And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook (Levit. 23:40)
After completing his masterpiece, the General Theory of Relativity in 1916, Albert Einstein spent the rest of his life working fruitlessly on unifying gravity with electromagnetism. His quest was to develop a unified field theory that would unify his General Relativity, a theory of gravitational, with Maxwell electrodynamics. To his great dismay, Einstein never succeeded in developing a unified field theory.
It was actually even worse. While working tirelessly on unifying two known classical fields – gravitational field and electromagnetic field – Einstein missed the incredible progress in quantum physics, of which he was one of the founders and for which he received his Nobel Price. Today, nobody worries about unifying gravity with electromagnetism. We are worried about unifying general relativity with quantum physics – two most successful theories of all of science, which are utterly incompatible.
Moreover, today, we know more than just two classical forces – gravitational force and electromagnetic force. We know of two more forces that play important roles in quantum physics – strong (nuclear) and weak (beta decay) forces (and, perhaps the fifth hypothetical force doubt “Quintessence”).
However, Einstein’s dream of unification was not abandoned. It was spearhead by different physicists along a different path – the path of quantum field theory.
Great strides have been made in achieving the goal of unification. In 1963, Jewish-American physicist Sheldon Glashow proposed that the weak nuclear force and electromagnetism could arise out of unified electroweak theory. In 1979, Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam, and Steven Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize for their contributions to the unification of the weak and electromagnetic interaction into a single electroweak theory.
In 1974, Sheldon Glashow and Howard Georgi proposed unifying the strong and electroweak interactions into a single model now known as the Georgi–Glashow model, the first Grand Unified Theory (GUT). Another version of Grand Unified Theories was later developed by Abdus Salam and Jogesh Paty, known today as the Pati–Salam model. Other variations of the GUT exist and are currently being developed, and the jury is still out. Be that as it may, theoretical physicists have succeeded a great deal in unifying three fundamental forces in what is now called the Standard Model.
Most of the current effort in unifying fundamental physical interactions are connected to the quantization of the gravitational field, i.e., to unifying the general theory of relativity with the quantum field theory. Two leading candidates for such unification are string theory and quantum loop gravity.
I started studying theoretical physics in my teens. I was enamored with Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity. So, the first thing I did, I bought four large volumes of collected papers of Albert Einstein translated into Russian (I still have them) and started reading them sequentially, one paper after another, learning math along the way. It was a fascinating journey, not only through the process of development of the theory of relativity but also through Einstein’s mind. By the time I finished, I had seen the world through Einstein’s eyes. Einstein became my first teacher, my mentor. Regrettably, my mentor led me down the blind alley, influencing my thinking for years to come.
You see, Einstein, one of the discoverers of quantum physics, grew to dislike it intensely. He rejected quantum indeterminism famously stating that G‑d did not play dice with the universe. His famous EPR paper (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox) used the entanglement – the spooky action at a distance, as Einstein called it – to “prove” that quantum mechanics did not make sense. Later, entanglement was proven experimentally, and it all makes perfect sense now. Despite the incredible successes of quantum physics, Einstein never came around to accepting it.
Under the spell of great Einstein, for many years I looked down on quantum physics, working exclusively on the general theory of relativity. For many years, I continued to believe that quantum physics would somehow emerge from a unified field theory – the kind that Albert Einstein was working on until the end of his life. I continued digging the same dead-end tunnel getting nowhere in a hurry. I was wrong. Einstein was wrong. Quantum physics triumphed. I now firmly believe that the unification will come either from the side of quantum physics or from a completely new direction, but not from the side of general relativity.
Last Shabbat, I saw a confirmation of this in the writing of Rabbi Chaim Vital, the principal disciple of the Arizal.
As I have written in my previous posts, (see, for example, Four Camps at Sea – Four Fundamental Interactions), the four fundamental forces (fields or interactions) correspond to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton – the proper name of G‑d, Havayah:
|Yud||י||Strong nuclear force|
|Hei||ה||Weak force – beta decay|
Hebrew letter י, “Yud,” is written as a dot and, metaphorically alludes to the nucleus of the atom. In Kabbalah, it represents the sefira of Chokhmah, the first flash of an undifferentiated idea, the nucleus of the thought.
Letter Hei (or Heh), as it is explained in Kabbalah and Chasidut, is the expansion of the letter Yud in all directions. In Kabbalah, Hei represents the sefira or Binah, where the nucleus of the idea is broken into components, analyzed and expanded. So too, the weak interaction represents beta decay – the radioactive process when a nucleus emits a beta particle (electron or positron). This type of interaction governs decay of particles that break up and emit (expand, as it were) other particles. So, the letter hei alludes to the weak force.
The letter ו, “Vav” (or “Waw”) is written in Hebrew as a vertical line, resembling a vector. Of all the forces, only the electromagnetic force is mathematically described as a vector – it is a vector force having a magnitude and a direction.
The second letter Hei in Kabbalah represents the sefira of Malchut, which is called the earth. Thus, the second Hei alludes at the gravitational force.
In Kabbalah, the sefira of Malchut represent the Shechinah – the Divine Presence. In a time of Galut (the exile), the Shechinah is in exile together with the Jewish people. The second letter, Hei, the last letter of the Tetragrammaton, is detached (exiled), as it were, from the first three letters. This spiritual exile (corresponding to the physical exile of the Jewish people) also corresponds to the state of unification in physics – we’ve been able to unify only three fundamental forces, strong, weak, and electromagnetic, but the gravitational force remains outside of this model, awaiting its final “redemption” in the Theory of Everything. The Teshuvah, “return” is mystically seen as the reattachment of the second hei to the first three letters of the Tetragrammaton. Thus, the messianic redemption and return of the Jewish people from the exile are parallel to the unification of the gravitational force with the other three forces already unified.
The question remains, where the unification of all forces will come from – from the side of the gravitational force, i.e., from the general theory of relativity, as Einstein believed, or from the quantum field theory, the Standard Model that so far managed to unify the other three forces? Let’s see what the Kabbalah has to say about it.
In the Kitvei Arizal, we find:
“[Resurrection] will occur by means of holy [spiritual] droplets that manifest the Name of G‑d whose numerical value is that of the word for “dew.” These [droplets] descent from the brain of Zeer Anpin to its yisod, and from there to the “land of the living” and Malchut. The Jewish souls there receive [these droplets] and come to live.” (Sefer HaLikutim, parshat Emor – in the translation of Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky, see Apples from the Orchard).
The Name of G‑d referenced above is an abbreviated Tetragrammaton comprised of the first three letters: Yud-Hei-Vav. To see how it’s numerical value equals that of the word “dew,” we need to spell out each of the three letters:
The total is 39 (20+6+13). The word “dew” in Hebrew is tal. It is spelled tet (9), lamed (30) – the total is 39. Thus, the Name of G‑d that Arizal is referring to above is the name Yud-Hei-Vav. It is Havayah (the Tetragrammaton) that is missing the last hei.
As we said earlier, the last hei represents sefira of Malchut that is allegorically represented by earth – the “land of the living.” In this context, the last hei (missing from this Divine Name) symbolizes dead sleeping in the earth. The resurrection of the dead is mystically seen as the reunification of the last hei with the first three letters of the Tetragrammaton when the dew of resurrection (represented by the first three letters) will irrigate the land of the living.
It is easy to see how this mystical description of the process of resurrection is parallel to the unification of all four fundamental forces in unified field theory, the Theory of Everything. The first three letters represent strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces. The last hei represent gravity. The reunification of the last hei with the other three letters of Havayah (Tetragrammaton) is symbolic of the reunification of gravity with the other fundamental forces.
The last question that remains is what this all has to do with four plants alluded to in the epigraph from the Torah portion of Emor?
Rabbi Chaim Vital explains that the numerical value of “fruit of the goodly tree” (peri eitz hadar) is 659. The phrase, “it [Zeer Anpin] contains the dew of resurrection, [which flows] from its brain to her [malchut].” Written in Hebrew this phrase reads bo tal d’techiah min hamoach lah. Its gematria (numerical value) is 658. Together with a kolel (1), it gives the same numerical value of 659.
In the Jewish tradition, the resurrection of the dead is the culmination of the messianic redemption. It is not coincidental, therefore, that the unification of all fundamental forces seen as connected to the messianic redemption is alluded to in the Scriptural verse that hints at the resurrection of the dead.
We see here that, according to the Kabbalah, it is the Standard Model (the unified theory of strong and electroweak interactions) that will enliven and unify the theory of gravity with all other forces giving rise to the Theory of Everything. I wish I understood this earlier.