strikes, it is not the time for analysis or finger-pointing. Rather, it is the time to bury the dead and to mourn. It is the time to comfort families of the deceased. it is the time to pray that those who survive may fully recover. However, the tragic irony of this disaster is that it happened to the devout who came to the kever (burial place) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, known as the Rashbi, the second-century tana, to pray for miracles. It happened on Lag BaOmer—the day of the Rashbi's passing, a day believed to be an auspicious one to pray for miracles. How does one explain to children that people who came to the tomb of [...]
We are quite familiar with space—we move freely in space back and forth; we concur space on land and beyond; we reclaim land from sea; we turn deserts into gardens; we turn desolated space into sprawling cities. We are, on the other hand, helpless in the face of time. We cannot move freely in time. We can’t move back in time. We are swept forward in the inexorable flow of time. We do not understand time; we cannot change it. We are masters of land, but not of time. It is for this reason, when God instructed Moses how to build a sanctuary for Himself, He could not have started with time—we would have not the faintest idea what it meant—a sanctuary of God in time—let alone how to do it. That is why God started with space, instructing Moses how to build the Mishkan—a Sanctuary in space—first. Only then He commanded Moses about Shabbat.
The collapse of the wave function is the process of revealing hidden possibilities. Reducing uncertainty reveals information. Until the wave function collapse, the system is in an uncertain state—the state of superposition. The measurement that causes the collapse of the wave function eliminates this uncertainty revealing the state of the system. The collapse occurs as the result of an experiment or observation. It is the discovery of the state of the system. The process of discovery—revelation—in the terminology of Kabbalah—is the process of revealing Alma d’Isgalya (Revealed World) from Alma d’Iskasya (Hidden World). This is why the splitting of the sea can be seen as an allegory of the collapse of the wave function.
And they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick…Exodus 1:14 On a literal level, the Egyptian exile (Galut Mitzrayim) is a story of the Jewish people’s enslavement in ancient Egypt, where they were forced to do hard labor making mortar and bricks, and building cities for the Pharaoh. On a deeper level, it is axiomatic in Jewish mysticism that suffering is usually a means to purify and rectify a sinner’s soul in this or past incarnation. It is also axiomatic that any sin damages the sinner’s soul and some supernal spiritual levels that obstruct the flow of the divine benefice into the world, impeding the blessing and, therefore, causing suffering to the sinner. Technically, it works as follows. When a sin committed below causes damage above, the resulting [...]
And when Jacob made an end of charging his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and expired, and was gathered unto his people. And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. And the physicians embalmed Israel. . . . And his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field, for a possession of a burying-place, of Ephron the Hittite, in front of Mamre. (Genesis 49:33–50:13)Rabbi Yitzchak said to Rav Nachman: “So said Rabbi Yochanan: Our father Jacob did not die.” Asked Rav Nachman: “Was it for no reason that the eulogizers eulogized, the embalmers embalmed and [...]