Kabbalah, kabbala, kabala, qabalah, cabalah

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 [...]

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 III — History

The spectacle of the universe becomes so much the grander, so much more beautiful, the worthier of its Author, when one knows that a small number of laws, most wisely established, suffice for all movements. Pierre Louis Maupertuis (1744) Among the more or less general laws, the discovery of which characterize the development of physical science during the last century, the principle of Least Action is at present certainly one which, by its form and comprehensiveness, may be said to have approached most closely to the ideal aim of theoretical inquiry. Its significance, properly understood, extends, not only to mechanical processes, but also to thermal and electrodynamic problems. In all the branches of science to which it applies, it gives, not only an explanation of certain characteristics of phenomena at present encountered, but [...]

The Standard Model

Introduction What could the Standard Model of particle physics possibly have in common with biblical accounts of the Israelites’ travels in the Sinai Desert, Kabbalistic doctrines related to the unfolding of spiritual worlds, or the arrangement of the letters in the Name of G‑d? To make connections or parallels between such unrelated concepts may sound farfetched. However, this is exactly what we are going to do in this essay. Remember that in structural analysis, we do not concern ourselves with the specifics or the nature of the objects at hand—we are interested only in the interrelationships among the objects, the high-level structure, or the storyline. So, let us not worry that particle physics speaks of subatomic particles, whereas the Torah speaks of the arrangement of Jewish tribes around the Tabernacle in the desert—topics [...]

Translating the Torah for Future Generations

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. Ludwig Wittgenstein On Rosh Chodesh (the New Moon of the Hebrew month of) Sh’vat, some three and a half millennia ago, Moses started translating the Torah into seventy languages. This was one of the last things Moses did—the pinnacle of his life of service to G‑d and the Jewish nation. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, took Moses upon him to expound this law, saying… Deuteronomy 1:5 Rashi, the classical Biblical commentator, quotes Midrash Tanchuma on this verse, explaining: “to expound this law: He expounded it to them in seventy languages.”[1] (“This law” refers to the Torah in general.) Later, Moses commands the elders to collect large stones: And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this [...]

Cartesian Dualism, Kabbalah, and Quantum Mechanics

Cartesian dualism, or mind-body dualism, formulated by the French scientist, mathematician, and philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650), holds that the body and the mind (which he equated with consciousness, or the soul) are two distinct ontological substances with nothing in common.[1] They exist in different worlds and do not interact or communicate with each other. This position presents a serious problem—if the two have nothing in common, how can they have the causal connections they seem to have? How, for example, can the mind causally direct the body? And, vice versa, how can the body communicate sensations, such as pain, to the mind? This valid criticism proved fatal for Cartesian dualism, which has been all but relegated to the dustbin of history. The Jewish theosophical doctrine of Kabbalah takes a very different approach. It [...]




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