Saturday, July 29, 2006

Torah and Science I

Torah is to the natural world what a blueprint is to its edifice, or what DNA is to an organism. Histakel B'Oraysa Ubara Alma - Hashem looked into the Torah, and created the world as a reflection of it.
This happened because the very reason - the only reason - the world was created in the first place was as a tool to fulfill the Torah. How can you fulfill the Mitzvah of Pri Etz Hadar without an Esrog tree? How can you fulfill the Mitzvah of Kibud Av Va'em if you don’t have parents? How can you make Kiddush Friday night without such things as night, or wine, or words?

Those are easy examples. But Hashem does nothing without a reason, and creates nothing without a reason. And if Hashem created it, it has one reason and one reason only: to facilitate the fulfillment of the Torah. Because without that reason, the world had no reason to exist.
So everything in the world - every little detail, every little subatomic particle, every little spec of space dust - is here to somehow facilitate the fulfillment of the Torah. Just as every part of a car is to facilitate the comfortable and efficient transportation of humans from one place to another, so too every part of the world is to facilitate the transportation of humans to Gan Eden by way of Kiyum HaTorah.
But a difference between a car and the Torah is, whereas there may have been several possible version of how to make a car, and several possible alternatives to the actual car that was created that would have facilitated juts s well the goal of transporting people form on place to another- different types of cars, trucks, planes, bicycles, etc - there was only ONE possible way to facilitate the goal of getting people into Gan Eden, and that was by creating this particular world. No other world, not even in the slightest detail, would have done the job.

Just as the Torah is infinitely precise in its details, so does the natural world reflect the infinite precision of the Torah. When Hashem created an Esrog, which, shaken in the proper manner, would connect the shaker's soul to Hashem Himself in the particular way that the specific Mitzvah of velkachtem lachem pri etz hadar does; He created the Esrog, the joints and limbs of the person shaking it, the water and soil and sunlight and gasses that the Esrog consolidates, the mind and body of the person shaking the esrog, the circumstances surrounding the buying of the esrog - its value, its purchase price, the precise difficulty involved in obtaining it, --- every single factor that comprises the act of the mitzvah, its nisyonos, and its ramifications -- were created with infinite precision, down to the sub atomic level in order to best produce the desired effect.

Because the world itself - the entire universe - is designed to be the place where, when Moshiach comes, the spiritual energy that was emitted upon the performance of the Miztvos, combined with Hashem's revelation of His Oneness, matures into the spiritual environment Olam Habah, which is an eternal connection between the Mitzvah-doers and Hashem Himself, the entire world, every molecule and sub atomic element it consists of, every single segment of time and space itself, every sub-sub-sub atomic component of every single square micro-inch of the entire universe, was created in a way that it will fulfill its spiritual purpose - of ultimately connecting humans to Hashem through its being used by humans to be turned into a connection between the human body-and-soul, and Hashem.

That was the only single solitary idea that Hashem had in mind when creating the world. That was the only single solitary reason the world was made. And just as Hashem is one, and the Torah is one, and could not be any other way, the world, in order to fulfill its purpose as becoming the connection to Hashem was created in the only way it could have been, using the Torah as its blueprint, as its DNA. And that mean not only the physical shell of the world, but every single nuance of every single sub-atomic detail of the world, was created using the Torah as its blueprint. The Torah and nothing else is what the world reflects, on an infinitely sublime level.

This is why the Rambam states (Yesodei Hatorah 2:2) that the natural world contains "wisdom that has no measure and no end". Because just as the Torah has infinite wisdom, so does the world, which is a reflection of it.

The calculations and details that went into this world are bottomless. And its nature reflects the nature of the Torah itself; is details reflect the details of the Torah, in the same way that the details of the organism reflect the details of the DNA molecule.


So far we know that nature and Torah relate in that the Torah actually dictates what goes on in nature - histakel b'oraisa ubarah almah - just as the blueprint of a building decides how the building will be built, the Torah, in the same sense, decided how nature works. And just as the DNA controls the structure and makeup of the organism, so too it is the Torah the controls the structure and makeup of the world. There is not a single spec of the natural universe that is not ruled and determined by the Torah. As Rabbeinu Bachyai writes in the Introduction to Chumash, all wisdom and science in existence is contained in the Torah.

And the opposite is true as well - the Avos knew and fulfilled the entire Torah even though it had not yet been revealed by Hashem. Avorohom Avinu made and donned a pair of Tefillin. Now there are maybe 10 or so Halachos L'Moshe Misinai involved in making a pair of tefillin. How did Avrohom Avinu know how to make a pair of Tefillin?

The answer is that Hashem looked into the Torah and based on it, deciphered nature; Avrohom performed that process the other way: He looked into the Tevah, the natural universe, and deciphered the principles upon which it was based, the reasons why it was created in precisely the way it was, and, with precise accuracy, the details of that Torah which is reflected in nature. He looked, for instance, at his own body, and he deciphered from his 248 limbs and his 365 sinews, the 248 Mitzvos aseh and the 365 mitzvos lo saaseh. He deciphered the Torah by studying its reflection - the universe - the same way a skilled architect can decipher the blueprint of a building by studying the building.

So he made a pair of Tefillin.

Nature is created by, from, and as a reflection of Torah. Nature follows Torah law, not vice-versa. And although nature, on the surface, follows surface-level physical laws, on a deeper level, on the deepest, deepest level of science, all of nature, all of the universe, follows a system of laws that are designed to facilitate the purpose of Creation, namely, its eventual maturation, nurtured by the study of Torah and performance of Mitzvos by the Jewish nation, into a spiritual entity known as Olam Habah.

In a nutshell, those Laws of Nature are simply a reflection of the Laws of the Torah itself. When the physical universe, which is a reflection of Torah, is nurtured by the Torah-acts of the Am Segulah, it becomes a vessel for the connection of the souls and bodies of the Am Segulah to the Creator of the Torah.

That is the cosmology of the world in a nutshell.


So the natural world and the Torah are inexorably connected. The Torah is the blueprint of the natural world, and the natural world is a reflection of the Torah. Avrohom Avinu, or someone on his level, could look into nature and discover how to make a pair of Tefillin; and Chazal were able to look into the Torah and discover things about nature. [Rabbeinu Bachya, Ramban].

But there is a reason that the natural world was tied to the deepest levels of the Torah. G-d could have made a world whose blueprint was physical laws or some other system of rules. Why did Hashem chose the Torah as the blueprint of creation?

The answer is because the purpose of creation is one and one only – to be our Olam Habah. When Moshiach comes, the world will be transformed into, literally, heaven on earth. This transformation is done by us, by doing Torah and Mitzvos, we slowly “sanctify” the world – including, of course, our own selves, first and foremost! - , bringing it to a point that it can accept and process the spiritual energy to which it will be exposed when Moshiach comes, which will transform it into Gan Eden.

So every Mitzvah we do “feeds’ not only our own physical bodies, giving them their spiritual nutrition that they need to be able to rise from death at Techiyas Hameisim and live in the spiritually charged Olam Habah, but our Mitzvos also “feed” the very universe, transforming it into the spiritually charged world that is ready to become Olam Habah.

That is the entire purpose of the natural world. Nothing more and nothing less. Its purpose is to be reach its potential through our Torah and Mitzvos. Clearly, then, the blueprint of the world, the way the world is structured on the most sublime and deep levels, depends on what it says in the Torah. It’s like if you make a car to transport human beings – the basis for the car’s creation is going to be the human transportee. Your car will have pedals because the driver has feet down below; it will have a mirror because the driver has eyes up above; it will have seats that are shaped a certain way, a trunk that opens with a key that can be conveniently carried around by the human transportee, etc. So too the natural world was built with only one thing in mind: how will it transport the human race into Olam Habah.

And so, just as if you don’t know what a human being is, you will never understand the details of the car design, and if you don’t understand Torah, you will never understand the natural world.

And that is how Avrohom Avinu made a pair of Tefillin by looking into the natural world with the eyes and understanding of the Avos, and saw how the world needs Tefillin in order to fulfill its purpose, and how exactly those Tefillin need to be made. By seeing the sleeve, you can understand the shape pf the arm, and by seeing an arm you can understand the design of the sleeve.

That is the relationship between Torah and the natural world.

That is why scientific knowledge can be derived the Torah. The Gemora in Bechoros 8a derives from a posuk in Bereishis the fact that a snake‘s development stage is longer than the rest of the animal kingdom. This is cited by the Ramban (Toras Hashem Temima p.159 in Chavel edition) as but one example of how Chazal knew facts of science from the pesukim in the Torah that describe Brias HaOlam. He cites more. Rabbeinu Bachyai writes in the Introduction to Chumash that all wisdom and science in existence is contained in Torah. Some scientific facts were known through rabbinic tradition. The Rashba cites a rabbinic tradition from Sinai that a treifah cannot live more than 12 months. (Rav Yonason Eyebushitz (kreisi Upleisi 40) writes that such traditions are not to be disregarded even if found to be against “all the laws of heaven and earth”, since they are part of Torah shebal peh.)

Medrash Tehillim (19) quotes Shmuel as saying he is an expert in the streets of Nehardea as much as he is an expert in the 'streets' of the heavens. The Medrash asks how Shmuel knew all of that, and it answers he knew it all through the Torah. It then quotes R’ Hoshea as saying there is "space" between the upper waters and the firmament, and the Medrash asks how R' Hoshea could know this unless he traveled to space. It answers, he knew it from the Torah.

The Gemora in Bechoros 8a derives from a posuk in Bereishis the fact that gestation period of a snake is longer than the rest of the animal kingdom. This is cited by the Ramban (Toras Hashem Temima p.159 in Chavel edition) as but one example of how Chazal knew facts of science from the pesukim in the Torah that describe Brias HaOlam. He cites more. He says "the sages of Yisroel have knowledge through these pesukim of all of creation."

Rabbeinu Bachyai writes in the Introduction to Chumash that all wisdom and science in existence is contained in Torah.

The Maharal, too, states that all science is included in Torah, as Chazal says "hafoch bah hafoch bah d'kulah bah" (Chidushei Agados Menachos 64b). Similarly, he writes (B’er Hagola 6) that when the sages mentioned a scientific fact, they derived it from their knowledge of the Torah and Hashem, Who is the Cause of all science. He says that science is inferior to Torah even where it comes to scientific knowledge, because scientists base their opinions on what they see, which is a finite and imperfect method of investigation, as opposed to knowledge of science through Torah, which is the root and cause for all facts in the world

The Chosid Yaavatz (Ohr Hachaim) says that Chazal knew science from a Mesorah that goes back all the way to the Neviim, who knew it from Hashem, without any effort at all.

Particularly interesting is a statement on this topic in the Aruch Hashulchan (EH 13). Quote:

"I will tell you a great principle: Chazal, besides their holiness and wisdom in the Torah, were also greater scholars in the natural sciences those savants ("mischakmim") who would argue against their pure words. And someone who disagrees with them testifies about himself that he does not believe in Torah she bal peh, even though he would be embarrassed to admit it outright."

Chasam Sofer (Beshalach) writes that this is the meaning of the posuk "Ki hi chachmascha ubinascha l'einei ha'amim" - Chazal were great experts in the secular sciences and disciplines. In fact, you need to know much secular knowledge in many areas in order to properly understand the Torah - and he gives several simple examples. However, since we are supposed to be busy learning Torah - not secular science - all day and night, and Hashem has no "nachas ruach" from us learning secular studies at all, how would Chazal have known all the secular wisdom that they clearly knew, as we see they did from all of Shas?

Answer: They knew it from the Torah, since the entire body of secular wisdom is included in the Torah, for the Torah is the blueprint of the world. And so, when the Goyim see that we do not study the secular science books at all - and we even disagree with them! - yet we derive all the secular knowledge, in the most precisely accurate form - from only the Sefer Torah, they will exclaim, "Am chacham v'navon hagoy hagadol hazeh!" (A similar explanation is given by the Raavad-ibn Daud. He says that the posuk refers to the philosophical truths that it took the nations centuries to develop, we knew all the time via tradition from Har Sinai.)

Once we establish that the scientific knowledge that is incorporated into Torah Shebal Peh is derived form the Torah, it has the same status as all of Chazal's interpretations of the Torah --- they are binding:

The Gemora in Sanhedrin (100a) tells that R. Yochanan derived from a posuk that when Moshiach comes, the gates of Jerusalem will be made of jewels 30 amos long and 30 amos high. Some student said that such big jewels do not exist - "we do not even find jewels as big as doves’ eggs," he said. Then, one day the student saw angels (!) cutting such big stones, and he asked them what they are for. The angels answered: "They are for the gates of Jerusalem". When he next saw R. Yochanan, he praised his qualifications for expounding the Torah, based on his "scientific observation" that confirmed the Rebbi's interpretation.

R. Yochanan responded, "Bum! You only believe because of what you see? You dishonor the words of the sages!", and the student died.

The Ran (Drashos #13) points out that the statement of R. Yochanan had no Halachic relevance at all - it was merely an Agadic interpretation, and the disagreement was regarding a scientific fact, yet the student was punished for not believing in its truth. Therefore, he concludes:

"Just as we are commanded to follow their opinions regarding laws of the Torah, so too are we commanded to follow all of what they say from tradition in Hashkafa ("Deos"), and medrash on Pesukim. And someone who veers from their words, even in something that has no relevance to any Mitzvah, is an Apikores and has no share in the next world.

The Radvaz (4:232) writes that "Aggadah is part of the Torah shebal peh and is rooted in what Moshe received on Har Sinai directly from Hashem, just like the rest of Torah shebal peh".

Similarly from the Alshich: "Nobody has a right in our generation to disagree based on his own opinion, if he did not find such an opinion from his predecessors (Rebbeim). We are commanded "lo sosur", which includes also Agadita." (Shmuel II 21:1)

The Sifri (48) explains the posuk in Devarim 11:22, "And you really follow all this Mitzvah", that "this means to learn Midrash, Halachah, and Agada."




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