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B’OR HA’TORAH JOURNAL OF SCIENCE, LIFE AND ART IN THE LIGHT OF THE TORAH

A peer-reviewed journal on the interrelationship of Judaism, science and technology, psychology, the arts, and social issues, B’Or Ha’Torah illuminates a range of topics from the cosmology and ecology of Genesis; the creation ex nihilo vs. evolution and faith vs. reason debates; the views of halakhah (Jewish law) on stem cell research and genetic engineering; and the soul-mind-brain-memory-body connection. Rabbis and religious Jews with no science background as well as professionals in all fields with no Torah background can enjoy this inspiring publication in hardcopy and digital formats.

To receive a free PDF file of an individual article, send the author, title, and volume number to:
bht@jct.ac.il
This offer is limited to three articles.

Aryeh Gotfryd, PhD

The ecological concept "think global, act local" corresponds to Maimonides' description that every deed of every individual tips the scales both of his life and of the entire world.

Professor Herman Branover

The technical means exist to solve every ecological problem in the world. The technological solutions are not implemented, however, because of deeply ingrained negative economic, political, and psychological attitudes. We need to educate our young to restore and protect our ravaged ecosystem. To do this, our school systems must be overhauled to truly educate in environmental consciousness. The values and dynamics of successful religious education can help us design and carry out this urgent task, which should be number one on the international agenda.

This paper was originally presented as Professor Branover's honorary doctorate lecture to the Presidia of the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow in 1993. It was published in Volume 3 of the 1994-1995 issue of Perspectives in Energy and has been revised by the author for B'Or Ha'Torah.

Ilana and Yehuda Attia

 

This is a selected list of sources of classical Jewish legislation on environmental appreciation, preservation, and regulation. Not all of the following precepts were legislated solely for environmental reasons. Often, ecological or aesthetic measures were prescribed to achieve a necessary level of social order or sanctity.

Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, PhD

The Torah command not to destroy fruit trees when besieging a city was expanded by our sages into a prohibition against any needless destruction of nature. The metaphor of the tree has been used by Jewish mystics throughout the ages to represent the connection between God and man in both song and deed. The love of Jews for nature was ruptured by 2000 years of harsh exile. Now that we have returned to our land, we should reactivate our legacy of environmental protection and share it with the world.

Professor Yehudah Levi

The Torah entrusts us to manage the world. Its command "do not destroy" applies to all of God's property, including the human body. The Commandments regulate city planning and the urban and rural populations. Talmudic injunctions prevent urban residents from causing physical or psychological damage to their neighbors and from polluting their cities. Only Torah observance can reshape human nature and limit the selfishness which is the major cause of environmental destruction today.

Eyal Goldberger, MD, MFHom

There are two instances in Scripture of healing bitter water: in Exodus 15 by Moses, and in II Kings 2 by Elisha. These two cases can be used as a model approach to healing in general. The principle of cure in both examples is based on using an agent which causes symptoms similar to the disease itself. This principle of healing "like with like" is applied by homeopathic medicine. Moreover, the structure and properties of water are very important to homeopathy. Homeopathic medicines are prepared by repeated series of dilutions and 'succusions' in water. The Tsemah Tsedek discourses on the same special properties of water discussed here.

Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, PhD

In the Torah account of Genesis, the Garden of Eden was plentifully irrigated by a river that branched out in four directions. After Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, the soil was cursed and rain became dependent on human conduct. After the Flood, God established fixed laws of nature to control the rainfall of the entire Earth except for the Land of Israel, where rainfall was dependent upon the conduct of her people. In the prophecies of Zekharya, Ezekiel, Joel, and the Psalms, a miraculous spring will emerge from the Temple in the time of the redemption. This spring will purify the polluted soil and bring life to the Dead Sea. It will irrigate abundant vegetation yielding fruits that heal. According to these prophets, the rainfall and irrigation of Israel will be restored to the blessed conditions of Eden.

Rendered by Rabbi Yanki Tauber

Throughout the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson, there are occasional references to his "journal" or "notebooks" (reshimot). Three such notebooks were discovered in a drawer in the Rebbe's desk about a month after his passing on Tammuz 3, 5754 (June 12, 1994).

The entries in these journals are dated from 1928 (the year of the Rebbe's marriage) until 1950 (the year his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe, passed away). Throughout these years — which included his evacuation from Berlin in 1933, his escape from Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941, and his subsequent flight through Vichy France and fascist Spain — the Rebbe continued jotting down the scholarly and sublime products of his mind in even the most precarious of circumstances.

Of historical and scholastic value in their own right, these notebooks also give us new insight into the entire body of the Rebbe's teachings. They contain the seeds of concepts that the Rebbe developed in his talks, essays, and letters during the four decades of his leadership.

The following essay, adapted from an undated entry exploring the moral and spiritual significance of Pascal's Law of Hydrostatics, is a case in point. While, to the author's knowledge, this particular thesis does not appear anywhere else in the Rebbe's voluminous work, it touches upon several key concepts of the Rebbe's teachings, such as the importance for every person to translate his most refined talents and experiences into action, and the potential of every phenomenon to serve as a lesson in life.

As the Rebbe wrote these notes for himself, we can, at best, offer only an educated guess as to the meaning buried in the shorthand of phrases and references comprising much of these writings.

A shorter version of this essay appeared in Week in Review Vol. VII, No. 12 (The Hanachot Foundation, 788 Eastern Parkway, Suite 303, Brooklyn, NY 11213-3409).

Yaakov Levinson

Jewish tradition attributes healing qualities to the apple. Although today the apple is low in nutritional value, it is rich in antioxidants helpful in preventing heart disease and cancer. In the End of Days, the apple — along with all other trees — will be restored to the complete strength it enjoyed in the Garden of Eden.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

It is possible to understand how the Torah addresses the arts and sciences by creating a conceptual model based upon the constellation of forces (referred to in Kabbala as sfirot) that define the internal structure of reality established with Creation. Each sfira can be associated with a specific discipline of the arts and sciences.

Professor Eliezer Zeiger

In Part One of this paper in BHT 9E we established that the two most commonly used names of God, Havaya and Elokim, explain the interplay between God's unity and infinity. Whereas Havaya represents Divine absolute, undifferentiated unity, Elokim refers to the infinite Divine power of creation expressed in the vast mineral, plant, animal, and human diversity of nature.

In our human reality, where absolute truth is hidden from us, we have ascending levels of trying to approach truth: from common sense, to science, to Torah. Among the sciences themselves there is a scale from diversity to unity in understanding nature. Biological science describes the diversity and differentiation of nature, while physics and mathematics strive to amalgamate a unified theory of the universe. The most direct way toward God, though, is not through truth but loving-kindness.

Peter Kalms

The following article based on Dr. Meir Tamari's book The Challenge of Wealth was presented at the First International Conference "Jews in a Changing World" held in Riga, Latvia, in August 1995. This conference discussed challenges facing Jews in the CIS and the Baltic States and throughout the world. The Prime Minister of Latvia, with many of his ministers, and members of Parliament, university presidents, and leading Jewish and Gentile academics attended and spoke on the Jewish contribution to world culture and science and the problems threatening Jewish continuity.

Organized by Rabbi Natan Barkan, Chief Rabbi of Riga and Latvia and the SHAMIR representative to Latvia, the conference generated unprecedented interest among Russian Jews and the Russian news media. A second conference is being planned for 1997.

Russell Jay Hendel, PhD

How does Jewish law govern the division of insufficient assets among the creditors of the deceased? Unlike the traditional secular method of paying each creditor an amount proportional to what is due him, Jewish bankruptcy law has the smallest debt paid off first by paying the amount of the smallest debt to each of the lenders. If money remains after that, then the next smallest amount is paid off. This process is continued until the estate is exhausted.

Although this method seems contrary to common sense, it is used today as a practical solution to other types of allotment problems. Besides defending its rationality, this article will show that the Jewish system makes society more personal and charitable, consistent with the tradition and vision of loving-kindness combined with justice passed down to us by our forefather Abraham.

Alexander Poltorak, PhD

The mezuza combines the holiness of all three dimensions. It is affixed in space to the doorpost, the threshold of the house. As the threshold marks the transition from one domain to another, the mezuza symbolizes motion. Zuz, the root of the word mezuza, means "to move." Motion is the essence of time. The words shana (year) and shniya (second) come from the word shinui (change). All these words denote change or motion. Hence, the mezuza marks holiness in time.

Janet Berg

 

Winner of the first Philip and Sylvia Spertus Judaica Prize for Jewish Ceremonial Art (the largest Jewish art award in the world) in 1994, Janet Berg's Hanukkiya Hinukhit is the inaugural piece of a projected collection of Jewish ceremonial objects structurally and functionally expressing laws and concepts related to the commandments they enable us to perform.

Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, PhD

Though the major onus of the laws of taharat ha'mishpaha (Jewish family purity) rests on the woman, following these laws enhances and uplifts the entire family. The untranslatable concepts of tahara and tuma are the key to understanding ritual separateness and reunion. When one is tameh, one is in a state of limbo, not yet ready to assume or resume certain interactional relations. This is a contemplative time to focus on the inner causes and implications of the tameh condition. Invariably, the state of being tameh arises from the loss of life potential, as in the case of menstruation, or from being in direct or indirect contact with death.

The law serves to inculcate respect for the wife, for her dignity as a person, for her being entrusted with control of the rhythm of family life.

Miriam Schwarz

Why does the Torah classify the postpartum woman as tmaea  (roughly translated as "impure")? Why is she commanded to bring a sin-offering to the Temple? A study of the definition of the concepts of blood and tuma and of the traditional Jewish connection between childbirth and atonement give us part of the answer. The scriptural association between blood and wine and an insight by the contemporary scholar Nehama Leibowitz further help to develop our understanding.

Marilyn Tokayer

Post-industrial Western culture gave rise to a restrained approach to parenting. Today, however, new research on the mother-child relationship is revealing the need for more responsive parenting. The new research converges with the traditional Jewish approach.

Mothers are created with a built-in radar system that can be tuned more finely than we think. Constant contact with the mother teaches the infant trust, empathy, and love and (contrary to popular Western belief) helps the child become secure and independent.

Marilyn Tokayer's paper, "Parental Attitude and Child Development," is a welcome plea for responsible parenting, precisely because such pleas are not enunciated often enough today.

However, it contains statements that deserve further comment.

Marilyn Tokayer

Rabbi Bulka's interpretation of my passage on "marsupial mothering" is quite dramatic in itself. My intention was to point out the positive effects of not keeping babies in their cribs gazing at mobiles. These include passive participation in the bearer's activities, the opportunity to experience language, pace, sights, and sounds. "Marsupial babies" enjoy continued development of the balance systems in the inner ear (the vestibular system). In my research I found that these babies develop faster than those in our Western culture. They are superior in discerning object permanence, language development, and social responsiveness, and they show enhanced visual alertness. After taking note of all this information, I find it difficult to believe that God did not intend for caretakers to keep their infants in their arms. Mobiles are made by man in a culture which warns against spoiling babies by carrying them around too much. Arms were created by God and so was the need for babies to be held. Mobiles are cute but should not be used to replace close human contact.

Professor Alvin Radkowsky

 

The following speech, calling for scholars of the secular universities and the yeshiva academies to share their knowledge, was delivered at the 1990 Alumni Dinner of Yeshiva University. The concept of complementarity is the key to this sharing. Complementarity also explains the paradox between free will and God's foreknowledge: They are complementary aspects of a single entity and do not conflict, since they can never be observed simultaneously.

Professor Pesach (Paul) Goldstein

Although by definition miracles do not have to be explained as scientifically observable phenomena, the miraculous shamir which cut the stones for King Solomon's Temple matches the description of alpha radiation.