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About Alexander Poltorak

Alexander Poltorak was trained as a theoretical physicist in Russia. A physicist and brain researcher, he held academic positions at various colleges and universities serving as an Assistant Professor of Biomathematics at Cornell University Medical College, as an Assistant Professor of Physics at Touro College, as an Adjunct Professor of Physics at the City College of New York. He guest-lectured at Columbia University School of Engineering and Business School. Presently, he is the Founder & President of NeuroLight, Inc. and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers. Alex Poltorak authored several books, research papers, and many articles. He blogs about physics, kabbalah and Jewish philosophy.

The Mystery of the Eighth Day

And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Leviticus 12:3 In the Torah portion of Tazria, we are commanded to circumcise a male child on the eighth day. In the previous Torah portion, Shemini, we read that the dedication of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) also took eight days, and only on the eighth day the Shechinah (“divine presence”) rested on it. What is the significance of the eighth day? Chasidic philosophy interprets the eighth day as the day after seven days. In numerous writings (ma’amarim) and talks (siḥot), the Rebbes of Chabad stated that seven days represent nature, whereas the eighth day is a day above nature.[1] The eighth day represents the supernatural. Why, you may ask, do the seven days represent nature? We are told that the number [...]

Breaking Symmetry to Inaugurate the Priests

The Torah portion Tzav describes a ritual performed by Moses in consecrating Aaron as the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) and his sons as priests (kohanim): And the other ram was presented, the ram of consecration, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And when it was slain, Moses took of the blood thereof, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And Aaron’s sons were brought, and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot; and Moses dashed the blood against the altar round about. Leviticus [...]

Gazing at the Shekhinah

In his commentary on this week’s Torah Portion, Yitro, Rabbi Chayim Vital, writing in the name of his teacher, the Ari-zal, states that Abel was punished for gazing at the Shekhinah—the divine presence.[1] But what relevance does this have to the Torah portion retelling the greatest event in Jewish history (and, indeed, the history of human civilization)—the Sinaitic epiphany—the giving of the Torah? This is the Torah portion, where we read the Ten Commandments. What is the relevance of the sin of Abel to the Ten Commandments? More generally, what is Abel’s connection to this Torah portion? That is easy to understand. The Torah portion Yitro starts with the story of Jethro (Yitro), Moses’s father-in-law, coming to Moses in the Sinai desert with his daughter—the wife of Moses—and her two children. Rabbi Chayim [...]

Time and Space as Emergent Phenomena — Abstract

The current Torah portion Beshalach tells about the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. As I discussed in my essay, “Collapse and Revelation,” the splitting of the sea is a metaphor for the collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics. The Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, taught us to leiben min hatzait (“to live with the time,” that is, to leave with the current reading of the Torah). Maybe this is why, this week, when we read in the Torah portion Beshalach about the splitting of the sea, I finally understood where time comes from. This question haunted me for more than forty years. Finally, this week, I got it—time emerges through the interaction of consciousness with the universal wave function, causing the sequence of wave function collapses that we perceive as [...]

On Freedom of Choice, Divine Providence, and the Hard Problem of Philosophy

The story of Joseph and his brothers, described in the Torah portion of Vayeshev, presents many problems. Classical biblical commentators interpret the conflict between Joseph and his brothers in diametrically opposite ways. Some commentators interpret it literally—the brothers were guilty of conspiring to kill Joseph and, ultimately, selling him into slavery, for which they were held accountable.[1] In fact, the brothers admit their guilt: And they said one to another: ‘We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear. . . . Genesis 42:21 Others take the view that these events were predetermined by G‑d. Indeed, in the Covenant Between the Parts, G‑d reveals to Abraham that his descendants will be strangers in a foreign land. Furthermore, [...]

The Exclusion Principle

Like most Jewish families worldwide, last Shabbat, the conversation revolved around the situation in the Middle East and the war in Gaza. The question was, what is the end game? How will this war end after IDF destroys Hamas? The United States, no doubt, will push for the Two-State “solution.” But will such a solution be viable? My wife, Leah, ’שתחי, chimed in, “The two-state solution is not viable because the exclusion principle forbids it.” I immediately understood what she meant. It was a deep insight that captured the very essence of the problem. Leah was also trained as a physicist (in fact, we met at a physics conference). Although she specialized in biophysics, she is familiar with quantum mechanics and spoke to me in the language we both understood. What is the [...]

Israel’s Security Lapses as a Reflection of Lot Consciousness

The October 7th attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel was a double surprise. The brutality and barbarism of the attack, the unspeakable cruelty of the terrorists that stunned the civilized world, was shocking but hardly a surprise. The stunning failure of the Israeli intelligence services to anticipate the attack despite the writing on the wall was a surprise. The complete and shocking unpreparedness of the IDF, which took many hours to mount an organized response, after terrorists breached the security fence, killed many hundreds of civilians, and took many hostages, was another surprise. The Israeli intelligence was blissfully unaware of year-long preparations by Hamas and the Israeli army that was caught with its pants down, unprepared to defend Israel’s border with Gaza. The Torah describes three stages of the development of Mashiach consciousness. [...]

By |2023-11-03T11:20:50-04:00November 3rd, 2023|Bereshit, Parshah, Uncategorized, Vayeira|1 Comment

Sukkot and the Standard Model

And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook. Leviticus 23:40 During the Holiday of Sukkot (“Tabernacles”), the Jewish people are commanded to take together four species (arba’a minim): etrog (fruit of a citron tree), lulav (a branch of a date palm), ḥadassim (boughs from the myrtle tree), and aravot (branches of the willow tree),[1] and hold them together while waving with them in all six directions (na’anuim). As I wrote in my essay “Unified Field Theory… Theory and Practice,”[2] the four species, arba’a minim, also correspond to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton. According to the Arizal, this relationship is as follows: Letter of the TetragrammatonArba’a MinimYudḤadassimHehAravotWawLulavHehEtrogTable 1. Letters of Tetragrammaton and Arba’a Minim As I wrote in my earlier essays,[3] all four fundamental forces correspond to the four [...]

Principle of Least Action — IV Lagrangian Mechanics

I agree, all its elegance notwithstanding, the principle of least action does not prove the existence of an intelligent Creator. In a sense, when it comes to inanimate matter, the hand of G‑d is concealed, preserving our freedom of choice—to believe or not to believe. However, when it comes to live matter, which, unlike passive inanimate matter, is actively pursuing the goals of survival and procreation, (locally) violating the second law of thermodynamics, there is no more choice. Acknowledging an intelligent Creator, who imbues live matter with goals it must labor to pursue, is no longer a matter of metaphysical commitments, it is a matter of intellectual honesty.




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