Shabbat Parashat Pekudei | 5768
Religion and Science – part II
(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 will present his sources in an abridged, free translation form.
4. Arguing Against Attacks on Torah
Igrot Har’iyah I, 134 (Rav A.Y. Kook)
On the matter of new studies, many of which contradict the simple meaning of the Torah, my opinion is as follows. Whoever has a straight outlook knows that although these new ideas are not proven truth, we are not required to clearly deny and stand against them. This is because it is not at all a principle of the Torah to tell us simple facts and events that happened. The important thing is the inside, the interior explanation of the matters… This is a major rule in the wars of ideas, that any idea that comes to contradict a certain matter in the Torah, we at first need not contradict it but build a Torah palace on top of it [i.e., a higher explanation]. We can elevate ourselves in this way, and it is actually for this elevation that the ideas were discovered. Afterward, when we are not pressured by any attack, we can with a fully confident heart, fight against it also.
5. The Creation of the World, One of the Secrets of the Torah
Igrot Har’iyah I, 91(Rav A.Y. Kook)
The counting of the years since creation according to the calculations of the geologists of our time – This is already an accepted Torah idea, that many historical periods existed prior to the count of our period. This idea is famous among the early Kabalists. In Midrash Rabba (Bereishit 3, 9) it says that Hashem built worlds and destroyed them. The Zohar (Vayikra) says that there were several types of people besides Adam, who was discussed in the Torah (it is just that we need to understand nicely the deep expressions which require a very, very broad explanation). So it is that these archeological digs show us that there were periods of creations including humans. The claim that there was no destruction and new creation between periods lacks a clear proof; rather, they are theories floating in the air with which one need not concern himself. The truth is that we do not need to concern ourselves with such issues. Even if it would become clear to us that there was an order of creation based on the development of species [evolution], this is not a contradiction, for we count according to the simple implication of the p’sukim of the Torah, which is more pertinent to us than other ancient knowledge with which we have little concern.
The Torah certainly portrayed creation of the world in a closed form, speaking in hints and parables, as everyone knows that creation is among the Torah’s secret [see mishna Chagiga 2:1]. If matters were just as they are written simply, what would the secrets be? The midrash (see Ramban, Bereishit 1) says: “To tell the power of the world’s creation to flesh and blood is impossible, therefore the Torah wrote simply: “in the beginning G-d created.” The main idea is the knowledge that comes out of the matter, knowing Hashem and true ethical life. Hashem measures carefully and limits even the spirit He bestows on prophets so that people can take out only certain things in the images [of the Torah’s accounts] … In any case, there is no contradiction to anything in the Torah from any investigative opinion in the world. It is just that we do not accept hypotheses, even if many agree with them, as certainties, for they are fleeting. Later on, new means of inquiry are developed, and formerly new theories turn into a laughing stock. The most exalted wisdom of the times is relegated to small thought, and the words of our G-d are forever.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
Gershon (George) ben Chayim HaCohen Kaplan and
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.