Exodus — the Second Book of Torah, a.k.a. Shemos, Shmos, Shemoth

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 [...]

Sanctuaries in Space and Time

We are quite familiar with space—we move freely in space back and forth; we concur space on land and beyond; we reclaim land from sea; we turn deserts into gardens; we turn desolated space into sprawling cities. We are, on the other hand, helpless in the face of time. We cannot move freely in time. We can’t move back in time. We are swept forward in the inexorable flow of time. We do not understand time; we cannot change it. We are masters of land, but not of time. It is for this reason, when G‑d instructed Moses how to build a sanctuary for Himself, He could not have started with time—we would have not the faintest idea what it meant—a sanctuary of G‑d in time—let alone how to do it. That is why G‑d started with space, instructing Moses how to build the Mishkan—a Sanctuary in space—first. Only then He commanded Moses about Shabbat.

Collapse and Revelation

The collapse of the wave function is the process of revealing hidden possibilities. Reducing uncertainty reveals information. Until the wave function collapse, the system is in an uncertain state—the state of superposition. The measurement that causes the collapse of the wave function eliminates this uncertainty revealing the state of the system. The collapse occurs as the result of an experiment or observation. It is the discovery of the state of the system. The process of discovery—revelation—in the terminology of Kabbalah—is the process of revealing Alma d’Isgalya (Revealed World) from Alma d’Iskasya (Hidden World). This is why the splitting of the sea can be seen as an allegory of the collapse of the wave function.

Egyptian Exile as a Metaphor for Compactification in String Theory

And they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick…Exodus 1:14 On a literal level, the Egyptian exile (Galut Mitzrayim) is a story of the Jewish people’s enslavement in ancient Egypt, where they were forced to do hard labor making mortar and bricks, and building cities for the Pharaoh. On a deeper level, it is axiomatic in Jewish mysticism that suffering is usually a means to purify and rectify a sinner’s soul in this or past incarnation. It is also axiomatic that any sin damages the sinner’s soul and some supernal spiritual levels that obstruct the flow of the divine benefice into the world, impeding the blessing and, therefore, causing suffering to the sinner. Technically, it works as follows. When a sin committed below causes damage above, the resulting [...]

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, G‑d gives Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the Mishkan. Interestingly, in Teruma, G‑d 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 [...]

Ki Tisa Hints at the Coronavirus

On the Eve of Shabbat, we received a government mailing containing documents that we were required to fill out and send back to the Census Bureau. The connection between the Census and the plague was not lost on me. The Torah portion we read last Shabbat, Ki Tisa. It begins with the story of the census: When you count the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” (Exodus 30:12) This verse, linking the census with a plague, was uncanny in view of the COVID-19—Coronavirus pandemic—the modern-day plague, in the midst of which we find ourselves today. Interestingly, the word “count” in the verse above is [...]

Ye shall be disentangled… but not disengaged

In my post, “Ye Shall be Disentangled,” I suggested that the verse: “Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your G‑d, am holy” (Levit. 19:2) may be interpreted as: “Ye shall be disentangled, for I, the Lord, your G‑d, am disentangled.” I supported this proposition with the quantum monogamy principle (a.k.a. monogamy of entanglement) according to which, if two objects are entangled, neither of them can also be entangled with a third object. Consequently, if we wish to be entangled with G‑d, we cannot also be entangled with the material world, as it would violate the monogamy principle. Thus, we must disentangle from the world, i.e., be holly. One may legitimately object to this interpretation because, in Judaism, we do not have monasteries; we do not have monks, we don't withdraw from [...]

Vectors, Spins, and Gender

Vectors, Spins, and Gender Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering. (Ex. 25:2) Every physics professor teaching physics 101 to freshmen spends the first lecture teaching vector algebra. Why vectors are so important? Because most quantities in mechanics (a branch of physics dealing with motion and forces) are vectors. A vector is a mathematical object that has a magnitude and a direction. For example, velocity is a vector – it shows not only how fast the object is moving, but also in what direction it is moving (it is different from “speed” which is an average velocity and is just a number). Similarly, acceleration is a vector, force is a vector, angular [...]

Half-Shekel – Metaphor for Entanglement

This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel. Twenty gerahs equal one shekel; half of a shekel shall be an offering to the Lord Ex. 30:13 In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa (Ex. 30), Jewish people are given the commandment of donating a coin as atonement, not just a coin – half a coin. But why half? If G‑d thought, twenty gerahs would be too much, He could have commanded Moses to mint another coin worth ten gerahs. But no, the coin was to remain what it was—worth twenty gerahs—and Jews were to give half a coin. Don’t you find it peculiar? I don’t, because half-coins are the favorite metaphor for explaining quantum entanglement. What is entanglement? When obtaining information about one [...]




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