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 God 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 God in time—let alone how to do it. That is why God started with space, instructing Moses how to build the Mishkan—a Sanctuary in space—first. Only then He commanded Moses about Shabbat.
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Eternal, which He had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before the Eternal and devoured them, and they died before the Eternal. (Exodus 10:1-2) And Aaron spoke unto Moses: ‘Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the Eternal, and there have befallen me such things as these; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the Eternal? And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight. (Leviticus 10:19) The Torah Portion Shemini tells two stories: One of the tragic death of two sons of Aaron—Nadab (Nadav) and Abihu [...]
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 [...]
The holiday of Passover – Pesach – is called zman cheruteinu– time of our freedom. As we have discussed many times on this blog (see Interpreting Dreams; It’s the time, stupid! Carpe Diem; Mezuzah and Time; Riddle — the answer; Splitting the Sea), freedom can only be obtained by mastering time. Everything about celebrating Passover is related to time. It all starts on the Rosh Chodesh Nissan (the New Moon, the beginning of the month of Nissan – marked by the renewal of the monthly lunar cycle – during which we celebrate Passover). On that day, the very first commandment was given to the Jewish people – the commandment to set the calendar by the lunar cycle, i.e., the commandment of keeping time. Classical commentators ask: Why the Torah (which means “Instruction”) does not have as [...]
Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet – the New Moon and the beginning of the second month of Adar. If we ever to have a month commemorating quantum physics, there would be no more appropriate month for that than the second month of Adar – Adar Bet. A state of superposition is a physical state unique to quantum theory. In classical physics (such as Newtonian mechanics or thermodynamics) a physical system is either in one state or the other, say in a state A or a state B. Only in quantum physics a system can be in a blended state C which is a linear superposition of states A and B. For example, the spin of an electron can be either Up or Down. However, an electron can be in a blurred state of [...]
Bo: Exodus 10:1 – 14:16 The Erev Shabbat parshat Bo (the Eve of Sabbath of the week when we read the Torah section Bo) 2014 was my lucky day – I seem to have found an answer to a nagging question of many years. During several years from 1989 to 1996, I had been working on a book on Mezuzah. This was not a book about halachot (ritual laws) of mezuzah – there were many books on that subject – this was a book about the meaning of mezuah – its significance in Jewish history, philosophy, ethics, and mysticism. By 1996, the book was finished and I signed a contract with the leading publisher of English Judaica – Jason Aronson. I was supposed to deliver the finished manuscript in a few months, but [...]
As we have discussed in the post, It’s the time, stupid, Pharaoh never got the message that it’s all about mastery of time. To make sure Jews did get this message, God gave them the very first commandment—the commandment of keeping time, of marking new months: This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.(Ex. 12: 2) It is important to note that Jews were not only commanded to keep time, they were commanded to “make” time. Indeed, in Biblical times, the new month was not calculated according to a calendar, as it is done today, it was proclaimed by a Bet Din (an ecclesiastic court) based on the testimony of two live witnesses, who observed [...]
Presented at the International Torah and Science Conference in Miami International University on December 18, 2005 Alexander Poltorak Introduction. This is the third in a series of articles, in which I attempt to sketch various approaches to reconciling a cosmological age of the universe currently estimated at 13.75 billion years with the Jewish tradition setting this age at less than six thousand years (5770 as of the day of this writing, to be exact). The first article  tackled this problem from the point of view of Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics suggesting that there were two distinct forms of existence—physical and proto-physical—and that the first conscious observers, Adam and Eve, collapsed the universal wavefunction, bringing the world from amorphous proto-physical existence into tangible physical existence. This approach leads to two distinct [...]