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

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, [...]

Yom Kippur—The Day of Pure Delight

Yom Kippur means “The Day of Atonement.” However, on a deeper level, Yom Kippur is the day of pure delight. To understand why, let us start with the day before—Erev Yom Kippur, the Eve of Yom Kippur. Erev Yom Kippur is considered a semi-holiday—a festive day, on which we do not say tachanun (penitent prayers) and on which we wear festive attire and eat two festive meals (as required on holidays). This is rather strange. The Eve of Yom Kippur is one of the Ten Days of Repentance (Asseret Yemei Teshuvah). Shouldn’t we be busy regretting past mistakes (and, indeed, we do!) and repenting our evil ways, instead of indulging in sumptuous meals? Moreover, it’s the day before Yom Kippur—the day on which every person is judged, and everyone’s fate is sealed for [...]

By |2021-09-16T22:09:47-04:00September 15th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Abraham and Lot—A Story of Decoherence

So Abram went, as the Eternal had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him… And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son… (Genesis 12:4-5) And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the South. (Genesis 13:1) And Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together; for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle. And the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot: ‘Let there be no strife, I pray thee, [...]

By |2020-11-09T20:53:35-05:00October 30th, 2020|Lech-Lecha, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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 [...]

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 [...]

The Tree of Life and Wave Mechanics

As we discussed in the earlier post, The Tree of Knowledge as a Metaphor for Superposition of States and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a direct consequence of wave-particle duality. If so, shouldn’t we expect to see some hints at the wave nature of reality in the narrative of the Garden of Eden? And the Tree of Life (Etz HaChaim): what was it doing in Eden? It appears in the narrative only twice—in the very beginning and at the very end of the story of the primordial sin—almost as if to put a frame around the picture. At the start of this narrative, the verse states: And the Lord G‑d planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground [...]




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