Shabbat Parashat Shmini | 5768
Religion and Science Part V
Rav Yisraeli gathered classical and more contemporary rabbinic views on the interaction between religion/belief and science. We present his sources in an abridged, free translation form.
7. On the Matter of Contradictions Between Torah and Science
Moriah pp. 167-172 (Dr. Yitzchak Breuer)
The heart and mind are scouts of sechel (the intellect). Sechel processes that which is given to it; without chomer (physicality), sechel would be empty, as it processes physicality according to its rules, thus creating experience. Science is to give correct experience. Sechel doesn't create chomer but understands that which it is given by creating concepts, "intellectual clothing" of chomer. Just as the ear cannot hear a flower's smell, sechel cannot grasp pure chomer but intellectual chomer.
There are things in the Torah that cannot accept any intellectual coverings because they are above sechel. These are things that are not given to sechel to understand but to the will to conquer. There are also things in the world that are totally beyond sechel, and their "clothing" does not bring them closer to sechel but covers them up from it. When sechel tries to use the heart and eye to scout it, the matter is only confused. The essence of the world, of that which comes from it, and of every phenomenon cannot be analyzed by sechel, for it is able only to connect phenomena to each other, and only the connection is intellectual. Sechel itself and the independent recognition of sechel are totally intellectual.
Regarding contradictions between Torah and science, one first has to check whether the topic of the contradiction is at all a matter of sechel. If not, as is usually the case, there is no contradiction but a misuse of sechel. Let us take the matter of free choice, one of the foundations of Jewish thought, and assume that science contradicts it. It is actually not a contradiction. If Reuven steals, the theft is a phenomenon of the external world. Sechel wants to connect the phenomenon to other phenomena, without which it will see the matter as out of its realm, and it is convinced that there must be a connection. If Reuven is poor and hungry, sechel will conclude that poverty and hunger caused the theft. In fact, intellectually, the theft is something that had to have occurred. However, if science says that not just by means of relation but intrinsically, the theft had to occur, it has gone beyond its bounds. The doctrine of free choice is not opposed to sechel, it just was not given to the realm of sechel to deal with, as the smell of a flower was not given to the ear. Rather, choice was given to the realm of desires. Human will should know that the Creator gave it the ability to free itself and overcome pressures, such as poverty and hunger.
Science's great achievements in the 19th century pushed off the centrality of philosophy and spread materialism in
In truth, there is no contradiction between the "eternal" nature and the creation which was accomplished ex nihilo. This is described by the verse, "For He commanded and they were created and had them stand for all time; He placed a rule that will not be violated" (Tehillim 148:5-6). The wisdom of nature is the wisdom of "for all time," which Hashem inserted after He "commanded and it was created." The two parts of the verse are not contradictory. The wisdom of nature is correct if it says that according to its means of recognition, the world is millions of years old.
We will continue next week.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.
May their memory be a blessing.