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, by contrast, holds the reductionist view that every system is a collection of parts, and the system can only be known 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 [...]

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 [...]

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. It is a problem of initial conditions.[1] However, before we can explain this problem, 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 is the reason behind universal decay. And entropy is the measure of the decay.[3] Shining stars produce entropy. Stars collapsing into black holes produce entropy. Evaporating black holes produce entropy.[4] The entropy of the universe is increasing.[5] Let us assume that now, [...]

A Wheel Within a Wheel

Now as I beheld the Chayot [living creatures], behold one Ophan [wheel] at the bottom hard by the living creatures, at the four faces thereof. The appearance of the Ophanim [wheels] and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl; and they four had one likeness; and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel within a wheel. . . . As for their rings, they were high and they were dreadful; and they four had their rings full of eyes round about. Ezekiel 1:15–18 One of the most difficult theological questions is how Eternal G‑d relates to the world created by Him, the world that is always in flux. Indeed, the prophet Malachi says in the name of G‑d: For I the Eternal change not.Malachi 3:6 G‑d does [...]

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 [...]

Joseph’s Birth—A View From Quantum Mechanics and Biology

And afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah. (Genesis 30:21) In my previous essay, “The Conflict Between Joseph And His Brothers—A Gender Theory,” I suggested that Joseph exhibited some proclivity to feminine behavior in his youth. This impression can be naturally inferred from the verses and supported by traditions in Kabbalah related to Isaac, Joseph, and Benjamin, as we discussed in that essay. To be sure, Joseph outgrew his feminine tendencies (perhaps assisted by the tough love shown to him by his brothers). He matured into a man who was not only a husband, a father, and the de facto ruler of Egypt, but an archetype of masculinity and a paradigm of piety, for which he earned the designation of Joseph, the Righteous (Yosef HaTzadik). Moreover, spiritually, Joseph personified Yesod [...]

Jacob’s Struggle With a Man: A Metaphor From Neuroscience

So the present passed over before him; and he himself lodged that night in the camp. And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him. And he said: “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” (Genesis 32:23–26)   The story of Jacob wrestling with a “man” is yet another of [...]

On Rachel, Leah, and Dark Energy

Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. (Genesis 29:16)   Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (the Shelah HaKadosh)[1] famously says that the Torah speaks to the upper words and hints to the lower words. That means that the primary subject to the Torah narrative has to do with the dynamics of the spiritual worlds while only hinting at the historical narrative that appears to be the meaning of the biblical text. It is not surprising because what happens down here reflects what happens up there—in the spiritual spheres. However, the historical narrative is not necessarily the only reflection of the higher reality. We may see how the same or similar dynamic is reflected in natural laws. This Torah portion introduces us to two [...]

Jacob and Esau—Thermodynamics of Order and Chaos

And these are the chronicles of Isaac… (Genesis 25:19) So Esau went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife. (Genesis 28:9)   This Torah portion is called Toledot. In Hebrew, toledot means “generations” or “chronicles.” Indeed, this Torah portion starts with the phrase, “These are the chronicles of Isaac.” This is not the first or the last time this word appears in Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures). It appears for the first time in the opening verse of chapter 2 of Genesis: These are the chronicles of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Eternal G‑d made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4) The second time it appears in [...]




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