Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jacob's Dream

About 150 years ago, scientists grouped all things into "having life" or "not having life". On the other hand, our sages, who go back 2,000 years, had claimed everything in this world has a "soul".

Were the sages wrong? Could "dead" stuff, like stones, have a "soul"?

But then scientists discovered the atom and some of its components. It turns out today's physics agrees there's no such thing as lifeless stuff. All matter teems with dynamic forces.

The Encyclopedia Britannica writes, "All atoms are roughly the same size, whether they have 3 or 90 electrons. Approximately 50 million atoms of solid matter lined up in a row would measure 1 cm (0.4 inch). Compared with the overall size of the atom, the nucleus is even more minute. It is in the same proportion to the atom as a marble is to a football field."

The atom's tiny nucleus holds all the protons and neutrons. Its lightweight electrons spin around this nucleus, some reaching the outer limits that define the atom's "football field" boundaries. In proportion to that "marble-sized" nucleus and the negligible sizes of the circling electrons, even if there were 90 of them, the amount of empty space inside this single atom is immense. Imagine how many more "marbles" could fit into this enclosed empty space. The proportion is something like multi-billions to one. This should give you an idea of how much more "air" exists inside an atom compared with the amount of "solid" inside it.

Each proton or neutron weighs 2,000 times as much as an electron. Most of the atom’s volume, therefore, consists of a cloud of electrons of very tiny mass, which means the atom's weight is, for all practical purposes, the weight of its nucleus; And most of its volume, most of that "football field", is, for all practical purposes - empty!

Shoot a bullet at a rock or steel wall, it'll deflect, because it cannot penetrate the mass. But Rutherford, in 1910, blasted atoms with radioactive waves and these waves - went right through. He blasted them thousands of times and each wave went through as if through empty space, for each time he hit his targets on the other side of the wall.

Although they could not visualize the atom, scientists devised a hypothetical physical model of one. It was like a small solar system with a bunch of tiny "stars" (electrons) revolving around the "sun" (nucleus), only the relative distances between these "stars" were much more spacious.

Amazingly, with so much space making up the atom, as difficult as it might be to imagine, even big things are - almost hollow!

Take the body of a man, for example. Implode all its material by removing all the empty space, and we'd end up with a speck of dust hardly visible with a magnifying glass! And the weight of this dust speck would be the weight of the man!

If we were to take the planet earth and squeeze out all its empty space, we'd end up with a sphere of only half a mile in radius.

With this information, we more easily understand Rashi's explanation of Jacob's dream in Beth El, when G-d tells him, "The land upon which you lie I will give to you and your descendants." Says Rashi, "G-d folded up all The Land of Israel beneath him." (Gen. 28:13)

In effect, science confirmed what our sages posited thousands of years ago, namely, that all matter has a "soul", which means a divine potential, a life-force - something we cannot see, that keeps them moving. Not only is all physicality mostly void of matter, but this "nothingness" is actually its existential truth.

Science begins to comprehend, in its own way, that matter has no existence apart from its energy - and its energy is infinitely greater than the mass. Could we but harness the atomic energy in one speck of coal, we could propel all the world's big ships from America to Israel and back. That we can reduce all matter of a man's body into a miniscule grain of sand shows just how meager is the body in comparison with the gigantic proportions of its divine soul.

1 comment:

  1. Yeish anashim im lev shel even..Yesh avanim im lev adam...God bless you.