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In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.Genesis 7:11 As the Torah tells us, at the dawn of human history, the flood swept the world. Most people, except for Noah and his family, drowned in that flood. Today, we too are drowning in a flood of a different kind—the informational flood. To put the current flood in perspective, consider this: according to one estimate in 2003, between the beginning of human civilization and the spread of computers, humanity generated cumulatively about 12 exabytes (12x1018 bytes) of data. However, in 2002 alone, we generated 5 exabytes of data. According to another estimate, [...]

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

Sanctuaries in Space and Time

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.

Joseph’s Birth—A View From Quantum Mechanics and Biology

And afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah. (Genesis 30:21) In my previous essay, “The Conflict Between Joseph And His Brothers—A Gender Theory,” I suggested that Joseph exhibited some proclivity to feminine behavior in his youth. This impression can be naturally inferred from the verses and supported by traditions in Kabbalah related to Isaac, Joseph, and Benjamin, as we discussed in that essay. To be sure, Joseph outgrew his feminine tendencies (perhaps assisted by the tough love shown to him by his brothers). He matured into a man who was not only a husband, a father, and the de facto ruler of Egypt, but an archetype of masculinity and a paradigm of piety, for which he earned the designation of Joseph, the Righteous (Yosef HaTzadik). Moreover, spiritually, Joseph personified Yesod [...]

The Conflict Between Joseph And His Brothers—A Gender Theory

The confrontation between Joseph and his brothers is one of the most troubling stories of the Bible. Joseph and his brother—twelve sons of Jacob—were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are described as tzadikim (the righteous and pious men) and prophets. However, as we read in the Torah portion Vayeshev, we are told that brothers hated Joseph: And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. (Genesis 37:3) And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brethren; and they hated him yet the more. (Genesis 37:5) And his brethren envied him… (Genesis 37:11) The brothers intended to kill Joseph: And they said one to another: ‘Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now [...]

Jacob and Esau—Thermodynamics of Order and Chaos

And these are the chronicles of Isaac… (Genesis 25:19) So Esau went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife. (Genesis 28:9)   This Torah portion is called Toledot. In Hebrew, toledot means “generations” or “chronicles.” Indeed, this Torah portion starts with the phrase, “These are the chronicles of Isaac.” This is not the first or the last time this word appears in Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures). It appears for the first time in the opening verse of chapter 2 of Genesis: These are the chronicles of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Eternal God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4) The second time it appears in [...]

Steering Isaac’s Blessing

And Rebekah spoke unto Jacob, her son, saying: “Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying: Bring me venison, and make me savoury food, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Eternal before my death. Now, therefore, my son, hearken to my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury food for thy father, such as he loveth; and thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, so that he may bless thee before his death.” And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother: “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. My father peradventure will feel me, [...]

My Name Is God, and I Am Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth...[1] (Genesis 1:1)   Classical biblical commentators have given the first words of the Torah many different translations and have interpreted them to have many different meanings. That said, one simple aspect has received little attention—that God is introducing Himself to us. If we take poetic license and change the order of the words, the first phrase in the Torah could be loosely translated as: “[My name is] God—[Who], in the beginning, created the heaven and the earth.” God is introducing Himself to us as the Creator of everything—heaven (i.e., the spiritual) and earth (i.e., the material). This interpretation of the first verse in the Torah may be helpful for the following reason. In truth, God is entirely unknowable. The Creator of everything, including [...]

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 ays of “counting the Omer”) or simple days of Sefirah. This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And ye shall count [...]

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