The spectacle of the universe becomes so much the grander, so much more beautiful, the worthier of its Author, when one knows that a small number of laws, most wisely established, suffice for all movements. Pierre Louis Maupertuis (1744) Among the more or less general laws, the discovery of which characterize the development of physical science during the last century, the principle of Least Action is at present certainly one which, by its form and comprehensiveness, may be said to have approached most closely to the ideal aim of theoretical inquiry. Its significance, properly understood, extends, not only to mechanical processes, but also to thermal and electrodynamic problems. In all the branches of science to which it applies, it gives, not only an explanation of certain characteristics of phenomena at present encountered, but [...]
Philosophers struggled with the notion of time from the dawn of human civilization. Physicists of today declared the problem of time the number one problem in theoretical physics. Jewish mysticism has much to say about time. Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital, in the name of the Arizal, quotes a verse: בִּטְחוּ בַיהוָה עֲדֵי-עַד, כִּי בְּיָה יְהוָה צוּר עוֹלָמִים Isaiah 26:4 The standard English translation of this verse, by JPS is: Trust ye in the LORD for ever, for the LORD is GOD, an everlasting Rock. Isaiah 26:4 This is not a very good translation because it doesn't tell you what specific names of G-d are used in the pasuk. Let us spell out the names in this pasuk to see what is going on: Trust ye in Havyah (Y-H-W-H) for ever, for Kah (Y-H) is [...]
A-Series and B-Series as Zman and Seder HaZmanim McTaggart’s series A and series B are two conceptual frameworks proposed by the philosopher J.M.E. McTaggart to analyze the nature of time and its relationship to temporal properties such as past, present, and future. J. M. E. McTaggart, by Walter Stoneman, 1917 In McTaggart’s series A, also known as the “A-series” or the “temporal series,” time is understood in terms of the temporal properties of past, present, and future. The A-series categorizes events based on their temporal relations, such as past, present, and future, which are considered essential aspects of events. The A-series views time as a succession of moments where events move from the future, through the present, and into the past. It emphasizes the dynamic and changing nature of time, with events shifting their [...]
Today, on the Seventeenth of Tammuz, Jewish people fast to commemorate several tragic events in Jewish history. These tragic events include the breaking of the Tablets (Luchot) and the breach of the walls of Jerusalem twice—during the First and the Second Temple. It seems that the confluence of these destructive events is not coincidental—all three are manifestations of the spiritual process called in Lurianic Kabbalah, Shevirat HaKelim (the “Breaking of the Vessels”). Many readers may be surprised by the juxtaposition of historical events that happened in this physical world with primordial events that took place in another universe—Olam HaTohu (the “universe of Chaos”) that preceded the creation of our universe—Olam HaTikkun (the “universe of Rectification”) Indeed, how can something that happened before the creation of our universe can affect historical events in this [...]
Structurally identical biblical accounts of creation, destruction, and restoration are viewed as a manifestation of dialectic triad thesis-antithesis-synthesis.
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. Before we can explain this problem, however, we need to review some basic concepts of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics developed by Boltzmann and others 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. Shining stars produce entropy. Stars collapsing into black holes produce entropy. Evaporating black holes produce entropy. Entropy is increasing in the universe. Let us [...]
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 [...]
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.
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 [...]
A light shalt thou make to the ark…with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:16) We mentioned in the previous posts that Noah’s ark was a microcosm. As we discussed in the previous post, “Noah’s Ark—Three Layers of Being Human,” most structural parallels related to Noah’s ark are based on its tripartite structure —that is, its having three tiers. In Chasidic thought, the three levels of Noah’s ark correspond to three worlds of BiYA—Beriyah (the World of Creation), Yetzirah (the World of Formation), and Asiyah (the World of Action). In this essay, we will investigate how the tripartite structure of Noah’s ark is reflected in the structure of reality. We might say that the totality of existence comprises three layers—physical, informational, and spiritual. The classification of reality into three [...]