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Breaking Symmetry to Inaugurate the Priests

The Torah portion Tzav describes a ritual performed by Moses in consecrating Aaron as the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) and his sons as priests (kohanim): And the other ram was presented, the ram of consecration, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And when it was slain, Moses took of the blood thereof, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And Aaron’s sons were brought, and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot; and Moses dashed the blood against the altar round about. Leviticus [...]

Principle of Least Action III — History

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 [...]

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

What Is a Soul? II. Anatomy of the Soul

In the biblical story of the creation of Adam, the Torah states: Then the Eternal G‑d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.Genesis 2:7 The word translated into English as “soul” in the original Hebrew is nefesh. This is the first and the lowest level of the soul given to Adam. The taxonomy and anatomy of a soul in Judaism are quite complex. Original biblical sources speak of three levels of the soul: nefesh (“soul”), ru’ach (“spirit”),[1] and neshamah (“breath”).[2] The Kabbalah speaks of the five levels of the soul: nefesh, ru’ach, neshamah, chayah, and yechidah. This is based on classical rabbinic sources. As stated in the midrash, “By five names is the soul called: nefesh, ru’ach, [...]

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 [...]

Yom Kippur—The Day of Pure Delight

Yom Kippur means “The Day of Atonement.” Some view it as a frightening day full of regrets of the past and anxiety for the future. However, Chasidic philosophy sees Yom Kippur as the day of pure delight. On a simple level, Yom Kippur is the day of forgiveness--the day when we all going to be forgiven, cleansed, and atoned. What is not to be happy about? Moreover, it is a day when we get our personal rendezvous with our Heavenly Father, and with ourselves. The last prayer of Yom Kippur is called Neila ("closing"). It is usually interpreted as the closing of the doors of prayers when the penitent feverishly trying to squeeze another prayer before the doors are shut. In Hassidic teachings, the Neila is viewed completely differently—it is the most cherished [...]

By |2023-09-24T00:35:40-04:00September 15th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Counting Weeks and Days

There is a Biblical Commandment to count the days between the Passover and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Pentecost). We start counting on the second day of Passover (the first day of the barley harvest in the land of Israel, when the wave-offering of the omer, i.e., “sheaf,” of ripe barley was made in the Jerusalem Temple) and finish on the eve of Shavuot—the day when two loaves of bread made of wheat were offered at the Temple. There are exactly seven weeks (forty-nine days) between these two holidays; we are commanded to count the weeks and the days. These forty-nine days are called days of Sefirat HaOmer (the ays of “counting the Omer”) or simple days of Sefirah. This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And ye shall count [...]

Salt: The Covenant of the Opposites

And every meal-offering of thine shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy G‑d to be lacking from thy meal-offering; with all thy offerings thou shalt offer salt." (Leviticus 2:13)   Torah dictates that all offerings to G‑d must be brought together with salt. Classical commentators ask: What is so special about salt that it is an indispensable ingredient of any sacrifice? Moreover, why is it called the covenant of salt? Nachmanides explains: The Torah also uses this covenant as a model for other covenants, as both the priestly covenant[1] and the Davidic covenant[2] are called “covenant of salt” because they are upheld just as the sacrificial covenant of salt…. I am of the opinion that the significance is that the salt is water, which [...]




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