Pentateuch

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The Fifth Force

Now, therefore, write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel.” (Deut. 31:19) The four known fundamental forces are: gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong (nuclear) force, and the weak force (beta decay). Newton first described the gravitational force in his famous universal law of gravity. Today, we use Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to describe gravitation fields. Electromagnetism was described in the 19 c. by Faraday and Maxwell. Strong and week forces were discovered much later, in the second half of the 20 c. Since Albert Einstein started a search for unified field theory, unsuccessfully trying to unify (describe by a single theory) gravity and electromagnetism, the quest for a unified field theory – the “Theory of Everything” – became the holy grail of theoretical physics. Strong and [...]

Shabbat in Numbers

Last week Torah portion, Emor, speaks about the prohibition of working on Shabbat. In fact, the Talmud enumerates precisely 39 categories of labor forbidden on Shabbat. But why 39? Rabbi Shimon b’ Rabbi Yossi ben Lakunya (Shabbat 49b) suggests that the number 39 can be derived from the number of times the various forms of the word “melacha” (work) appear in the Torah. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to see how this works out. In his commentary on this passage, Rabbi Hananel ben Hushiel (990-1053) already pointed out that this word appears 61 times in the Torah, not 39! Actually, this word actually appears 63 times! Another Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Chanina of Sepphoris derives the number 39 homiletically strenuously computing gematria of the phrase, “These are the things.” (Shabbat 7:2) The lack of clear [...]

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