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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 [...]

The Captive Beauty

In the proposed allegorical interpretation, the soldier in the war is a metaphor for the Jewish people, who are all “soldiers” in G‑d’s army Tzivot Hashem, who fight the battle against evil to liberate and elevate fallen sparks from Tohu; where the beautiful woman from another nation is a metaphor for a fallen spark from another universe (Tohu), where the uncontrollable attraction the soldier feels towards the beautiful captive is a metaphor for the uncontrollable attraction a Jewish person (who is attuned to spirituality) feels towards divine sparks he is destined to redeem; where after having extracted the fallen spark from the clutches of evil, it requires a period of purification to achieve the ultimate marriage—the reintegration of the fallen spark into the domain of holiness.

The Temple as a Model of a Cell

Introduction Today, on Tisha B’Av—the ninth day of Av, this year commemorated on the tenth day of Av because the ninth is Shabbat, when mourning is forbidden—we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple—Bet HaMikdash. This day commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, and Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Aside from its historical significance, why is the destruction of both Temples so tragic that it is mourned even today? What is the significance of the Temple in Jerusalem? The Temple was a building where kohanim-priests offered sacrifices. The sages state that the Temple was a source of life for the Jewish people.[1] This can be seen easily if we examine the parallels between the Temple and [...]

By |2022-08-07T13:43:09-04:00August 7th, 2022|Biology, Kabbalah, Tisha B'Av, Uncategorized|2 Comments

Sefirat HaOmer—A Study in Klal u’Prat

The forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot are called the days of Sefira or the days of counting Omer—Sefirat HaOmer—when Jews count every day as the first day of the omer, the second day of the omer, and so on until on the Eve of Shavuot, when the last, forty-ninth day is counted. . . . And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the Omer of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete.Leviticus 23:21 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee; from the time the sickle is first put to the standing corn shalt thou begin to number seven weeks.Deuteronomy 16:9 This period is marked by semi-mourning with observance of such customs as avoiding haircuts, not shaving, not celebrating [...]

The Soul – Part IV. The Whole vs. the Parts

This is the fourth installment in the series of essays on the nature of the soul. The first three installments can be found here: What Is a Soul? I. The Spiritual vs. the Materia What Is a Soul? II. Anatomy of the Soul What is a Soul? III. The Many Souls of Man At the dawn of classical philosophy, there were two leading schools of thought: holism and atomism. Holism holds that a system (e.g., physical, chemical, biological, social) should be viewed as a whole rather than a collection of parts. Atomism, in contrast, holds the reductionist view that every system is a collection of parts, and the system can be known only by studying its parts. Holism[1] essentially stands for the proposition that the whole is greater than the sum of its [...]

What is a Soul? III. The Many Souls of Man

  …[H]e who tries to cure the soul, wishing to improve the moral qualities, must have a knowledge of the soul in its totality and its parts…Maimonides[1] Maimonides opens his introduction to The Ethics of the Fathers with this statement: Know that the human soul is one, but that it has many diversified activities. Some of these activities have, indeed, been called souls, which has given rise to the opinion that man has many souls, as was the belief of the physicians, with the result that the most distinguished of them states in the introduction of his book that there are three souls, the physical, the vital, and the psychical.[2] While Maimonides lists three souls—the physical (tiv’it), the vital (chiyunit), and the psychical (nefoshit)—he believes them to be aspects of one soul—“Know that [...]

What Is a Soul? II. Anatomy of the Soul

In the biblical story of the creation of Adam, the Torah states: Then the Eternal G‑d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.Genesis 2:7 The word translated into English as “soul” in the original Hebrew is nefesh. This is the first and the lowest level of the soul given to Adam. The taxonomy and anatomy of a soul in Judaism are quite complex. Original biblical sources speak of three levels of the soul: nefesh (“soul”), ru’ach (“spirit”),[1] and neshamah (“breath”).[2] The Kabbalah speaks of the five levels of the soul: nefesh, ru’ach, neshamah, chayah, and yechidah. This is based on classical rabbinic sources. As stated in the midrash, “By five names is the soul called: nefesh, ru’ach, [...]

Zettaflood

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.Genesis 7:11 As the Torah tells us, at the dawn of human history, the flood swept the world. Most people, except for Noah and his family, drowned in that flood. Today, we too are drowning in a flood of a different kind—the informational flood. To put the current flood in perspective, consider this: according to one estimate in 2003, between the beginning of human civilization and the spread of computers, humanity generated cumulatively about 12 exabytes (12x1018 bytes) of data. However, in 2002 alone, we generated 5 exabytes of data. According to another estimate, [...]

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