Keturah and Hagar III—A Metaphor for Unification

And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah. (Genesis 25:1) Keturah: This is Hagar. She was called Keturah because her deeds were as pleasant as keturah (incense). (Genesis Rabbah 61:5) Keturah is Hagar. (Zohar 133)   As we discussed earlier, Abraham had a concubine, Hagar. Later in life, after the passing of Sarah, Abraham took another wife whose name was Keturah. Midrash, the Zohar, Rashi, and other commentators state that Keturah is Hagar. To distill this situation to its essence, we have here two seemingly distinct individuals who, in the view of at least some biblical commentators, are one and the same person. To any physicist, this narrative bespeaks a unification. Indeed, this situation is analogous to the unification tendency in theoretical physics, where different fundamental interactions are unified into one. [...]

Akeida in Parallel Universes

Michael Frayn’s 1998 play, Copenhagen, concerns a meeting between two great physicists, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, in 1941 in Copenhagen. In this play, the spirits of Heisenberg, Bohr, and Bohr’s wife, Margrethe, come together in the afterlife to answer Margrethe’s question, “Why did Heisenberg come to Copenhagen?” Bohr and Heisenberg worked closely together in Copenhagen in the 1920s while developing atomic physics, resulting in the formulation of quantum mechanics. Bohr was already an accomplished scientist when the young German Heisenberg joined his group, and Bohr began mentoring him. Heisenberg became one of the leading figures in formulating the new quantum mechanics. Later, Heisenberg joined the group of German physicists developing nuclear weapons for Nazi Germany. Why did Heisenberg return to Copenhagen in 1941? Denmark was at that time already occupied by Germany. [...]

Tzimtzum III—Renormalization—Sweeping Infinites Under the Rug

Sweeping Infinities Under the Rug—or Renormalization Having dealt with internal contradictions in the previous section (see Physics of Tzimtzum I — The Quantum Leap and Physics of Tzimtzum II — Collapse of the Wave Function), we are left with another problem—infinity. Although God concealed His self-contradictory nature by “sweeping paradoxes under the rug” in the process akin to the collapse of the wave function, the Light of the Infinite (Ohr Ein Sof) filled the whole of existence with infinite Divine emanation. This infinite radiation left no room for any finite creation to emerge. What was God to do? Having aced the exam on quantum field theory with flying colors, God employed the favorite trick of theoretical physicists in sweeping infinities under the rug using what is called “renormalization.”[1] Roughly speaking, renormalization solves the [...]

Physics of Tzimtzum I — The Quantum Leap

Introduction “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” the Torah says. However, what was before the “beginning”? It is like asking, What was before the Big Bang? In physics, until relatively recently, such questions were discouraged. The prevailing wisdom was that time and space had been created by the Big Bang, and there was no “before” before the Big Bang. Mishnah discourages such thinking, too. The sages point out that the first letter of the Torah, the letter bet, is open on the left and closed on the right:[1] The text of the Torah and the history of the world proceed from that opening on the left. The closed right side of the letter bet visually walls off [...]

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 [...]

Counting Weeks and Days

There is a Biblical Commandment to count the days between the Passover and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Pentecost). We start counting on the second day of Passover (the first day of the barley harvest in the land of Israel, when the wave-offering of the omer, i.e., “sheaf,” of ripe barley was made in the Jerusalem Temple) and finish on the eve of Shavuot—the day when two loaves of bread made of wheat were offered at the Temple. There are exactly seven weeks (forty-nine days) between these two holidays; we are commanded to count the weeks and the days. These forty-nine days are called days of Sefirat HaOmer (the ays of “counting the Omer”) or simple days of Sefirah. This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And ye shall count [...]

Salt: The Covenant of the Opposites

And every meal-offering of thine shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal-offering; with all thy offerings thou shalt offer salt." (Leviticus 2:13)   Torah dictates that all offerings to God must be brought together with salt. Classical commentators ask: What is so special about salt that it is an indispensable ingredient of any sacrifice? Moreover, why is it called the covenant of salt? Nachmanides explains: The Torah also uses this covenant as a model for other covenants, as both the priestly covenant[1] and the Davidic covenant[2] are called “covenant of salt” because they are upheld just as the sacrificial covenant of salt…. I am of the opinion that the significance is that the salt is water, which [...]

The Surrounding Light and the Penetrating Light

The Torah portion Vayakhel deals with the construction of the Mishkan, i.e., the “Tabernacle.” In Kabbalah, the Mishkan is viewed as a microcosm that represents a miniature model of the entire universe—both physical and spiritual. The Mishkan was comprised primarily of two categories of objects. The first category included the coverings that made up the roof and the walls surrounding the Mishkan. The second category included kelim—the objects inside the Mishkan. This is not the first time the description of the coverings and kelim appear in the Torah. In the Torah portion Teruma, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the Mishkan. Interestingly, in Teruma, God first speaks of the kelim and then of the coverings, whereas in Vayakhel, when Moses instructs the Jewish people, he reverses the order and first [...]

The Tree of Life and Wave Mechanics

As we discussed in the earlier post, The Tree of Knowledge as a Metaphor for Superposition of States and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a direct consequence of wave-particle duality. If so, shouldn’t we expect to see some hints at the wave nature of reality in the narrative of the Garden of Eden? And the Tree of Life (Etz HaChaim): what was it doing in Eden? It appears in the narrative only twice—in the very beginning and at the very end of the story of the primordial sin—almost as if to put a frame around the picture. At the start of this narrative, the verse states: And the Lord God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground [...]

Noah’s Ark — Sailing through the Flood of Time

Time is a storm in which we are all lost. " (William Carlos Williams, Introduction to "Selected Essays") I always had a hard time relating to the story of the Flood on a literal level. Why would God want to wipe out all people He created in full knowledge that they would sin? Like it was a surprise for God! God, who exists above time, which He created, cannot be surprised—He knows the future. Then why to create humanity, just to destroy it later? And animals. . . what was their fault? They have no freedom of choice. They act on instincts hardwired in their genome as they were created. Why punish them? Lots of questions, few answers. If the Torah says the flood happened, it must have happened. However, the Torah is [...]




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