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What Is a Soul? I. The Spiritual vs. the Physical

Introduction Most Americans believe in an immortal soul.[1] Most scientists think the soul does not exist. Why do so many people believe in an immortal soul? Why do scientists not believe in it? What is a soul, anyway? Do we need a soul? We will explore these and related questions in this essay. French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes famously said “If philosophers were always in agreement about the meaning of words, almost all their disputes would evaporate.”[2] There is hardly a better example of this truism than the concept of a soul—one of the most misunderstood and ill-defined concepts. A soul is perceived as spiritual, spooky, and otherworldly. While there is nothing spooky or otherworldly about a soul, it is indeed a spiritual concept. However, that knowledge does not help us, so [...]

By |2021-10-22T12:56:23-04:00October 22nd, 2021|Soul, Space, Spirituality, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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

Noah’s Ark—Three Layers of Being Human

A light shalt thou make to the ark, and to a cubit shalt thou finish it upward; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:16)   As mentioned in the previous post, “The Noah’s Ark—A Model of a Living Cell,” Noah’s ark was a microcosm. Structural parallels have been drawn between Noah’s ark and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (Bet HaMikdash), Tabernacle (Mishkan) (each of these sanctuaries is also called microcosm in its own right), and Mount Sinai—all based on the parallel between three levels of Noah’s ark, on the one hand, and three levels of the sanctity of various areas in the sanctuaries and Mount Sinai, on the other. In the previous chapter, we investigated [...]

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 [...]

In the Beginning — It’s All About Change

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)   The first verse in the Torah is key to understanding the fundamentals of creation. As far as physics is concerned, there are three key words in this verse, which are highlighted in bold: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. According to Nachmanides, these three words—“beginning,” “heaven,” and “earth”—represent, respectively, time, space, and matter. It is easy to see that the “beginning” stands for time, because the “beginning” is clearly a temporal concept that sets off the beginning of time; that “heaven” is a metaphor for space, because the stars and the planets are perceived to be in the sky (i.e., heaven) when, in fact, they are moving in space;[1] and that “earth” is emblematic of matter, [...]

Cosmic Symphony

Strings vibrate, Souls tremble, Angels are running and returning, God is touching and not touching – The rhythms of the universe… Nothing stays still… all is in flux. The inexorable flow of time is synonymous with the existence itself. Indeed, everything exists in time. However, from where does the time come? This is, perhaps, the greatest mystery of science. In modern physics, we do not know what time is, let alone from where it comes. We only know how to measure it – by counting the number of periodic intervals, which we accept as a unit of time. For example, in antiquity, people used a night-day cycle as the basic unit of time. This cycle was born out of observations of the apparent rotation of the sun around the earth (although, in reality, [...]

Brit Milah in Six Dimensions

Sefer Yetzira speaks of three dimensions: Olam, Shanah, and Nefesh.  Olam literally means "world" and signifies space. Shanah literally means "year" and signifies the dimension of time. Nefesh literally means "soul" and signifies the spiritual dimension. In another place, recognizing the space itself is three dimensional, Sefer Yetzira speaks of five-dimensional space which is a Minkowski spacetime with an addition of the fifth spiritual dimension. This construct is very similar to the Kaluza-Klein five-dimensional generalization of the General Theory of Relativity (a theory that is near and dear to my heart, because, unaware of its existence, I independently rediscovered it as a teenager.) Kaluza-Klein, first forgotten, is now experiencing a revival as a special case of the string theory. Sefer Yetzirah In every one of these dimensions, God created the domain of holy [...]

By |2018-09-23T03:48:50-04:00September 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Quantum Cheshire Cat and Resurrection

In memory of my father, Abraham Shamshin ben Reuven, ע"ה   For those of us who can't get enough of Schrödinger cat, comes a new feline—Quantum Cheshire Cat—the creation of an Israeli physicist, Yakir Aharonov. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice meets a grinning Cheshire cat. To her amazement, the cat disappears leaving only his grin behind: "All right', said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!" According to Martin Gardner, the statement "a grin without a cat" is a reference to mathematics dissociating itself [...]

Mezuzah in Three Dimensions

The mezuzah is one of the few mitzvot (divine commandments) for which the Torah states its reward. In this case, the reward is long life for oneself and one's children: And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts ("mezuzot") of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers for as long as the heavens are above the earth (Deuteronomy 11:20-21). According to the Tosafot and the Shulchan Aruch, the main function of the mezuzah is to protect the house from evil. Because of this attribute, the mezuzah has been called "the coat of arms in the knighthood of God."*  To begin to understand the mechanism of this effect of the mezuzah, [...]

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