Quantum Theory

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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 [...]

On Freedom of Choice, Divine Providence, and the Hard Problem of Philosophy

The story of Joseph and his brothers, described in the Torah portion of Vayeshev, presents many problems. Classical biblical commentators interpret the conflict between Joseph and his brothers in diametrically opposite ways. Some commentators interpret it literally—the brothers were guilty of conspiring to kill Joseph and, ultimately, selling him into slavery, for which they were held accountable.[1] In fact, the brothers admit their guilt: And they said one to another: ‘We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear. . . . Genesis 42:21 Others take the view that these events were predetermined by G‑d. Indeed, in the Covenant Between the Parts, G‑d reveals to Abraham that his descendants will be strangers in a foreign land. Furthermore, [...]

The Exclusion Principle

Like most Jewish families worldwide, last Shabbat, the conversation revolved around the situation in the Middle East and the war in Gaza. The question was, what is the end game? How will this war end after IDF destroys Hamas? The United States, no doubt, will push for the Two-State “solution.” But will such a solution be viable? My wife, Leah, ’שתחי, chimed in, “The two-state solution is not viable because the exclusion principle forbids it.” I immediately understood what she meant. It was a deep insight that captured the very essence of the problem. Leah was also trained as a physicist (in fact, we met at a physics conference). Although she specialized in biophysics, she is familiar with quantum mechanics and spoke to me in the language we both understood. What is the [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 Flood—a Quantum Metaphor

Noah’s flood was a cataclysmic event with no parallels in recorded history. All of humanity (along with flora and fauna)—except for Noah and his family (and the animals he took with him into the Ark)—was wiped off the face of the earth. Some may call this catastrophic event the Great Extinction, others, the Great Destruction, but I would call it the Great Collapse. If we focus not only on what the Torah says but also on what it tells us, we notice that the Deluge is a metaphor for the collapse of the wave function—the key concept in quantum mechanics. We often talked about the wave function collapse on this blog. However, for those who come here for the first time or feel they need a refresher, here is a very short summary [...]

The Tree of Knowledge as a Quantum-Mechanical Metaphor

To Mendel Almost three years ago, in December of 2019, I posted an essay, "The Tree of Knowledge as a Metaphor for Superposition of States and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle." The manuscript of that essay contained an addendum with a short primer on the superposition of states in quantum mechanics and quantum-mechanical treatment of the primordial sin. It expressed the ideas of Maimonides about primordial sin in precise mathematical formulas proving the exact parallel between the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and a quantum eraser. Realizing that only people familiar with the formalism of quantum mechanics would understand that part of the essay and fearing losing my readers, I decided to omit the addendum entirely. However, the addendum is arguably the most interesting part of the essay, because it [...]




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