Allen S. Maller

The Higgs boson and Lurianic Kabbalah

The discovery of a boson-like particle is evidence for Higgs’ mathematical theory that energy becomes matter due to a field that provides resistance to some massless particles, thus giving them the mass that allows them to bind together and form most sub-atomic particles, atoms and molecules, stars, planets and people rather than whizzing around the universe at the speed of light. This produced the physically differentiated universe we live in.

Rabbi Isaac Luria’s theory is that the energy of God’s explosive radiation of creation, when confined in material containers (vessels) shattered the vessels and produced the spiritually and morally differentiated and disharmonious, fractured universe we live in.

How do these two theories that seem so far apart in space and time (Luria died in Safed, Israel on July 25, 1572) come together? They both start from the same observation. We live in an imperfect universe. But our universe exists only because of its imperfections. In fact, when people say “nothing is perfect,” they are literally correct. Nothingness–and only nothingness—or as Luria calls God, “the Ayn Sof,” the Limitless One, is perfect. Everything else is not.

Consider the pre-creation and instant of creation universe: a state of pure, formless, undifferentiated, vacuum energy, featureless, uniform, pure. As K. C. Cole says: Perfection can actually be well-defined in physics by the idea of “perfect symmetry.” It means that no matter how you try to change something, it doesn’t make a difference. Look left, right, up or down, on a large scale or small, move fast or slow; it doesn’t make a difference. This is the perfect nothing that existed when only God existed: a peaceful, unchanging, total unity, with no direction, no flaws, no growth, no piece of it different from the rest.

“We have, in our minds, a tendency to accept symmetry as some kind of perfection,” wrote the late Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman. But our universe is far from this perfect state of unity: Forces are different from particles, electrons are different from quarks, gravity is different from electricity, matter is different from antimatter, and each human being differs greatly and unpredictably from every other.

What shattered this primordial perfection? The Higgs field did it. The field theorized by Peter Higgs literally took this formless perfection and froze structure into it, the way freezing imparts crystalline structure to amorphous water. Water is perfectly symmetrical, but ice is not. Moving up is not the same as moving sideways. Freezing destroys the sameness.

Physicist Leon Lederman compares the way the Higgs operates to the biblical story of Babel. The citizens of the city of Babel, all spoke one language with few words, until God differentiated their speech. Like God, says Lederman, the Higgs differentiated the perfect sameness, confusing everyone (physicists included).This idea has wide-ranging implications. Normally, the Higgs is invoked only to explain how particles have different masses, i.e. why a quark is heavier than an electron.

Cole thinks the Higgs’ field influence could reach much further. Something like the Higgs field, but not exactly the Higgs field itself, may be behind many other unexplained “broken symmetries” in the universe, as well. For example, why is electricity so different from gravity? Why is our universe made of matter but not antimatter — even though the two should be created in precisely equal amounts? In Lurianic terms: Why do pious people sometimes sin? Why do some bad people repent when others do not? Why do good intentions not always lead to good results? Why does true love fail so often?

Luria says that the primordial shattering of the vessels left sparks of holiness embedded in all the material fragments (called husks) and that the purpose of all human beings, especially Jews, is to repair and mend the broken vessels, and help restore the wholeness and holiness of existence. Thus, the Higgs field is only a latter natural development of the divine collapse of symmetry that led to the Big Bang, which created the universe. Feynman wondered why the universe we live in was so obviously askew. “No one has any idea why,” he wrote. Perhaps, he speculated, “total perfection would have been unacceptable to God who made the laws only nearly symmetrical so that we should not be jealous of his perfection.”

If Dr. Feynman only knew Rabbi Luria he would have known that jealousy is not the issue. Choice and growth, repentance and atonement, charity and love are the reasons for creation. God had to undergo Tsimtsum, a contraction in the divine attributes, in order to create an imperfect universe that would have creatures molded in the divine image, who could grow morally and spiritually by correcting imperfections. Only when the perfection shatters can everything else be born.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.