Standing and Moving

According to the Saadia Gaon, these two Torah portions – Nitzavim and Vayelech – are really one portion, which sometimes is split into two.  In the language of Quantum Mechanics (QM), the two portions are entangled, in a manner of speech, and are described by the single “wavefunction.”  Needless to say, this is not meant in a literal sense, as QM describes physical objects, whereas these biblical chapters are certainly not.  Nevertheless, taking poetic license, we can loosely say that these portions are entangled, i.e., they are really one.  Nitzavim and Vayelech, however, speak of the opposite themes – “nitzavim” connotes standing( lit., you stand), while “vayelech” connotes walking (lit., …and he walked).

As much as it seems paradoxical at first, from the physicist’s point of view, it is not surprising at all.  Typically, entangled objects have the opposite values of their physical characteristics.  TSpinhus, for example, in a pair of two entangled electrons, they will always have spins pointing in the opposite directions.  Moreover, the electrons are in a linear superposition of two states: spin up and spin down, which means each is spinning, as it were, in the opposite directions – clockwise and counterclockwise.  Measuring the spin of one electron in this entangled pair immediately fixes the spin of the second electron in the opposite direction: if we find the first electron spinning clockwise (spin up), the second electron immediately collapses it state of superposition into a definitive state of spinning counterclockwise (spin down).

So these two Torah portions, which are really one, have the opposite themes as one would expect from the “entangled” portions.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, learns a lesson from this apparent paradox for our practical service of God (avodah) – a Jew must stand strong, i.e. be firmly rooted in Jewish tradition, yet a Jew must be always on the move progressing higher and higher in the Divine service.  In the language of quantum mechanics (again, metaphorically speaking), a Jew must be in a state of superposition of standing and moving.  Just as with the example of two entangled electrons, as soon as a Jew is caught standing, he must start moving not being satisfied with his spiritual status quo.  And as soon as he is caught moving, he must check how firmly he is grounded in his roots.  This dichotomy is the quintessential property of the Divine service, which always embodies a superposition of opposite states – moving and standing, striving for spiritual while remaining physical, rotzo v’shov, “running and returning, as in Ezekiel’s vision of Maaseh Merkavah.

mezuzahThis duality is exemplified by mezuzah, which, on the one hand, must be firmly affixed to a doorpost so that the mezuzah doesn’t move; on the other hand, the root of the word mezuzah is zuz – to move.  This duality is further exemplified by the way we affix a mezuzah on a doorpost. According to Rashi, it should be vertical (or, more precisely, not horizontal); but, according to Rabeinu Tam, it should be horizontal (or, more precisely, not vertical).  Thus the mezuzah, like the Schrödinger cat, is in the state of a linear superposition of two opposite states: vertical and horizontal. Since quantum superposition is a property of the micro world and cannot be easily realized in the macro world, in which we live, we simply acknowledge this superposition by placing the mezuzah diagonally.

Speaking of entanglement, the main message of parshah Nitzavim is that all Jews are entangled.  The laws of arvus – mutual responsibility – are learned from this parshah.  “You all stand together – netzavim kulchem…” – we are all entangled, which will allow us in a few days to fulfill the mitzvah of blowing the shofar by listening to the baal tokeah, “the one who blows,” who will exempt us with his tekios – sounds of Shofar.

May we hear soon the sounds of the Shofar Gadol, the Great Shofar, which will announce our ultimate redemption.

Ktivah vechatimah tovah leshanah tovah u’metukah – may we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a Happy and Sweet New Year!

Originally published on QuantumTorah.com on  Oct 9, 2016.

About the Author
Dr. Alexander Poltorak is Chairman and CEO of General Patent Corporation. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Physics at The City College of New York. In the past, he served as Assistant Professor of Physics at Touro College, Assistant Professor of Biomathematics at Cornell University Medical College, and Adjunct Professor of Law at the Globe Institute for Technology. He holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics.
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