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Sefirat HaOmer—A Study in Klal u’Prat

The forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot are called the days of Sefira or the days of counting Omer—Sefirat HaOmer—when Jews count every day as the first day of the omer, the second day of the omer, and so on until on the Eve of Shavuot, when the last, forty-ninth day is counted. . . . And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the Omer of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete.Leviticus 23:21 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee; from the time the sickle is first put to the standing corn shalt thou begin to number seven weeks.Deuteronomy 16:9 This period is marked by semi-mourning with observance of such customs as avoiding haircuts, not shaving, not celebrating [...]

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.” 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

Sanctuaries in Space and Time

We are quite familiar with space—we move freely in space back and forth; we concur space on land and beyond; we reclaim land from sea; we turn deserts into gardens; we turn desolated space into sprawling cities. We are, on the other hand, helpless in the face of time. We cannot move freely in time. We can’t move back in time. We are swept forward in the inexorable flow of time. We do not understand time; we cannot change it. We are masters of land, but not of time. It is for this reason, when G‑d instructed Moses how to build a sanctuary for Himself, He could not have started with time—we would have not the faintest idea what it meant—a sanctuary of G‑d in time—let alone how to do it. That is why G‑d started with space, instructing Moses how to build the Mishkan—a Sanctuary in space—first. Only then He commanded Moses about Shabbat.

On Rachel, Leah, and Dark Energy

Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. (Genesis 29:16) Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (the Shelah HaKadosh)[1] famously says that the Torah speaks to the upper worlds and hints at the lower worlds. That means that the primary subject of the Torah narrative has to do with the dynamics of the spiritual worlds while only hinting at the historical narrative that appears to be the meaning of the biblical text. It is not surprising because what happens down here reflects what happens up there—in the spiritual spheres. However, the historical narrative is not necessarily the only reflection of the higher reality. We may see how the same or similar dynamic is reflected in natural laws. This Torah portion introduces us to two daughters [...]

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

The Soul is in the Blood

For the life of the flesh is in the blood." (Leviticus 17:11) The word translated here as “life” in the Hebrew original is nefesh, i.e., “soul.” Torah appears to be telling us that soul of every live creature is in its blood. Indeed, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi says so explicitly in the Tanya: The abode of the animal soul derived from kelipat nogah in every Jew is in the heart; in the left ventricle, as it is filled with blood, and it is written, 'For the blood is the soul' (nefesh)…. just as the blood has its source in the heart, and from the heart it circulates into every organ…" (Likkutei Amarim, 9)[1] The animal soul is primarily vested in the blood (from where it spreads to the whole body and beyond). What does [...]




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