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    Light and Color
    A Topical Lesson in Chassidut

    Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Science
  • Torah
  • A Great Light
  • Color

  • An Editorial Note:

    Light is intensively studied in physics and biology, and the concept of color is intimately related to light. The concept of light, however, is well understood in science, whereas the understanding of color is still rudimentary. For instance, it is not yet possible to clearly demonstrate that two persons are seeing the same color. Light and color are also powerful concepts in Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy. In the teachings of the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, light is a primary manifestation of Divine energy, and light is also a key concept in Chasidic philosophy. The first color that appears in the Five Books of Moses is gold, “…the whole land of Havilah where there is gold” (Genesis 2 11). The Talmudic literature teaches us that there are seven shades of gold.

    The Torah Science Foundation is pleased to present the introduction of “Light and Color” to its web site visitors. “Light and color” explores the wondrous interfaces between the physics of light and the Kabbalistic and Chasidic teachings on light and color. For example, it explains the meaning of Hashmal, the mystical concept of the Prophets, as taught by the founder of the Chasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, and its connection with Tehelet, the blue-purple dye that the Jews were commanded to add to the fringes of their garments as a reminder of all 613 commandments. It discusses the color of each sefira, and its psychological meaning, it explores the relationship between Torah, art and science and the numbers 3, 5 and 7, and much more.

    In the Introduction to “Light and Color” we learn about the basic numerical relations, gematriot, of light and color, and the Torah on the one hand, and the physical world on the other. We hope that, with G-d’s help, following parts of "Light and Color" will be available to our visitors in the near future.

    1. Introduction: Light and Color


    "Light…is only a tiny band in a continuous spectrum. From the physicist's point of view, the difference between radiations we can see and radiations we cannot see—so dramatic to the human eye—is only a few nanometers of wavelength (figure 1). Why does this particular group of radiatons, rather than some other, make the leaves grow and the flowers burst forth, cause the mating of fireflies and palolo worms, and when reflecting off the surface of the moon, excite the imagination of poets and lovers? Why is it that this tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is responsible for vision, for the rhythmic, day-night regulation of many biological activities, for the bending of plants toward the light, and also for photosynthesis, on which all life depends? Is it an amazing coincidence that all these biological activities are dependent on these same wavelengths?… Living things…are composed of large, complicated molecules held in special configurations and relationships by hydrogen bonds and other weak bonds. Radiation of even slightly higher energies than the energy of violet light breaks these bonds and so disrupts the structure and function of the molecules. Radiations with wavelengths less than 200 nanometers drive electrons out of atoms. Light of wavelengths longer than those of the visible band is absorbed by water, which makes up the great bulk of all living things on earth. When this light reaches molecules, its lower energies cause them to increase their motion (increasing heat) but do not trigger changes in their electron configurations. Only those radiations within the range of visible light have the property of exciting molecules – that is, of moving electrons into higher-energy orbital—and so of producing chemical and, ultimately, biological changes". "This is an example of what has been termed 'the fitness of the environment'; the suitability of the environment for life and that of life for the physical world are exquisitely interrelated. If they were not, life could not, of course, exist.2"


    Light is an often-used term as a metaphor for various manifestations and emanations of G-d3. It abounds in the Talmudic and allegorical literature, philosophical literature, and of course the mystical literature of Judaism. We can begin to see some interesting phenomena from the first few verses in Genesis4, where light is first mentioned:

    And G-d said, Let there be light; and there was light. And G-d saw the light, that it was good; and G-d divided the light from the darkness.

    In Hebrew, the words for "the light" () are numerically equivalent to 613, the number of commandments in the Torah. The first time the word "good" is mentioned in the Torah is in this verse. There is a numerical transformation algorithm called atbach (), which pairs each letter with the letter that brings it to sum to 10. In atbach, "good" is transformed as follows:

    We see here that the letters of the word for "good" transform in atbach into the letters for the Hebrew word "one" . Yet, the word for "good" is related to the Aramaic word for "many" . An essential verse relating these two words is "many luminaries are in light" (-in Hebrew: ). Thus, there is a relationship between the word "good", and both "one" and "many."

    This verse, "many luminaries are in light," has some interesting properties when examined numerically:

    173 * 5 = 865 = ("many luminaries")
    173 * 3 = 519 = ("are in light")
    173 * 8 = 1384 = ("many luminaries are in light")

    This is a beautiful example of the Golden Ratio5, of which we see an example here that 8 is separated into 5 and 3. This is the inner mystery of the word Mashiach (, "Messiah" = 358).

    173 is the numerical value of the phrase "I am G-d your G-d" ()6, the first words of the first of the Ten Commandments. 173 is also equal to the words "Open my eyes" ()7. 173 is the 41st prime number. We shall see that in many cases the serial number of the prime will show us inner aspects of the verse or concept. Here we look only as far as the first of the Ten Commandments. The whole verse is:

    I am G-d, your G-d, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    There are 41 letters in the whole verse. The first letter is alef (), the last letter is mem (). These two letters together spell the word for "mother" (), which is numerically equivalent to 41. The "sign" (siman) for this verse is thus 41, .

    Color (tzeva) corresponds to Ima (), the "mother" aspect. Light (or) corresponds to Abba (), the "father" aspect. We will discuss ramifications of these correlations further on.

    The next step in revealing the inner meanings of these concepts is to switch the prime number with its serial number in the prime number series. As we stated, 173 is the 41st prime number. The equivalent of "many luminaries are in light" is then transposed from 8 * 173 to:

    8 * 41 = 328 = ("darkness")

    That is to say, that the inner "source" of "many luminaries are in light" is darkness.

    In the progressive system of numerical equivalence (mispar kidmi8), the word for "darkness" () is:

    36 + 1095 + 75 = 1206 = ("light," or)

    When is the numerical equivalent of "light" (or) equal to 1206? When we take the alef to equal 1000 (in Hebrew, elef). Although we normally consider the numerical value of alef to be 1, in certain contexts it can also assume the numerical value of 1000.


    As we shall see, this is "a great light" (or gadol). Further, "light" () is numerically equal to 207, which is equal to 9 times the numerical value of the word for "radiance" (, 23). (23 is also the 10th prime number, so 207 = 9 x the 10th primer number, 23". There are four words used in the Bible for "color":

    Synonym Numerical value
    "hue" tzeva 162
    "eye"ayin 130
    "tint" or "shade"gavan 59
    "luminary"maor 247

    The sum of their numerical values is 598, which is 26 * 23, or the numerical value of the Name Havayah times that of the word for "radiance."


    2. Helen Curtis, Biology, third edition, Worth Publishers, p. 175.
    3. Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet, Mystical Concepts in Chassidism, chapter 1.
    4. Genesis 1:3-4.
    5. The Golden Ratio is found by dividing a segment into two parts so that the length of the smaller part is to the length of the larger part as the length of the larger part is to the length of the entire segment. (see www.ite.sc.edu/dickey/golden/golden.html for an introduction to the concept of the Golden Ratio in geometry. In Kabbalah and Chasidic philosophy, the concept of the Golden Ratio is related to the concept of Whole and Half. Moses was capable to relate both to G-d and to the Jewish people. The relationship of Moses to G-d (Whole) was as the relationship of the Jewish people was to him.
    6. Exodus 20:2.
    7. Psalms 119:18.
    8. In this system, the value of each letter is equal to the sum of the values of all the letters leading up to and including itself in the normative system.

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