I recently attended a fundraising event organized by “Hebrew Free Loan”. The organization traces its roots to 1897, when nine members of San Francisco’s small Jewish community decided to help Jewish immigrants build new lives. Guided by an interest-free lending mandate in the Torah, those founding members pledged to start a loan fund by contributing 25 cents every month. When the fund grew to $50.00, the first interest-free loan was made. Many things have changed over the following 122 years. Our family managed to settle in San Francisco without the remarkable organization’s help; however, we acted as guarantors to many requests, and are financial supporters (I recently discovered that the first President of the organization was Menachem Cohen, from 1897 to 1900, coincidently this is also my Jewish name). The event took place at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Besides serving as a museum, it is a very interesting venue for various events. After food and drinks we were invited to the Morrison Planetarium – the world’s largest completely digital planetarium dome. There we experienced an incredible show about outer space. I’ve seen it before, but this time I had my small, but very powerful camera with me (my wife Elfa claims that it is permanently attached to my hand, which is not true, I do not photograph while I sleep). After I made a lot of photos and saw the results, I obviously wanted to share them with you, but I needed a catchy headline and more to the story.
As it often happens, the answer to what my story would be about came out of the blue (or black) sky. I recently picked up an audiobook at the public library, by Steven Hawking “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”. Mr. Hawking, who died on March 14, 2018, was a brilliant British scientist. His book, “A Brief History of Time” became a bestseller in 1998. The new book, which is a compilation of Mr. Hawking’s various lectures, was for me an extension of what I briefly saw at the planetarium. But he also posed questions like, “Who or what created the Universe?”, “How did it all begin?” and “If there can and will be an end, and when?” “What is, or are black holes?” “How many Universes are there?” “Was or is there a God?” and “Does he play dice?” The last question was based on a famous quote by Albert Einstein, “Quantum theory yields much, but it hardly brings us close to the Old One’s secrets. I, in any case, am convinced He does not play dice with the universe.”
As important as all of those questions are, most of us are busy with other issues in our lives, like where to find money we need for so many of our everyday needs. But there are some people who can manage without a loan from Hebrew Free Loan. On June 7th the San Francisco Chronicle posted an article titled, “Long-distance trip: NASA opening space station to visitors.” It turns out that next year, two fortunate tourists might be able to brag to their friends that they were astronauts, just for a small fortune of $58 million for the trip. Perhaps they will find an answer to Mr. Hawking’s questions.
P.S. These four images show an interesting way in which digital artists can bring the view of the world to us, which only people like Steven Hawking could imagine and other scientists, with the help of the Hobart Telescope can observe. You can see images taken by the Telescope and read great stories in the book “The Hand of God. Thoughts and Images Reflecting the Spirit of the Universe” by Michael Reagan, which can be found on Amazon.com.
Enjoy and share with a friend.