Tag Archives: Mikveh

Converting to Judaism: Then and Now

How has conversion to Judaism changed over the last two millennia? And who really first formulated the “Golden Rule”? Find out in the following short video:

Please see also: ‘Embracing Converts and the Seeds of Amalek’


Secrets of Pi

This week’s conjoined Torah portions of Vayak’hel and Pekudei conclude the description of the Mishkan’s construction. The Haftarah for Pekudei is a passage from the seventh chapter of I Kings (the exact verses vary by community) describing King Solomon’s construction of the Jerusalem Temple. One of the most breathtaking structures standing in front of the Temple was the “Molten Sea”, a large bathtub for the kohanim to immerse in (as per Rashi and II Chronicles 4:6). The Tanakh describes that the bath was circular, sitting upon a base of twelve oxen statues, and had a total depth of five cubits, roughly ten feet. It held a volume of alpayim bat, “two thousand baths” of water (I Kings 7:26). In fact, the Hebrew bat (בת) is likely the etymology for the English word “bath”!

Illustration of the First Jerusalem Temple, or Solomon’s Temple, with the Molten Sea on the right.

What’s most perplexing in the description is that we are told the diameter of the circular tub was 10 cubits, yet its circumference was 30 cubits. Throughout history, many have pointed out that this seems to be an error! We all know that the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is π or Pi, which is 3.1415926 (and so on). So, the Tanakh should have said that the diameter was 10 cubits and the circumference was 31 or 31 and a half cubits. How do we solve this puzzle, and what deeper significance does Pi hold in the Torah?

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The Mystical Meaning of Snow

This week we begin reading Shemot, the Book of Exodus, and are reminded of some of the smaller details which are sometimes forgotten. One of these is when Moses asked God to provide him with signs that he could use to prove to the Israelites that he is really the redeemer (Exodus 4). God gives Moses three signs: the first is Moses’ staff transforming into a serpent, the second is Moses’ hand becoming “leprous like snow”, and the third is turning water into blood.

The first sign we later see expanded in the famous episode where Moses and Aaron go head-to-head with Pharaoh’s magicians and a serpentine battle ensues. The third sign would, of course, become the First Plague. But what of the middle sign? What is the meaning behind Moses’ hand becoming snowy? Even more intriguingly, the word “snow”, sheleg (שלג), actually appears for the very first time in the Torah right here. As a general rule, when a word appears for the first time in the Torah, it is there that we find its true significance. What is the spiritual significance of snow? Continue reading