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 Eliezer Zeiger
Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy describe two time dimensions: the time of the lower world and the time of the higher worlds. Lower time is symbolized by the new moon and the “years” in Pharaoh’s dreams as interpreted by Joseph. Higher time is symbolized by Shabbat and the “days” in the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker as interpreted by Joseph. Lower time “flows,” with the past gone and the future yet to come. Higher time is eternal, with past, present, and future coexisting simultaneously.
One aspect of the war of the Greeks against the Jews that ended in the Jewish victory celebrated in Hanukkah concerns the meaning of time. For the Greeks, time is a sequence of events, or its measurement. For the Jews, time is the injection of Divine Providence into space. Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy teach us that time originates from two simultaneous rhythms: mati ve’lo mati, the movement of Divine energy from the higher to the lower realms; and ratso va’shov, the movement of the soul from the lower to the higher realms.
Professor Moshe Carmeli
The early stage of the universe is discussed, and the time lengths of its first six days are given, as well as the age of the universe. There seems to be no contradiction with the biblical claim that the universe was created in six days.
This same paper—from the book Astrophysical Edges and Time Scales, edited by Ted von Hippel, Chris Simpson, and Nadine Manset (Astronaumical Society of the Pacific), volumes 2-4-5, page 628—without reference to the Bible appears in astro-ph-0103008.
Yaacov Hanoka, PhD
This paper attempts to tackle the disparity between the age of the Earth that we derive from the Torah (about 5000 years) and what modern science claims (about five billion years). The method used by modern science for geochronology is radioactive rock dating. There are several key assumptions upon which the validity of radioactive rock dating is based. The principal one is that of a so-called closed system. Another important one is that the rock to be measured has not undergone significant heating after it has solidified. If these assumptions are not satisfied or adequately corrected, very large disparities in rock ages can occur.
We shall take a detailed look at the assumptions underlying the potassium-argon rock dating method and a model that brings together Noah’s Flood and its associated effects of high pressure and high water temperature with implications for this dating method. An implication of the model is that all the radioactive clocks could have been reset at the time of the Flood.
Tsvi Victor Saks, PhD
Jewish time can be seen as a unity from several perspectives. Past, present, and future coexist and influence each other, primarily through tshuvah (return, or repentance). By doing tshuvah, a Jew’s current regret for past actions retroactively affects and transforms his past, either lessening the effect of misdeeds or transforming them into merits.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches a more complex model, in which the potential for tshuvah is already present in the past misdeed. Thus, the past implicitly influences the future, and when that potential for tshuvah is manifested in the present life of the Jew, then the past is transformed, in a cyclical pattern.
A mathematical model of time and change from the Theory of Topological Dynamics will be discussed. In this theory, there is (i) a time component T (topological group); (ii) a universe component U (topological space); and (iii) a mapping f:T x U - > U, in which each moment of time represents a rearrangement of the universe U.
We shall examine various properties of this mathematical model and evaluate them in the context of Jewish time: (1) The structure of T implies that one can naturally move from any one point in time to any other point in time; and (2) f is continuous, which implies that change is gradual.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
This paper consists of three parts:
Professor Vera Schwarcz
How we understand history shapes our understanding of the human predicament in general—and of Jewish destiny in particular. Drawing upon comparative insights from the Chinese tradition, this essay argues for a rooted sense of historical consciousness. In a modern world riddled by amnesia, Jews stand out as a reminder of a vibrant, vivifying connection to the past. The garden is used as a metaphor to show how the soil of remembrance nurtures enduring traditions—especially for Jews who have survived repeated attempts to destroy their attachment to historical memory.
Professor Ruvin Ferber
The exclusion of human consciousness from its context has made science immanently incomplete and has caused strange paradoxes. The two major paradoxes of quantum physics are: (1) the entanglement of particles separated by great distances that have no force connecting them; (2) the instantaneous collapse of a system into a certain outcome of a measurement.
John von Neumann attributes the second paradox to the interaction of the system with the individual “I of a conscious observer.”
An important clue to the harmonious resolution of both paradoxes may be obtained by adapting the philosophical system of Maimonides’ The Guide of the Perplexed. Maimonides gives logical proof that the interconnection of all reality is a result of the simultaneous creation of the physical and human world by the Creator: “all that exists is like one individual whose parts are bound up with each other.”
Professor Menachem Kovacs
Definitions of self are fundamental in both Torah and sociology, which share major areas of convergence as well as divergence. I shall examine concepts of self found in both the revealed and the hidden parts of the Torah as well as in the thought of classical sociologists like Max Weber and Karl Marx, and contemporary sociologists like C. Wright Mills and Robert Wuthnow. I shall also examine the complementary but different Hasidic concepts of the Godly soul and the collective self. Finally, sociologist Philip Wexler’s paradigm of mystical sociology will be explained as a novel attempt to fuse sociology and mysticism to better explain and understand the nature of humans and society. Wexler’s explanation of “re-selfing” brilliantly integrates the work of social science and religion to posit a vision of self and society, transformed from alienation to personal and collective redemption.
Rabbi Berl Haskelevich
Moving certain segments of Egyptian history forward by a few centuries would allow full correlation between the account of the Exodus in the Bible and Egyptian historiography. This is a hypothesis still in the research stage. We await new developments in the field.
Solomon Dinkevich, PhD
This paper uses the information found in the Torah to calculate the size of the Jewish families during their 210 years in Egypt until the Exodus. We shall show that the growth of the Israelites from the seventy members of our patriarch Jacob’s family to ten to twelve million people over 210 years may be reached with an average of six to eighteen children per family—normal family sizes even by modern standards.
Aaron Leib Dukes, MSc
Torah sages have termed the current and previous generations the “Friday afternoon” of God’s “week-long” plan for “this world.” This is based on the concept that a day in God’s time equals a thousand years in human time. Just as God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, so, too, there are to be six millennia of human history and then a seventh, entirely different millennium that will elevate the previous six thousand years to holiness.
The Hebrew calendar starts with the sixth day of Creation, when God breathed spiritual life into Adam. Starting from there, the Friday afternoon of human history should have started in the Hebrew year 5750 (1990 CE). Before then, however, Torah sages had already proclaimed that we had entered Friday afternoon. Examination of the Torah sources leads to the conclusion that the formula “G-d’s day = 1000 years” is only a first-order approximation.
I present here two attempts to reach a more precise definition of the human-year equivalence of the length of “God’s years.” One attempt is based on Nahmanides’ commentary that each of the six millennia is a thematic epoch of events corresponding to its Creation day counterpart. This suggests a value somewhat smaller than a thousand years for one of God’s days, which is then found to have confirmation in fundamental historical events and eras not mentioned by Nahmanides, occurring as “predicted” by the smaller value. The second attempt is made by finding which Divine day length maximizes the concordance of expected transition points (sunset, midnight, sunrise, and noon of the Divine day) with dates of important historical events, as indicated independently in the authoritative compilation of Jewish chronology, Seder Ha’Dorot. The precise Divine plan directing history becomes strikingly apparent when viewed in this way. Conclusion: It is already time to prepare for the seventh “day” of messianic redemption.
Elliot Pines, Ph.D.
Torah and science agree on a general, abstract level. Where it appears that there are irreconcilable differences, their essence can be traced to a hidden or manifest scientism—the belief that science is an all-inclusive explanation of reality. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate both in theoretical and empirical terms the falsity of scientism and to replace it with a complete and unified “working model” based upon the Torah.
I intend to show that a finite model can never encompass the totality of absolute reality. I shall do this by surveying how philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians through the centuries have treated the views of the Torah and of Zeno of Elea’s paradoxes on the structure of reality. The three major views surveyed are (1) causality versus chance; (2) finitude versus infinity; (3) reducibility versus irreducible complexity. I further suggest that a Torah-based model of looking at reality from above to below fulfills the requirement of the “oracle” needed to provide true information from the transfinite to the finite, as proven by Alan Turing.
Professor Zecharia Dor-Shav
By studying Maimonides’ definition of tahorah (ritual purity),1 a unifying principle and psychological relevance for this concept may be reached. Being in a state of tahorah enables a person to give maximum glory to God, thus fulfilling the highest purpose of human life. The state of tahorah gives access to the state of holiness. Tahorah also may serve as a symbolic medium that motivates a person toward self-actualization. This also requires that the individual is a member of a constructive social group; has exemplary role models; has good leadership; and knows how to make conscious distinctions regarding his or her time, place, and existential state.
The obverse state of tahorah is tumah. Tumah may be described as a state resulting from contact with a creature whose quality of life has been lowered by death, misuse, or an impediment to procreation. Tumah can also result from contact with penitent offerings of idolaters or of leaders who violated the public trust.
Professor Yaakov Yavin
Mishnah 3 of chapter 3 of Tractate Mikvaot states that a hypothetical mikveh is disqualified “until it is calculated” that there is less than three log of its original drawn water remaining. The mishnah does not explain how the calculation should be made. Using high school mathematics, I am suggesting a way to make this calculation.
Judith Geudalia, PhD Yocheved Debow, MA
The sotah (suspected adulteress) is a topic of much discussion in the Torah and Talmud. The basic level of the discussion is the process by which a jealous husband and the kohanim (priests) deal with a wife suspected of violating the sanctity of marriage by infidelity. Through examining the Torah and Talmud texts, we wish to present an additional perspective on this difficult topic. Our suggested approach reveals the empathy and compassion of the God and the Torah for a woman in desperate pursuit to have a child.
Mikhail M. Agrest, PhD Matest Agrest, Dr. Sci.
According to the Mishnah the legendary shamir, the ktav, the mikhtav, and the tablets of the Ten Commandments were created at twilight before the first Sabbath. The Talmud and Rashi say that the shamir was used to split the stones of the First Temple. According to Rashi, the mikhtav was the stylus with which the letters (the ktav) were engraved on the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
In the Talmud, Rabbi Hisda marvels at how the letters cut through the entire thickness of the tablets of the Ten Commandments and appeared in mirror image on the posterior side. Rabbi Hisda maintains it was a miracle that the center portions of the square-shaped final letter mem and the elliptical shaped samekh stayed in place.
Although by definition miracles do not have to be explained as scientifically observable phenomena, Rabbi Hisda’s description matches the way a laser can cut letters through stone. We suggest that the shamir was a laser that cut the letters by its mikhtav (a ray).