Shavuot

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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 [...]

Shavuot (in Russian)

Шавуот Праздник Дарования Торы Aлександр Полторак    Закончился праздник Песах.  Все евреи поспешно убрали пасхальную посуду в особые шкафы или на чердаки до следующего Песаха.  В домах появились после восьмидневного перерыва свежеиспечённые булки. Наступили будни... Прошедший праздник оставил во рту приятный привкус подгоревшей мацы, воспоминания о Седере, проведенном в кругу семьи, рассказы об Исходе. Но закончился ли на этом Песах? Мораль и Свобода Выбора Вспомним, что главная идея Песаха это идея свободы, свободы от рабства Египетского или иного, физического или духовного. Итак, Бог вывел еврейский народ из Египта, сделал нас свободными людьми. Но стали ли мы свободными, освободившись от гнёта египетских надсмотрщиков?  Подчас, раб, освобождённый своим хозяином, остаётся у него добровольно, ибо некуда и незачем ему идти, нет у него ни места, ни смысла жизни...  Что же это всё-таки такое, свобода? О свободе [...]

Counting Weeks and Days

There is a Biblical Commandment to count the days between the Passover and Shavuot, the "Feast of Weeks" (a.k.a. Pentecost). We start counting on the second day of Passover (the first day of the barley harvest in the land of Israel, when the wave-offering of the omer, i.e., “sheaf,” of ripe barley was made in the Jerusalem Temple) and finish on the eve of Shavuot—the day when two loaves of bread made of wheat were offered at the Temple. There are exactly seven weeks (forty-nine days) between these two holidays; we are commanded to count the weeks and the days. These forty-nine days are called days of Sefirat HaOmer (the days of “counting the Omer”) or, simply, days of Sefirah ("counting"). This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And [...]

Fitting Pieces of the Puzzle Together

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – IV This is the fourth and the final installment in the series of posts related to Ezekiel’s prophesy, Ma’aseh Merkava, “The Making of the Chariot.” For background information, refer to the previous posts, “Space – Between Future and Past,” “Relational Space,” and “Collapse of the Wave Function.” Regular readers of my blog may be wondering about my last post “Futurist Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics,” which was about my new interpretation of quantum mechanics. This is not a physics blog, however; the Quantum Torah blog is about Torah and physics (or, more broadly, Torah and science). What did the last post have to do with Torah? Hopefully, it will all now become clear. Last Shavuot I had a very unusual experience. Sitting in shul listening to the reading [...]

Shavuot — Three States of Consciousness

Shavuot (a.k.a. the Feast of Weeks, or “Pentecost”) is the only Jewish holiday with no fixed day on the calendar—it is always the fiftieth day from the beginning of the counting of the Omer (which itself starts on the second day of Passover). What is so special about the number 50, and what is its connection to Shavuot? Shavuot is not only the culmination of the counting of the Omer—Sefirat HaOmer—but also the culmination of the process of the maturation of our consciousness. On Shavuot, it is customary to read the Book of Ruth (Megilat Rut). The story begins with Lot and his daughters running away from Sodom and hiding in a mountain cave. Seeing the destruction of Sodom, the daughters of Lot suspected that God, in his fury, destroyed the whole of [...]

613 Degrees of Freedom

Passover has ended. All Jews hastily return their Passover dishes to storage in special cabinets or the attic until the next Passover. After an eight-day break, home becomes filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Passover leaves us with the pleasant taste of burnt matzot, memories of the Seder spent with family, and stories of the Exodus. But did Passover really end? In the Mishnah (the precursor to Talmud), the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) is called Atzeret. This word is familiar to us from Shemini Atzeret—the holiday that follows immediately after the seven days of Sukkot, often simply viewed as the last day (or, in the diaspora, the last two days) of Sukkot. Either way, Shemini Atzeret is the conclusion of the festival of Sukkot. By designating Shavuot as Atzeret, the Mishnah seems [...]

Suspected Adulteress as a Schrödinger Cat

In quantum mechanics, the state of a physical system is described by the so-called wave function (or the "wavefunction"). All attempts by Schrödinger, who first introduced the wave function, and others to interpret it as a scalar potential of some physical field, or as the de Broglie wave (as in particle-wave dualism) were not successful. In 1926, Max Born noticed that the squared amplitude of the wavefunction of a particle in a given region gives the probability of finding the particle in this region. He suggested that the wavefunction represented not a physical reality but rather our knowledge of the quantum state of an object. The wave function represents our knowledge of all possible quantum-mechanical states of an object and their probabilities. In other words, the quantum-mechanical state of a physical system is [...]

Freedom in Space, Time and Spirituality

And the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of the kiln… Exodus 19:18 The Holiday of Shavuot is thought to be a culmination of the Passover. Just as Shmini Atzeret is a culmination of the Holiday of Sukkot and comes after seven days of Sukkot, Shavuot is also called Atzeret and comes after the Holiday of Pesach, albeit separated from it by forty-nine days of Omer. On Shavuot we read a Torah portion from the Chapter 19 of the Book of Shemot (Exodus). We already discussed the verse 18, "Mount Sinai smoked," in the previous post, Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it. Here, I'd like to focus on the word "smoked" from a different perspective. [...]

Holy Smoke

And the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of the kiln… Exodus 19:18 In the last post, Thou Shall Not Collapse G‑d's Wavefunction, we discussed the notion that G‑d only appears to man in a cloud of smoke, for which reason, the Kohen Gadol – High Priest – had to fill Kodesh Hakadoshim – the Holy of Holies – with the smoke of ketoret (incense), before entering it. On Shavuot, we read the Torah portion from Shemot (Exodus), Ch. XIX, in which this concept is made very explicit – "The entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it…" There is great symbolism in this smoke, which preceded the Revelation, when G‑d gave Jewish People Ten Commandments. As we discussed [...]

Passover, Shabbat and the Principle of Least Action

There is hardly a Jewish holiday more widely celebrated than Passover (Pesach). Jews of all denominations, affiliations, and levels of religious observance, if any at all, gather at the Passover Seder to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. What is often lost amid all of the beautiful rituals, not least among them the singing of Had Gadia and other Seder songs, is the deep meaning of this holiday, which is far more profound than a mere recollection of historical events, no matter how important they may be. What is, then, the deeper meaning of the Passover that transcends its historical significance? On the morrow of Shabbat One obscure and little-known (outside of the observant Jewish community) commandment ("mitzvah") may lead us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Passover—this [...]

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