Perhaps the most enigmatic part of the Torah is its description of the creation of the world. While some parts of the description correlate with modern science, much does not. Intellectually honest Torah-believing scientists are not daunted by this enigma. They understand that the Torah is not a book of science nor is it a book of history. Rather, the Torah is a book of ethics, such that that its description of the first seven days of creation need not and should not be taken at face value.
While this approach offers a certain amount of flexibility in our understanding, flagrant violations of basic science can and should still raise eyebrows. One example of such a violation is found in the creation of light on the first day of creation [Bereishit 1:3-4] “G-d said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated the light from the darkness.” The reason the creation of light is problematic is because the “two great lights in the sky” – the sun and the moon – were created only on the fourth day of creation. What was the source of the primordial light? How did it differ from the photonic light created on the fourth day? To where did it disappear? The Talmud in Tractate Hagigah [12a] addresses these questions: “The light that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created on the first day was not that of the sun but a different kind of light, through which man could observe from one end of the world to the other. But when the Holy One, Blessed be He, looked upon the generation of the flood and the generation of the dispersion and saw that their ways were corrupt and that they might misuse this light for evil, He arose and concealed it from them. And for whom did He conceal it? For the righteous people in the future”. This short piece of Talmud begs so many questions:
- How can a perfect G-d reconsider a decision? Did new facts come to light?
- How precisely can one see “from one end of the world to the other”?
- For which “righteous people” is G-d saving the primordial light? Apparently Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moshe were not sufficiently righteous, otherwise the light would have returned in their time.
To address these questions, our first stop is the first commandment the Jewish People received as a nation, the sanctification of the new moon. The new moon is sanctified and a new month is declared when the smallest lunar crescent can be discerned with the naked eye. Why should the Torah attribute such great importance to something so small and seemingly insignificant? In an earlier essay, we explained that the Jewish calendar, as exemplified by the phases of the moon, signifies renewal. Each month, the Jewish People are given a new opportunity to rewrite their future. Rosh Chodesh, the day of the New Moon, is granted quasi-holiday status. On Rosh Chodesh, we recite the Hallel prayer and we offer special sacrifices in the Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash) precisely because it is a time of renewal. Once a month, G-d forces us to appraise ourselves, as individuals and as a nation. To this end, the Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, who lived in Safed in the sixteenth century, initiated the custom of celebrating “Yom Kippur Katan” – “Mini Yom Kippur” – each month on the day before Rosh Chodesh. Yom Kippur Katan includes fasting and the reciting of prayers usually recited on Yom Kippur. The purpose of this custom is to prepare the Jewish People for their monthly rebirth.
Our next stop lies in the Fourier Transform. In 1822, Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician and physicist, discovered that a large family of functions could be decomposed, or “transformed”, into an infinite sum of sinusoidal waves. The Fourier Transform reveals a new vantage point: Instead of seeing how a system reacts in the “time domain”, we can use the Fourier Transform to reveal how systems look and behave in the “frequency domain”. We can plot a graph showing how the system reacts at each and every frequency. This is called the system’s “power spectrum”. Most systems have their “power” concentrated in just a few frequencies. For instance, imagine pushing your child on a swing. You begin by pushing him slowly and then you increase the frequency of your pushes. There is a frequency of pushing that “excites” the swing, causing it to resonate and to rise progressively higher and higher until your grandchild is nearly perpendicular to the ground, shrieking with delight. Pushing the swing at a slightly lower or higher frequency than this “sweet spot” will reduce the effectiveness of your pushing, slowing down your child and causing him great irritation. The “sweet spot” frequency is known as the system’s “natural frequency”. In the power spectrum, this is represented by an amplitude “spike” at that particular frequency. Most systems contain more than one natural frequency. By identifying a system’s power spectrum and its natural frequencies, we can predict how it will react in different situations and we can modify our design accordingly to ensure that it always reacts in a desirable way.
We now have sufficient background to revisit the enigma of the primordial light. Metaphorically speaking, the universe has natural frequencies that influence the way it resonates to holiness. The highest natural frequency is the solar day. The Mishnah in Tractate Avot [2:10] teaches that we must repent one day before we die. Rabbi Ovadiah, who lived in Bartenura, Italy, in the fourteenth century, explains that as a person does not know when he will die, he must repent today, lest he die tomorrow. Each morning when we rise, we thank G-d for returning our soul and we begin again, vowing to do better than the day before. The second highest natural frequency is the seven-day week, where six ordinary days are followed by the Holy Shabbat (Shabbat Kodesh), a day in which we tune out of our mundane world to recharge our spiritual batteries and to reacquaint ourselves with what is truly important. The third natural frequency is the lunar month – approximately 29.53 days – defining holiness via the waning and the waxing of the moon. The fourth natural frequency is seven years – the shemitta cycle. Every seven years, we must let the earth lie fallow. On the most basic halachic level, we may not sow crops and anything that does grow becomes the property of the destitute. Produce grown on Jewish-owned land during shemitta has inherent holiness and must be treated with respect. On a more philosophical level, shemitta imbues the entire world with holiness. It shows man that what he believed belongs to him actually belongs to G-d and as a result automatically becomes holy. The fifth natural frequency is a half-century – the “Jubilee (Yovel) Frequency”. Yovel is shemitta on steroids. On Yovel, all slaves are freed and all land returns to its original owners. The Torah tells us [Vayikra 25:12] “For it is Yovel. It shall be holy to you”. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes in his monumental Tanya, “According to the deeper wisdom of Torah, during Yovel there is a special spiritual emanation from the Divine that enters our world and this spiritual force creates the unique features of Yovel”.
The sixth and lowest natural frequency of holiness is the “Eschatological Frequency” in which holiness is represented by the primordial light. The amplitude of the power of primordial holiness is significantly greater than at all other frequencies of holiness. Primordial holiness will be revealed only at the eschatological end of days [Zachariah 14:9] “On that day G-d will be One and His Name will be One” when the entire universe – “from one end to the other” – will be filled with nothing but G-dliness. Primordial holiness existed at the first moment of creation and then disappeared. G-d did not “hide” it because He was afraid the evil people would misuse it. Rather, like all types of holiness, primordial holiness was created to be cyclical. Its natural frequency currently remains unknown. That said, not only can we reveal its natural frequency, we can determine it. We can be those “righteous people in the future”. With our actions, we can hasten the redemption. The Talmud in Tractate [Sanhedrin 87a] rules that repentance is a necessary precondition to redemption. The light-switch is right there in front of us. All we have to do is to reach out and turn it on.
Ari Sacher, Moreshet, 5782
Please daven for a Refu’a Shelema for Yechiel ben Shprintza, Eli bat Ilana, and Geisha bat Sara.
 Ki Tetze 5771