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.
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Professor Yitzchok (Irving) Block
The creation of a finite world by an absolutely infinite God is a contradiction. Nonetheless, it is rational to suppose that God is absolutely infinite, and it is undeniable that finite things exist. How can one reconcile these two apparently inconsistent facts? The answer is Creation, as this is expounded in the Lurianic notion of tsimtsum (contraction). Even though Creation itself transcends human understanding, Creation is, nonetheless, the only way of giving some semblance of understanding as to how a finite world came to exist.
Professor Herman Branover Professor Ruvin Ferber
This paper was originally presented at the Second International Conference on Jews in a Changing World, held in Riga, Latvia on August 25-27, 1997. The only one of its kind where Eastern European Jews discuss their past, present, and future ethical, cultural, social, and intellectual challenges, the conference was sponsored by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture of New York and the Soros Foundation of Latvia. Chief Rabbi of Riga and Latvia, Natan Barkan, was its Honorary President. Professors Herman Branover and Ruvin Ferber co-chaired the conference and co-edited its Proceedings, published by SHAMIR in English and Russian.
Both contemporary physics and traditional Jewish thought recognize two types of time: 1) absolute or unified world time; 2) relative or local time.
Using Moshe Carmeli’s equations, cosmological time is read backwards, approaching the initial moment of Creation. The closer we mentally approach the point of temporal origin, however, the longer the time intervals become.
Insight into Louis de Broglie’s Great Law of Nature reveals that a perfectly free elementary particle must be, in essence, itself a perfect or ideal clock. This insight may provide a missing link between the geometric concept of the space-time continuum and the arithmetic concept of time.
Maimonides disagrees with the midrash that time had existed before the Creation. Hasidic philosophy also upholds that time was created with the rest of the universe by G-d. Hasidism defines two types of time: 1) ‘absolute, permanently flowing’ (etsem hemshekh ha’zman); 2) ‘measurable and estimable (zman ha’nimdad veha’meshuar). There is a special cycle in the Hasidic system called ratso v’shov, which comprises a dual process of ‘escape and return.’ In physics this corresponds with the periodically recurrent process needed to measure time, i.e. with a finite ‘to-and-fro’ cycle which occurs by means of some restoring force.
Professor Gerald Schroeder
Science looks back in time and observes an evolution of our universe that took some 10 to 20 billion years from the Big Bang. The Genesis Creation chapter of the Torah looks forward in time from the formation of stable matter and describes the same events as having lasted six days. To understand the Genesis view of time in terms of our current perspective, we must expand the six Genesis days by 1012 to accommodate the expansion of the universe since the moment of matter formation, as standardly interpreted by the redshift. The six days of Genesis become 6 million days in our view. When converted to years, this equals 16.4 billion years. Nahmanides’ commentary on Genesis remarkably presages the description of the unfolding of matter and time given by the current Big Bang theory for the age of the universe.
Professor Nathan Aviezer
Recent advances in astronomy support the Torah view that the entire universe exists solely for the benefit of human life. It is now recognized that all the chemical elements (except hydrogen) necessary for life were originally formed deep in the interior of the stars. These elements were later ejected into space whenever a star underwent a violent supernova explosion. Eventually, the chemicals reached our solar system to form the living tissue of plants, animals, and humans. Furthermore, the vast distances that separate the stars from us are crucial to our existence. Stellar explosions emit not only the chemical elements that are essential for life; they also emit deadly cosmic radiation. These scientific findings are consistent with a grand design for Creation.
Rabbi Naftali Berg, PhD
By studying and understanding the attempts by physicists to unify all the forces of nature and all the matter of the universe into one theory, we can better understand how the multiplicity of created entities and creatures spring from a basic unity.
Part One: Introduction
The Hasidic Search for Unity
The Scientific Search for the Unity of Nature
Part Two: Scientific Background
The Four Forces
Force Equals Geometry
A Four Dimensional Force
Physics in a Higher Dimension
Part Three: The New Physics
The Particle Zoo
Symmetry and Forces
Part Four: Conclusion
This innovative paper is an edited transcript of a lecture delivered at the Rabbi Aryeh Leib Seminar a few months before Naftali Berg’s untimely death in 1994. Naftali willed that the lecture be published with its science content expanded by his U.S. Army Research Laboratory colleague, Dr. Bruce Weber. We are grateful to Dr. Weber and the members of the B’Or Ha’Torah Advisory Board for their careful and faithful work.
Rendered by Rabbi Yanki Tauber
Shabbat is a venture into timelessness—a realm that lies beyond the struggle of our weekday lives. After each Shabbat we return to a time-bound existence. Time, in the sense of motion and flux, begins anew.
The entirety of history is also a ‘week,’ comprised of six ‘workday’ millenia and a seventh millenium of rest.
During the workweek we are challenged by evil and negativity, so progress inevitably involves struggle. On Shabbat however, and to an even greater extent, in the messianaic era, progress is an inward journey, a settling into our true ‘place’ and identity.
Ephraim Nissan, PhD
What happens when unpursued intellectual illumination strikes us during Shabbat or Yom Tov? Using a Shabbat Notepad, we can temporarily store a few key words of the idea by putting numbered markers into pigeonholes labeled with letters and other characters. This frees us to enjoy the rest of Shabbat. After Shabbat, we can reconstruct the memo and develop the idea further.
Rabbi Yitshak Yehuda Rozen
The Talmud presented the possibility of flying to outer space as an example of an impossible feat. After the first astronaut landed on the moon, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was asked how this affected halakha (Jewish law). Questions of faith were also raised.
The codifiers of halakha have always taken an empirical attitude toward science, basing decisions on the facts available to them and avoiding theory. Continuing this approach, the Lubavitcher Rebbe found nothing objectionable in space flight. Space travel became a popular metaphor for him to teach increased service of God.
Professor Nathan Aviezer
A meteorite found in Antarctica riveted world attention when the US Space Agency announced on 7 August 1996 that the rock had originated from Mars and showed marks left by bacteria. The news was dramatic enough to move the American government to reverse the budget slashes it had made on its space exploration program. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, subsequently demonstrated that purely inorganic happenings can produce identical marks. The claim of “life on Mars” has been quietly dropped.
Rabbi Shimon Dovid Cowen, PhD
From the Hasidic point of view, Newton’s theories of gravity and inertia are not compatible with the Torah because they are entirely focused on the material and empirical. The cosmology of Hasidism, which draws from the metaphysics of Maimonides and the Kabbala, maintains that the entire created universe—both spiritual and material—is constantly enlivened by God. It is the differentiated process of enlivening of the seder hishtalshalut (order of creation) which keeps the planets and stars and sun in motion and reaches the stationary Earth as its center.
Professor Avraham Kushelevsky
Although China had reached a high level of technology while Europe was still barbarian, theoretical physics developed not in China but in Europe after it was influenced by monotheism. Both monotheism and modern science strive to find the unity of the universe.
Professor Kushelevsky delivered this paper originally as “The Rise of Science in the West—Or Why Wasn’t Einstein Born in Japan?” for the Yisrael Hatsair-B’Or Ha’Torah lecture series on September 22, 1993. The author changed the title when he wrote the following summary of his lecture. The inspiration for the original title came from an advertising campaign in Israel for a brand of Japanese electronics dubbed “the Einstein of Japan.”
The Appendix at the end of this article on the religious works of Sir Isaac Newton was guided by Professor Kushelevsky.
Yoseph Udelson, PhD
An unkempt but brilliant vagabond and gadfly, Solomon Maimon (c.1753-1800) shambled his way from the ravished Jewish villages in Polish Lithuania to the most fashionable salons of Berlin. Child talmudic prodigy; lifelong antagonist of the Jewish establishment; guest at the court of the leader of the Hasidic movement, the Maggid of Mezeritch; and iconoclastic innovator in secular philosophy, Maimon experienced personally and recorded many of the turbulent currents of modern Jewish and European history that began to stir in the eighteenth century.
Gluckel of Hameln lived in Germany in the seventeenth century. Her memoirs in early Yiddish give a rare firsthand glimpse of Jewish life during that period and are considered the first book written by a Jewish woman.
Professor Avraham M. Hasofer
When Professor Hasofer stated in his rejoinder in B’Or Ha’Torah 8E (1993) that codes could be found in any text long enough, many did not believe him. Now, through the use of computers, it has been possible to find codes with a high “statistical” significance in practically every text with enough letters. Now, also, Christians have found codes in Scripture supporting their doctrine, and Michael Drosnin has bewildered the world with his best-selling book The Bible Code.
Why should anyone need to support the Torah by mathematical and statistical arguments? Why should outreaching Jews try to convince disbelievers of the Divine origin of the Torah via a method opposed to the values of the Torah itself?
Professor Dan Vogel
Cynthia Ozick, the renowned American-Jewish writer, once expressed the fear that the “magical” creation of literary images may “offend” the Second Commandment because the writer tends to worship the process. While Ozick expresses concern for the writer, this article explores the implications of her notion, both for writer and reader. Three aspects of the attitude of Torah Judaism to the operations of the literary imagination are discussed: first, rabbinic texts that seem to place verbal images in the purview of the Second Commandment, thus substantiating in part Ozick’s fears; second, rabbinic statements that give the literary imagination a mission and a responsibility; and third, insistence that every reader become an active critic and evaluator of what he/she reads. Thus the literary imagination, rather than offending the Second Commandment, can have an honorable and useful place in Torah Judaism.
The Torah account of how the daughters of Tslofhad presented their case to Moses to receive their father’s land as inheritance serves as an excellent role model for Jewish women today who long to study and participate in communal life.
Baruch Sterman PhD
Tekhelet, the ancient biblical blue dye which adorned the robes of kings, priests, and simple Jews, was lost to the world nearly 1300 years ago. Recent advances in the fields of archeology, marine biology and chemistry in conjunction with intense examination of historical and talmudic sources have identified the source of the dye as the snail Murex trunculus. The mitsva (Commandment) to wear a thread of tekhelet is once again being fulfilled by Jews.
This article recounts the rediscovery of tekhelet and examines the meaning of the mitsva of tekhelet in tsitsit (ritual fringes), its purpose and significance, according to various commentators and scholars.