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Non-reason in Judaism and physics

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IT turns out that reason has less of a hold on religion and science that one might suppose; or, at least, on Judaism and physics.

In Jewish legal lingo, a “decree”  is a rule that runs against reason. The classic decree is that of the Red Cow. Its ashes, ritually prepared, contaminate its preparers; at the same time, these ashes purify the impure people on whom the ashes, mixed with spring water, are sprinkled.

Same object: ashes.

Two diametrically opposed results: impurity and purity.

That’s a “decree.”

The search for reason in the ritual of the Red Cow will likely take one as far as the search for reason in the reality of an electron in two different orbits simultaneously, or in the dual nature of light, now corpuscular, now wavular.

Same light.

Two diametrically opposed ways of characterizing it. Light is a particle. Light is a wave. On top of that, both characterizations are  necessary to explain light.

Go figure.

You can’t, by means of reason.

It has been remarked that attempts to draw analogies from quantum physics to any other aspect of reality is doomed to failure because nothing else behaves like subatomic realities. Even so, wherever they live, absolute paradoxes do govern part of reality.

The same goes for Judaism. Whenever they were in play, absolute paradoxes, or at least disjunctions unexplainable by reason, do govern parts of the Torah. One example is the “decree” of the Red Cow. Another example is in this week’s Torah portion.

The rest of this article is available in the March 28, 2014 IJN print and digital edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or subscribe to our new online e-Edition.

Last Updated ( Friday, 28 March 2014 06:03 )  

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