Yaba Yaba

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On science and religion

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Yeshayahu Leibowitz was one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. A scholar and a deeply religious man, he taught chemistry, physiology, and history and philosophy of science at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and published many book on Judaism.

Following is his response to a letter he received, which included a letter sent by the Lubavitcher Rabi to professors in American universities. The source is in Hebrew, so I’ve only translated a few paragraphs:

Dear Mr. K,

Allow me to extend my gratitude for the letter of the Lubavitcher Rabi which you kindly sent me.

I have read it carefully and attentively, but I must admit I did not enjoy it and do not see his method as suitable for bringing man closer to faith and to accepting the rule of heavens. According to my understanding, it is a serious mistake to try and “save” (allegedly) the truth of the Torah by casting doubt in the certainty of scientific realizations and by attempting to explain that “scientific truth” is but a matter of probability, whereas the truth of the Torah is absolute.

He who does so testifies that he relates to the Holy Torah in the same manner that he relates to a textbook in physics, chemistry, biology, etc. In other words – that he sees it as a source of information for man – and the only distinction between it and scientific textbooks is that the Torah is more reliable.

In doing so, this person has shown that he does not begin to grasp the meaning of the holy scriptures, for any matter of supplying humans with information is an earthly matter and not a holy one. In this respect, there is no difference between supporting the needs of the body, such as food and drink, and the needs of the soul, such as knowledge and education.

The business of the Torah and of all the holy scriptures is one: Man’s place before God, and his duties towards God. Not the provision of knowledge of this world, its nature, history or even about man himself. And the same is true for the later books.


The first verse of the Shulchan Aruch is: “May he strengthen as a lion to rise in the morning to the worship of God” – not “to rise in the morning to understand how the world was created”. Knowing how and when the world came to be – is only of scientific importance, and is absolutely irrelevant from a religius standing. Man’s place before God and his duties toward God are completely independent of this matter, whether the world is ancient or new, whether it was created and how and what was its natural and human history.



Written by yishaym

November 23, 2005 at 1:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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