Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel | 5768
Religion and Science – part I
(from Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael, ch. 30)
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.
1. The Intellect Teaches the Correct Understanding of the Torah
(from Kuzari I, 67 - Rav Yehuda Halevi)
… Heaven forbid that the Torah should contain something that contradicts a proof or a clear sign, but the Torah does bring miracles, changes in the way things are created, and one object turning into another. This comes to demonstrate the Creator’s wisdom and His ability to do what He desires when He desires it. The question of whether the world started with creation or whether it preexisted is deep, and the two sides’ proofs are equal. It is decided in favor of creation from new by the tradition from Adam, Noach, and Moshe, through prophecy that is more reliable than any comparison.
2. The Intellect Was Meant to Expound the Torah (from Moreh Nevuchim II, 25 - Rambam)
Our avoiding the matter of the world’s pre-existence is not because the Torah’s p’sukim indicate that the world is created, which in truth they do not indicate more than that Hashem has a body. The “gates of commentary” are not sealed before us … we could have explained these p’sukim like we do the others. We do not do so for two reasons: 1) Since it can be proved that Hashem has no body, it is necessary to deviate from the simple meaning of the p’sukim that are contradicted by that which is evident. Pre-existence of the world, even if logical, is not evident, and therefore there is no need to interpret the p’sukim to support that thesis… 2) The belief that Hashem has no body does not contradict any Torah principle or prophetic statement, and we only have the intention of the pasuk. However, the belief in the pre-existence of the world, which Aristotle thought is correct … contradicts the basics of religion, calls in question all signs, and negates everything that the Torah begins with …
3. Religion and Science – Two Separate Areas (Be’er Hagolah, pg. 37- Maharal MiPrague)
The sixth complaint is the claim that the Rabbis lacked human wisdom, namely, the disciplines that follow human intellect … not that it was missing from them but they spoke in a very distant manner. This phenomenon, should it be correct, would demonstrate a lack of knowledge and distance from the truth, which is the opposite of what the Rabbis warned us (Shabbat 155b): “‘Say to wisdom, you are my sister’ – if the matter is clear to you like the fact that your sister is forbidden to you, say it; otherwise, do not speak in it.” Alas, they warned that the wise should not say unclear things and certainly not things that are strange and distant…
We have already explained that people think as they do about the Rabbis because the Rabbis provided reasons for natural phenomena that seemed too far-fetched to people that these are the natural causes. They, therefore, concluded that the Rabbis grossly lacked wisdom in these areas. But this is not at all true because the Rabbis did not come to their decisions based on natural reasons, which are small and insignificant and are fitting for scientists and doctors, not scholars. They spoke rather about the cause that would “obligate” nature. Whoever denies this denies belief and the Torah. … The Torah said that the sign of the rainbow represents, “I shall see and remember the eternal covenant.” The scholars of nature gave a natural reason for the rainbow. However, the matter is as follows: the reason that the Torah gave is the reason for the reason. Each thing has a natural reason that makes it happen, but for that natural reason there is a Divine reason, the reason of the reason, and in reference to that element the Rabbis spoke.
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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.