Re: Torah And Science

Russell Hendel (rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu)
Mon, 5 May 1997 19:33:49 -0400

Michael S. Tsirkin [Vol 3, N37] asks:
"...If you find in torah hints to the big bang theory-and use it to
convince someone of the Torah's truth I'm afraid this person will have BIG
problems believing you again when the theory changs(and you find proofs
from the Torah for it too"

Let me rephrase the question: What value does Torah have for science if the
science changes?

I answer this question in an article I wrote "Towards a Definition of
Torah", in Proceedings of AOJS [Assoc. of Orthodox Jewish Scientists],
Vol. III-IV.

I present a simple distinction: You read a math book or biology book to
ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE and CONTENT. But say you read a loveletter or go to a
concert with your spouse NOT so much to ACQUIRE the KNOWLEDGE in the letter
or to learn the music but rather you do these things in order TO RELATE to
the person involved.

To say this distinction clearly in one act consider reading poetry: An
English professor does it to master CONTENT. But a person reads his
spouse's poetry to RELATE to the spouse. Similarly you might read someone
elses poetry to relate to the spouse. Although you might be interested in
the poem's content the primary goal is creating a relationship.

Having introduced this distinction I then pose a halachic question: Is the
learning of Torah a learning for CONTENT or for RELATING to G-d. In the
article I give very strong arguments that the primary component of learning
Torah is to RELATE to G-d. Here are some startling proofs:

* A well known Midrash says that the exile came because Jews didn't say the
blessing on Torah before learning Torah. In other words even though they
learned Torah they did it to master CONTENT and not to RELATE to G-d, and
hence the exile came. We see from this that the purpose of learning is
RELATIONSHIP with G-d.

* Another law says that if we have two identical Scrolls of Law, one
written by a believer and one by a heretic then even though they are
identical we burn the Sefer of the heretic but respect the Torah of the
believer.

Clearly this law emanates from a "RELATION" view of Torah and learning. A
math book written by a heretic is certainly valid for gaining content. But
a loveletter written by an adulteress should be burnt since she doesn't
(sincerely) want a relationship.

In the article I give 5 distinct ways that Torah and Science can relate. I
also discuss whether learning content has some value (obviously it does).

Thus the answer to Tsirkin's question is that when I find a hint of the Big
bang in the Torah I am RELATING to G-d, and when I find a hint of the
opposite theory I am also relating to G-d. To put in another way to listen
to one composer this week and another composer next week has RELATIONAL
value if I do it with my spouse since we enhance our relationship. My
possible confusion on music or science content is irrelevant.

I hope this small insight enriches people's understanding of learning Torah.

Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d; ASA; rhendel @ mcs drexel edu