Home/Tag: Bereshit

The 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: the problem of the initial conditions of the universe at the time of the Big Bang.[1] Before we can explain this problem, however, 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 explains universal decay. And entropy is the measure of that decay.[3] Shining stars produce entropy. Stars collapsing into black holes produce entropy. Evaporating black holes produce entropy.[4] Entropy is increasing in the universe.[5] Let us [...]

My Name Is G‑d, and I Am Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

In the beginning, G‑d created the heaven and the earth...[1] (Genesis 1:1)   Classical biblical commentators have given the first words of the Torah many different translations and have interpreted them to have many different meanings. That said, one simple aspect has received little attention—that G‑d is introducing Himself to us. If we take poetic license and change the order of the words, the first phrase in the Torah could be loosely translated as: “[My name is] G‑d—[Who], in the beginning, created the heaven and the earth.” G‑d is introducing Himself to us as the Creator of everything—heaven (i.e., the spiritual) and earth (i.e., the material). This interpretation of the first verse in the Torah may be helpful for the following reason. In truth, G‑d is entirely unknowable. The Creator of everything, including [...]

In the Beginning — It’s All About Change

In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)   The first verse in the Torah is key to understanding the fundamentals of creation. As far as physics is concerned, there are three key words in this verse, which are highlighted in bold: In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and the earth. According to Nachmanides, these three words—“beginning,” “heaven,” and “earth”—represent, respectively, time, space, and matter. It is easy to see that the “beginning” stands for time, because the “beginning” is clearly a temporal concept that sets off the beginning of time; that “heaven” is a metaphor for space, because the stars and the planets are perceived to be in the sky (i.e., heaven) when, in fact, they are moving in space;[1] and that “earth” is emblematic of matter, [...]

Primordial Serpent—the Incurable Atomist

Now the Serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Eternal G‑d had made. (Genesis 3:1)   When G‑d placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, He issued a decree: And the Eternal G‑d commanded the man, saying: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” (Genesis 2:16) Having commanded man to eat from every tree of the garden, including the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, G‑d qualified His command: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) There appears to be some dissonance between verses 16 and 17. Verse 16 uses two words, akhol tokhel, each of which shares the [...]

It Is Not Good For Man To Be Alone

And the Eternal G‑d said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate opposite him.” (Genesis 2:18)   The end of this verse is rather puzzling. Why would the woman designated as a helpmate for Adam be opposite (literally “against”) him? One can perhaps soften things by translating the Hebrew eizer kenegdo as “counterpart.” However, in a literal translation, the question remains. A simple explanation is well known: if a man is worthy, his wife would be his best friend, ally, partner, companion, and helpmate. If the man is not worthy, however, his wife would be his opponent and antagonist. An esoteric interpretation offered by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, in his commentary on this verse in “Torah Ohr,”[1] provides a deeper meaning. He writes [...]

Singularity and Paradise

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 chapter of Genesis contains many repetitions, the most famous of which is the second rendering of the story of the creation of Adam and Eve. The classical commentators explain that this chapter adds further details to the original story of creation told in chapter one. Indeed, the Torah itself makes it clear by stating that “these are chronicles of the heaven and the earth…” Thus, the biblical cosmology sketched out in the first chapter of Genesis is retold here in greater detail. *** And a river went out of Eden to water the garden. (Genesis 2:8-10) This verse positions Eden as the wellspring [...]

Noah — the First Inventor

At the end of the first chapter of the Torah, Genesis (Bereshit), G‑d 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 G‑d: 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 G‑d? The hint may be found in the earlier verse narrating Noah’s birth and his naming by [...]

Shabbat Bereshit – Past, Present, and Future

In the last post, Tishrei—Past, Present, and Future, we discussed how all Tishrei holidays – Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah – are connected by the same thread of time and, more specifically, the unification of past, present, and future. This cluster of Tishrei holidays is culminated and concluded with Shabbat Bereshit, when we start the new annual cycle of reading the Torah. Not surprisingly, Shabbat Bereshit follows the same pattern of unification of past, present, and future. The Torah starts with the creation of the world. The story of Creation, obviously, relates to the past. The word “bereshit,” means, in the beginning. The root of “bereshit" is “reshit” – beginning. Beginning, however, points into the future – to something that will follow the beginning in the future. The Lubavitcher [...]

Tishrei — Past, Present, and Future

The months of Tishrei is full of holidays, and they all share a common theme—the unification of time—past, present, and future. Picart, Blowing of the Shofars on Rosh Hashanah It all starts with Rosh HaShanah. Traditionally translated as the New Year, it literally means the Head of the Year. The word shanah has the same letters as the word shinui — “change.” As Aristotle famously wrote, time is change. The sages of Kabbalah agree—time, in its essence, is change. Thus, Rosh HaShanah can be translated as the Head of Time, or the Beginning of Time (since a related Hebrew word, reshit means the “beginning”). Indeed, it is all about time. Rosh HaShanah has three main themes—Zichronot (remembrances), Shofrot (Sounds of the Shofar), and Malchiot or  Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim (acceptance of [...]

Three-and-a-half Hakafot — Topology of Simchat Torah

Why is this night different from all other nights, asks a child on the Seder night. On this Simchat Torah I asked a different question—why is the day different from the night? Indeed, on the night of Simchat Torah, we dance seven hakafot-circuits. However, during the morning service of the next day, we only dance three-and-a-half hakafot. What is the meaning of this number—three and a half? There are a few instances the Torah, Talmud, and Rabbinic instances where this number is mentioned (e.g., during the Gaonic period, c. 590–1000 CE, in some communities in the Land of Israel, the Torah reading cycle was completed in three and a half years; Maimonides rules that only half of the tzitzit string should be dyed blue leaving three and a half strings white), but none of them [...]




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