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.
The Torah portion Vayakhel deals with the construction of the Mishkan, i.e., the “Tabernacle.” In Kabbalah, the Mishkan is viewed as a microcosm that represents a miniature model of the entire universe—both physical and spiritual. The Mishkan was comprised primarily of two categories of objects. The first category included the coverings that made up the roof and the walls surrounding the Mishkan. The second category included kelim—the objects inside the Mishkan. This is not the first time the description of the coverings and kelim appear in the Torah. In the Torah portion Teruma, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the Mishkan. Interestingly, in Teruma, God first speaks of the kelim and then of the coverings, whereas in Vayakhel, when Moses instructs the Jewish people, he reverses the order and first [...]
Yesterday was the 9th day of the month of Av or, in Hebrew, Tisha B’Av. Usually, Tisha B’Av is marked by mourning and fasting. Yesterday, however, we ate festive meals, drank wine and were prohibited from fasting or displaying any signs of mourning. Because yesterday was Shabbat. Shabbat pushes off the observances of Tisha B’Av by a day. Indeed, today, Sunday, we fast and mourn the destruction of the First and the Second Holy Temple – Bet Hamikdash – in Jerusalem, we remember the Holocaust and many other tragedies that befell the Jewish people. Why couldn’t we observe Tisha B’Av on Shabbat? After all, that was the day when on the 9th of Av, both Temples were destroyed! The simple explanation, of course, is that on Shabbat there is no mourning. On Shabbat, [...]
And let them make me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25:8) In modern physics, there are two paradigms usually expressed as locality and nonlocality. Theoretical physics was born when Isaac Newton published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687, where he formulated his laws of motion and the universal law of gravity. The law of gravity says that two masses attract each other proportionally to the product of their masses and inversely proportionally to the square of the distance between them. This law said nothing about the nature of the gravitational interaction, it did not explain the mechanism of this attraction at a distance. Newton was bothered by the question of how one body can act on another body far removed from it with nothing in between, i.e., the notion of “action [...]
The Hebrew words taharah and tumah, which are the subjects of the Torah portion of Chukat (Numbers 19:1–22:1), are usually translated as ritual purity and ritual impurity respectively. This, of course, has nothing to do with physical purity or impurity, as these are strictly spiritual concepts. But what is a “spiritual concept” in the first place? The word “spiritual” is thrown around a lot by religious pundits and new age gurus. This word is anathema to scientists as anything spiritual is deemed to be antithetical to science. However, this word can be given a simple, precise and strictly scientific definition. (As Descartes famously said, most arguments would disappear if people bothered giving definitions to the concepts they argue about.) Well, one thing everyone would agree with, that spiritual is not physical. Since all [...]