Bereishit

Parshat Bereshit. Genesis 1:1-6:8. בְּרֵאשִׁית Bereshith, Bereshis, Breshis, Breishis

Fill the Earth

And G‑d created man in His own image, in the image of G‑d created He him; male and female created He them. And G‑d blessed them; and G‑d said unto them: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it . . . .Genesis 1:28 G‑d created man, male and female, and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue or conquer it. While the literal meaning of this verse is apparent—fill the earth with your progeny by procreating[1]—it begs a question. Specifically, the phrase “fill the earth” seems superfluous—wasn’t it enough to say “Be fruitful and multiply”? Indeed, the Hebrew word milupim[2] (“to multiply”) is etymologically related to the word mil’u[3] (“to fill”).[4] If humans were to multiply, as commanded by G‑d, they would naturally fill the earth. It seems [...]

The Cosmological Problem of Initial Conditions and the Universe of Tohu

Now the earth was unformed and void.Genesis 1:2 We have a big problem in cosmology: the problem of the initial conditions of the universe at the time of the Big Bang.[1] Before we can explain this problem, however, we need to review some basic concepts of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics developed by Boltzmann and others[2] described the behavior of gases and liquids and the transfer of heat. A key concept in thermodynamics is entropy. Entropy is a measure of disorder, of chaos. The second law of thermodynamics states that in an isolated system, entropy always increases with time. The second law of thermodynamics explains universal decay. And entropy is the measure of that decay.[3] Shining stars produce entropy. Stars collapsing into black holes produce entropy. Evaporating black holes produce entropy.[4] Entropy is increasing in the universe.[5] Let us [...]

Let There Be Light

And G‑d said: “Let there be light.” And there was light. And G‑d saw the light, that it was good; and G‑d separated between the light and between the darkness. And G‑d called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)   This short passage from Genesis presents several difficulties that many classical commentators struggle to address. The first problem has to do with darkness and the separation of light from darkness. As we know today, darkness is not a substance—it is merely the absence of light. The verse states that G‑d separated between the light and the darkness. Presumably, before this “separation,” the light and the darkness existed together. How is this possible? By definition, the presence of light [...]

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 G‑d 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 G‑d to do? Having aced the exam on quantum field theory with flying colors, G‑d 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 II — Collapse of the Wave Function

In the previous post “Physics of Tzimtzum I—The Quantum Leap”, we gave a general overview of the mystical doctrine of tzimtzum—the cornerstone of Lurianic Kabbalah. It is time to get into the details. The first phrase that describes the process of tzimtzum in Etz Chaim states: Ein Sof “contracted” (tzimtzem) Himself in the point at the center, in the very center of Ohr Ein Sof. This sentence raises several difficult questions: First, what could it possibly mean that the Infinite (Ein Sof) “contracted” (tzimtzem) Himself? In Hebrew, the word tzimtzum comes from the root TZM, which means “to diminish” or “to fast,” that is, to “diminish” oneself.[1] It can also mean “to be precise,” that is, to remove ambiguity.[2] The repetition of the root TZM is a grammatical form of doubling down, an extreme [...]

Physics of Tzimtzum I — The Quantum Leap

Introduction “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning G‑d 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 [...]

My Name Is G‑d, and I Am Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

In the beginning, G‑d created the heaven and the earth...[1] (Genesis 1:1)   Classical biblical commentators have given the first words of the Torah many different translations and have interpreted them to have many different meanings. That said, one simple aspect has received little attention—that G‑d is introducing Himself to us. If we take poetic license and change the order of the words, the first phrase in the Torah could be loosely translated as: “[My name is] G‑d—[Who], in the beginning, created the heaven and the earth.” G‑d is introducing Himself to us as the Creator of everything—heaven (i.e., the spiritual) and earth (i.e., the material). This interpretation of the first verse in the Torah may be helpful for the following reason. In truth, G‑d is entirely unknowable. The Creator of everything, including [...]

In the Beginning — It’s All About Change

In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)   The first verse in the Torah is key to understanding the fundamentals of creation. As far as physics is concerned, there are three key words in this verse, which are highlighted in bold: In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and the earth. According to Nachmanides, these three words—“beginning,” “heaven,” and “earth”—represent, respectively, time, space, and matter. It is easy to see that the “beginning” stands for time, because the “beginning” is clearly a temporal concept that sets off the beginning of time; that “heaven” is a metaphor for space, because the stars and the planets are perceived to be in the sky (i.e., heaven) when, in fact, they are moving in space;[1] and that “earth” is emblematic of matter, [...]

Abel and Cain Conflict—Wave-Particle Duality

…And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Eternal. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Eternal had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Eternal said unto Cain: “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.” And Cain spoke unto Abel [...]

Primordial Serpent—the Incurable Atomist

Now the Serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Eternal G‑d had made. (Genesis 3:1)   When G‑d placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, He issued a decree: And the Eternal G‑d commanded the man, saying: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” (Genesis 2:16) Having commanded man to eat from every tree of the garden, including the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, G‑d qualified His command: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) There appears to be some dissonance between verses 16 and 17. Verse 16 uses two words, akhol tokhel, each of which shares the [...]

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