Science in the Torah
Science Discovers the Truths of the Torah
How did our Sages know scientific truths, long before they were discovered through the use of modern technology?
There are numerous examples that prove, that the Sages of Israel were well familiar with scientific truths, long before they were discovered through the use of modern technology. How did they know this information? Their sole source of knowledge was the Torah – whether via a direct revelation to Moses that was then passed down over the centuries, or by delving into the text of the Tanach – using hermeneutic principles also divinely given – to reveal the subtle allusions that God has hidden there. Much has been discovered, and there is infinitely more that waits to be revealed.
Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the Torah was not meant to be used as a book of science. Nor did the Sages fulfill their calling by pursuing scientific discoveries. The Torah presents God’s revealed will for the world, and its goal is the perfection of mankind and the universe. However, because it is the blueprint for the creation – as has been stated frequently by the kabbalists – by its very nature, it contains all of the details of creation and all the wisdom of mankind. The Sages of Israel, who devoted their lives to Torah study in all of its depth, did not spare effort to extract from the text hidden secrets pertaining to every field of human endeavor, but whose source, they knew, transcended the earthly sphere. For this reason, whenever a contradiction arose between Torah and science, the Sages never hesitated to pronounce that the Torah was right. For with all due respect and gratitude to scientists for their work in revealing the mysteries of creation, they will never be able to understand creation better than the One who created it. Thus, for all of the uncompromising truth and honesty that burst forth from the pages of the Talmud, statements such as that made by Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, at the end of a scientific debate between Sages and gentile scientists, are all but impossible to find: “Their words look better (i.e. closer to truth, in this issue) than ours” he declared (BT Pesachim 84b). Even in this case, the argument was over a non-halachic issue, the knowledge of which had not been received through a tradition from Moses, but through the fruits of the Sages' own research, or that of others upon whom they relied.
It is important to remember that according to the Jewish faith, despite modern science’s incredible discoveries, the Torah perspective remains unbowed. And if the position of science subsequently changes due to new research, the Jewish people remain firm and secure in the knowledge they received from the Creator of the universe, fully confident of the truth they hold in their hands. They will merely wait for further scientific developments and discoveries, which will eventually bring science to recognize the ultimate truth.
A person immersed in Torah study, who encounters ever deeper layers of meaning, who looks into the precise chain of Jewish transmission, the names and dates of whose figures are known to us today (The author's publication Nine Answers and a Question has more on this subject), who realizes that the world’s religions admit to the Divine origin of the Torah, and that it alone, of all mankind’s religious documents, was delivered to millions of people during the revelation at Sinai, and who reflects upon the endless prophesies of the Tanach that have come true unto the finest detail, would be offended at the suggestion that human science and its discoveries are required to prove the truth of the Torah. For, after all, all scientific wisdom is of infinitely lower standing than the Torah, for its laws and principles change constantly, whereas the truth of the Torah is immutable. Newton was replaced by Einstein, and today new discoveries challenge Einstein’s findings as well. Paradigm shifts occur in every area of science. How could such transient proofs then validate – or challenge – the truth of the Torah?
An exposition of the scientific knowledge found in the Written and Oral Torah is really only necessary for our generation, when the respect for science is so great that it can actually uplift the status of the Torah, although in its essence, the Torah is infinitely higher. Those whose lives are dedicated to the ever deeper study of Torah, on all its levels, know that the greatest scientific revelations are trifling compared to the incomparable depths and wisdom contained in this holy book.
For this reason, I advise every reader to view our essays on Torah and science as a mere introduction to the study of Torah, and to increase their involvement through participation in lectures and seminars on Jewish topics (many of which can now be found on Hidabroot's internet site) and above all, through participation in regular Torah classes.
It is my fervent prayer and hope that the day is near when we will all connect with clarity and love to the golden tradition of Sages and teachers stretching from Mount Sinai to this day. And that through the proper study of Torah and observance of the commandments, we will all attain good, happy lives in this world. And may we soon see the fulfillment of the prophecy: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of God like water covers the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).