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My Daughter's Ten Bicycles

My Daughter's Ten Bicycles

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There's a race against time taking place at the world's largest atom-smasher, four miles in circumference and 30 feet under the Illinois prairie. The deadline is sometime in 2007, when an even larger and far more powerful particle accelerator is scheduled to begin operations in Geneva, whose data will supersede any that the Illinois faculty -- known as Fermilab -- could produce.

What the scientists working at Fermilab are searching for is evidence that would support the String Theory, the only formulation to date that qualifies as a "theory of everything" -- a way of incorporating the four primary forces of physics (gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong nuclear forces) in a single, unified formula. But the String Theory only makes mathematical sense if space-time has 10 dimensions. So far, we've only been able to verify the existence of four dimensions -- three spatial dimensions extending through a continuum of time. It's those other dimensions that the Fermilab scientists are trying to detect before the Swiss facility center takes over the quest.

No one can say if we'll ever find those additional dimensions, or how many dimensions we'll be looking for 20 years down the road. We do know, however, that 500 years ago a group of Kabbalists, centered in Sefad, Israel, described the universe as a ten-dimensional structure, deriving from and mirroring the ten supernal Sefirot (divine attributes).

The doctrine of the ten Sefirot is an ancient one, mentioned in the teachings of 2nd century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (author of the Zohar) and part of the kabbalah (received tradition) handed down through the generations as an integral part of the Torah which Moses received at Mount Sinai. But the Sefad Kabbalists were the first to teach it and transcribe it in detail, and in terms comprehensible to a far wider group of scholar-mystics than the select few individuals who had been privy to these sacred teachings in earlier generations.

Basically, this doctrine teaches that G‑d emanated from Himself ten attributes -- Chochmah (wisdom), Binah (understanding), Daat (knowledge), Chessed (love), Gevurah (might, restraint), Tiferet (harmony), Netzach (victory, ambition), Hod (splendor, devotion), Yesod (foundation, bonding) and Malchut (sovereignty, receptiveness). The soul of man, too, possesses these ten attributers -- this is what we mean when we say that G‑d created man "in His image." And creation, as a whole, consists of ten spheres, deriving from and vitalized by the ten Sefirot.


Yesterday, I bought my 10-year-old daughter a bicycle. It was an event in physical time (7:55 pm), in physical space (a branch of a national toy chain about 5 miles from my home), and in the ten spheres of my soul.

In the sphere of Chochmah, it was a flash of insight. An idea arising out of the nowhere of my subconscious: Yes! I will buy her a bicycle!

In the sphere of Binah, it was an act of data processing. I pondered the age and body size of my daughter, the topography of our driveway and the traffic conditions on our suburban street, the digits and decimals in my most recent bank statement, and the numerous other facts and figures which gave that flash of insight length, breadth and substance.

In the sphere of Daat, it was an act of knowing. The abstract idea and the objective data came together in a way that made the statement "I will buy her a bicycle" real and meaningful. The "I" became me, the "her" became her, the idea became a desire.

In the sphere of Chessed, it was an act of love. An act expressing and actualizing my striving to give of myself to her.

In the sphere of Gevurah, it was an act of restraint. I had to restrain my urge to spend too much on the gift. I had to overcome my inclination to spend too little. I had to hold back from buying the one I liked best, and I had to restrain myself from buying one I knew she would like best but was not the best one for her. I had to hold off buying the bicycle that would have been perfect for her now but useless in six months, and the one she would have been able to bequeath to her grandchildren but was wrong for now. There were 75 bicycles in that Toys 'R Us, so there was lots of holding back to do.

In the sphere of Tiferet, it was an act of harmony. The act of love and the act of restraint melded and combined, pulled at each other, grappled with each other, held each other at bay and absorbed one another. Had my chessed overpowered my gevurah, it would have been a totally selfish act -- all about me and my need to give and express my love. Had my gevurah taken over the show, it would have been only about her -- the bicycle that's perfect for her. It would not have been a gift from me, conveying who I am as her father and how I love her -- which she needs and enjoys as much as she needs and enjoys the bicycle itself.

In the sphere of Netzach, it was an act of ambition. Since the event occurred (also) in the real world, there were obstacles: I was running late for an important meeting, the model I chose was not in stock in that size and color, my credit card was initially declined, the box didn't fit in my car, etc., etc. To make it actually happen, I had to muster my pride, my need to prove myself, my will to succeed.

In the sphere of Hod, it was an act of devotion, of self abnegation. I put my selfhood aside and submitted to a greater truth. I made my identity as "me" subservient to my identity as "Chany's father".

In the sphere of Yesod, it was an act of bonding. The event became an integral part of our relationship. From this point on and to all eternity, this act will be part and parcel of what makes me her father and makes her my daughter.

In the sphere of Malchut, my daughter got her bicycle.

Yanki Tauber served as editor of Chabad.org
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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David Wolf Holland, PA / USA February 15, 2008

String Theory String Theory is not the only theory of everything. In fact "String Theory" is in itself a misnomer since there are a very large number of string theories only one of which in some sense works because it has either 11 or 13 dimensions. String Theory in itself is not a theory of everything but a way to create a quantum theory of gravity which will then allow a tehory of everything to be created. There are other theories of quantum gravity which can lead to a theory of everything - 1) Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG) and 2) Casual Dynamical Triangulation (CDT). These theories have not received the publicity of string theory yet in many senses are better candidates to create a theory of everything.

Shabbat Shalom Reply

Sarah Alevsky Plano , TX December 19, 2005

Great concrete demonstration of the intellect and the middot at work in real life. I love it! Reply

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