Bereshit Rabba

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Noah — the First Inventor

At the end of the first chapter of the Torah, Genesis (Bereshit), God regrets, as it were, creating humanity that became depraved: And the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth… And the Lord said: ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the earth…; for it repenteth Me that I have made them.’” (Gen. 6:5-7) Nevertheless, one man, Noah (Heb. Noach), found favor in the eyes of God: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8) We don’t learn about Noah’s righteousness until the following weekly Torah portion, Noach.  So, what did Noah do to find favor in the eyes of God? The hint may be found in the earlier verse narrating Noah’s birth and his naming by [...]

The Meaning of Life as Taught by Bayesian Angels

November 19, 2018   And he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it. (Genesis 28:12)   Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (a.k.a Baal HaTanya, or the Alter Rebbe) once remarked in Yiddish, “lieben mit di tzait” – live with the time, meaning one should live with Torah portion of the week.  Last week I was taught a lesson on how the current Torah portion affects my thinking, whether I know it or not. Last week I shared with my wife, who is a biophysicist, that while thinking about system biology, I realized that all organisms – from a single cell to multicellular organisms – are Bayesian systems. I knew that the brain [...]

Joseph teaches Pharaoh a lesson in fundamental forces

This week, we read in the Torah portion Vayigash (Gen. 44:18–47:27) about Joseph revealing himself to his brothers and Jacob coming to Egypt with his family. This storyline culminates by Joseph presenting his brothers and his father to Pharaoh. A curious thing, though—instead of presenting all eleven brothers, Joseph presents only five. This fact does not escape the attention of Rashi, who comments as follows: Joseph chose the weakest of his brothers to avoid conscription of the brothers to the military service in the Pharaoh’s army. This explanation always left me dissatisfied. Even if it explains why Joseph presented fewer than all of his brothers to Pharaoh, it does not explain the number—why five? Why not one, or two, or three? The number five in Hebrew is represented by the letter Heh. I submit to [...]

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