Torah and Science

Torah and science coexist in the world that Hashem fashioned.

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But what is equally true is that nothing ever really recurs in exact detail. Therefore, it is possible to expect broad recurrences as evidence of order in nature, and yet accept the fact that the details, the small events that make up the life of the individual, are beyond the ken of rationality. When rationality is totally superseded, then voodoo and witchcraft--or in our society, astrology and homeopathic medicine--seem to make sense.

Rational science has indeed become so complex in our day that the halakhic principle "excess is equated with deficiency" (kol yeter ke-natul dami) seems to reign. So much of science is incomprehensible that we no longer believe that it must be understandable. Once man gives up his claim to rational understanding of his world, nonsense begins to make sense! Life becomes a series of irrational acts. Order in nature becomes a theoretical construct, not applicable to everyday life.

The Second Axiom: Faith in Reason

The second axiom that science and Torah share is that the human mind can perceive order in nature. Faith in a God who is rational and omniscient led to faith in reason. It is the trust that our God constructed this universe in a harmony which excludes arbitrariness. God fashioned us with the spark of divine intelligence that gives us the ability to perceive this order in nature.

Indeed, when man appeared on the scene of creation, a new natural order became manifest. No longer do you read (Genesis 1:1), "In the beginning God ('Elokim') created," but rather (Genesis 2:4), "These are the chronicles of heaven and earth when they were created, on the day 'Hashem Elokim' made earth and heaven."

The Prime Mover now reveals Himself not as "Elokim" but as "Hashem Elokim," the Lawgiver whose middat hadin is now tempered by "Hashem," the Personal God. His laws of nature now encompass a new scheme, a new law of nature called "reward and punishment," in which man becomes autonomous in determining his own fate and the fate of the entire world.

Violation of this co-joined law of nature returned the world to chaos (Genesis 6:5-7): "And God ('Hashem') saw that the evil of man was great on the earth... and God regretted that He had made man on earth, and He grieved in His heart. And God said, 'I will blot out man from the face of the earth, from man to beast, to the creeping things, to the birds of the sky, for I regret that I have made them'."

The Personal God, "Hashem" was saddened by the failure of mankind to accept this co-joined law of nature, the "Hashem Elokim" laws. Jeremiah writes (33:25): "If my covenant be not with day and night, if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth..." This failure caused God to destroy the world.

"Hashem" is the Author of Torah and "Elokim" is the Legislator who promulgated the laws of nature. They are one and the same, neither two gods, nor a schizophrenic god at odds with himself or divorced from reality. As a result, our language should not allow for the question of whether Torah and madda [science] are ever in conflict--not if we restrict madda to God's world of science and exclude man-made madda recorded in the literature of sociology, social biology, psychology and the arts and letters.

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Moshe D. Tendler

Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler of the Community Synagogue of Monsey, NY, is Rosh Yeshiva at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and a professor of biology at Yeshiva University.