Dr. Andrew Goldfinger
We don't need Arthur Conan Doyle. If we are seeking adventure,
searching for an enigmatic mystery to solve, we don't need stories about
Sherlock Holmes. There is a greater and more exciting quest in our daily
lives. It is a game of cosmic hide and seek. We are "it" and the One we
are seeking is G-d Himself. But G-d is deeply hidden. To find Him we must
first understand why He hides, and then how.
In the Eighteenth Century, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto wrote one of
the most masterful presentations of Jewish belief ever put down on paper:
Derech Hashem ("The Way of G-d"). In it he explained why G-d created the
universe. It is an arena for human action. Within it, man can grow morally
and spiritually to achieve his ultimate reward: closeness to G-d. All the
difficulties we face in life are but steps along the way, problems we must
solve to further our growth -- and as this is going on, G-d remains hidden.
Suppose I go to the governor of the state and tell him that I have a
new way of rehabilitating prisoners. I can take the worst criminal and in
one week turn him into a good person. The governor is intrigued. How will
I do this?
Quite simple. The prisoner will be released into my custody. I
place a gun to his head and tell him that I will be following him around for
the entire week. If he ever hurts another person; if he ever commits any
criminal act; if he ever does anything wrong, I will squeeze the trigger and
shoot him. Now at the end of the week, will I find that he has committed
any offense against society? Of course not. But, by the end of the week
will he have become a good person? Absolutely not. In fact, no moral
growth will have occurred at all.
Why is this? The only reason the prisoner avoided criminal acts was
his fear of the consequences. It was pure self-preservation. He had no
thoughts or concerns as to the morality of his actions. He did not grow.
In effect, he even lost his free will.
G-d wants us to grow. If we could see His presence at all times, if
we could see Him looking over our shoulders as we go through life, we would
be no different than the prisoner. We would lose our free will, we would
lose the freedom to transgress, and hence we would not experience the moral
growth that occurs when we freely choose to do the right thing. So G-d must
hide to give us room to become "all that we can be."
How does he hide? There are a myriad of ways, but we will consider
only one. We will show how G-d hides through physical law.
I hold a ball in my hand, and I let it go. It falls to the ground.
Again, I do it; again it falls. Why does the ball fall? A scientist would
say that it is a law of nature: the force of gravity causes it to fall. But
we know differently. We know that the ball falls because G-d makes it fall!
If G-d wanted to, He could just as easily make the ball move upward as fall
to the ground. Why, then, does He make it fall each time?
If G-d acts according to a pattern, in a manner we can predict, a
scientist can learn this pattern and call it a law of nature. Then, if he
wishes, he can say that there is no G-d, only absolute laws of nature that
determine how the world behaves. G-d allows us to become atheists if we
choose. Thus, we are given free will.
What would happen if G-d caused the ball to rise upward? What of
those very rare occasions in which the laws of nature are "violated?" A
scientist would say that this is impossible, but G-d can choose to do
anything. Those observing such an event would have a name for it -- they
would call it a "miracle " -- but in reality it would be no less miraculous
than when the ball falls down!
Albert Einstein said that he studied physics to understand how much
freedom G-d had in creating the universe. He saw G-d as subject to the laws
of physics. The Torah tells us otherwise. The Master of the Universe is
just that: the creator of man, of physics, and even of logic itself.
G-d hides to give us free will, and one way he hides is through the
regularities of action we lesser beings call physical law. He hides, but we
seek Him. The Hebrew word for world is "Olam," the root of which means
to hide or conceal. To the Jew, the world is the hiding place, the place we
seek the concealed G-d, and it is through the Torah, the guidebook and map
to the universe, our license to "cheat," that we find Him.
Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Andrew Goldfinger and Project Genesis. We welcome your comments.
Dr. Andrew Goldfinger has a Ph. D. in theoretical physics and a
masters degree in counseling. He is assistant supervisor of the Space
Mission Concept and Analysis Group and the Johns Hopkins University Applied
Physics Laboratory, and is past Director of Space Technology Training for
the Republic of China. His recent book, "Thinking About Creation: Eternal
Torah and Modern Physics," is published by Jason Aronson and Co.