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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, [...]

Physics of Tzimtzum I — The Quantum Leap

Introduction “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth,” the Torah says. However, what was before the “beginning”? It is like asking, What was before the Big Bang? In physics, until relatively recently, such questions were discouraged. The prevailing wisdom was that time and space had been created by the Big Bang, and there was no “before” before the Big Bang. Mishnah discourages such thinking, too. The sages point out that the first letter of the Torah, the letter bet, is open on the left and closed on the right:[1] The text of the Torah and the history of the world proceed from that opening on the left. The closed right side of the letter bet visually walls off [...]

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 [...]

Cosmology and the Tetragrammaton

As we discussed in the previous post “Singularity and Paradise,” Paradise offers a beautiful metaphor for modern cosmology wherein Eden is the initial singularity preceding the Big Bang, the river flowing from Eden to water the garden[1] is the expanding universe, and the garden itself is our planet Earth. This metaphor fits nicely with an old Kabbalistic allegory of a glassblower who maps the various stages of the glassblowing process with the four letters of the Tetragrammaton—Y‑H‑W‑H, or yud-heh-vav-heh. To create a glass object, the glassblower must first have a seminal idea of what he desires to create—this corresponds to the letter י (yud) of the Tetragrammaton, because yud represents Chokhmah, which itself represents the seminal idea and inspiration. Before the process of creation begins, the glassblower must inhale air into his lungs—this [...]

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 [...]

Chanukah Menorah – the River of Time

In a Kabbalistic meditation on lighting Chanukah Menorah, the Arizal links the menorah lights with a supernal river (see Candle on the River). The Arizal’s principal disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, writes: One should meditate on the idea that the initials of the words "…l'hadleek ner Chanukah [to light the Chanukah candle] are the holy name called "Nachal."Shaar HaKavanot, Inyan Chanukah The first letters of the words  “l'hadleek ner Chanukah” are three letters, Lamed (L), Nun (N), and Chet (Ch). Rearranged, these letters spell the word NaChaL, that is, a stream or a small river. As I wrote in my essays, “On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe,” and “Joseph—the Master of Time,” a river has been the metaphor for time across many cultures. Does this Kabbalistic meditation hints at a connection between Chanukah lights and [...]

Big Bang

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא The Torah starts with two words—Bereshit bara—“In the beginning, [G‑d] created…” Bereshit in Hebrew means “in the beginning,” and bara means “created.” What is interesting is that both words begin with the same letter, bet, the equivalent of b. Another two-word expression that describes the process of creation and each of whose two words also starts with the letter b is, of course, the Big Bang. This similarity could be a coincidence, but not according to Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi, known by the Hebrew acronym Ramban, 1194–1270). Here is Nahmanides’s description of the initial moments of the creation: At the briefest instant following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. . . . From the [...]

When was the World Created?

There is a dispute in the Talmud as to when the world was created. According to Rabbi Eliezer, the world was created in the month of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar when we celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, the world was created in the first month of the year, the month of Nisan (Tr. Rosh HaShanah, 10b). The Chasidic thought attempts to reconcile these opposite opinions suggesting that both opinions are correct—the world was created in Nisan in thought, whereas in deed, it was created in Tishrei.  The problem with this approach is that for halakhic (Jewish ritual law) purposes of calculating the Jewish calendar, the planets are deemed to have commenced their heavenly orbits in Nisan, not in Tishrei!  How could planets that [...]

Two Beginnings

B’reshit bara Elokim et hashamaim v’et haaretz… In the beginning, G‑d created heaven and earth… Alternative translation: With two beginnings G‑d created heaven and earth… Genesis 1:1   *This is an abridged and updated version of my paper “Towards Reconciliation of Biblical and Cosmological Ages of the Universe” Presented at the Third Miami International Conference on Torah & Science in Dec. of 1999 and published in B’Or HaTorah, 13 (2002) p. 19. Contemporary science places the age of the universe in the thirteen to fourteen billion years range, or 13.787 ± 0.02, [1] to be precise.  This age is derived from both theoretical models as well as experimental data.  (For an overview of theoretical and experimental approaches to dating the universe and our planet Earth see my original paper TOWARDS RECONCILIATION OF BIBLICAL AND [...]

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