I started off thinking about technological advancements that Judaism handed to humanity throughout millennia. I couldn't find one many.

Sorry for formulating it as a fact, but I feel it is universally accepted, that Rabbis themselves made little effort on promoting technology, primarily because of their firm belief in Private Providence.

For example, in general, we humans depend on agriculture and G-d promised very clearly in the Torah that it will depend [fully] on the level or our Torah observance (see Parashat Shema). However, Rabbis did not endorse performing methodic research on the natural causes that influence growing crops.

THe same story is with studying medicine - while the Gemmorah's conclusion is that it is allowed to heal, no Rabbis (known to me) endorsed studying medicine actively to save human lives.

Despite the fact that many opposed, engaging in such research is not forbidden by the Halachah especially for one's Parnasah, but why isn't such life-saving research endorsed by our Halachah?

In other words, why Judaism (not single Jews) didn't bring any life-changing technological good to the humankind? (Not talking about moral or spiritual good)

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    I think the premise is off. What are you looking for, teshuvot telling people to stop studying the Bavli in the Beit Midrash and start working on drip irrigation or angeoplasty? – Josh K Jul 22 at 20:18
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    There're plenty of examples of our sages who did these things. Like Rambam, etc. – Daniel Jul 22 at 20:29
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    How would you expect such an endorsement to be formulated? "Thou shalt study medicine"? Do you think it should be required for every Jew to perform medical research? – Daniel Jul 22 at 20:30
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    "I'm putting any Jew who does not immediately start working on the Cure for Cancer in herem" "But I'm a lawyer, what can I do in terms of contributing to medical research?" "HEREM!" – Josh K Jul 22 at 21:27
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    @JoshK Islamic thought pushed for the advancement of science for a time. Stopped. And passed it to the rabbis. Does that qualify as herem? – Turk Hill Jul 22 at 21:52

People of all faiths should not shun or avoid secular sciences. Some found the solution in isolation, wearing unique uniforms for distinguishing communities. Maimonides found a different solution. He emphasized in the study of science. To him it was not a suggestion but an obligation. Even if it is from non-Jews. The Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 16a, states: “He who pronounces a word of wisdom, even of non-Jews, is called a wise man.”

In his commentary on Aphorisms of Hippocrates, one of ten books on medicine, Maimonides writes that one should allow 15-20 minutes for the body to digests which registers satisfaction. Morden science have found his to be true. Otherwise our bodies repel and we become overstuffed. This is matters of life and death.

There is also Dr. Pasteur who discovered the Seder Mo’ed (83b): “If someone is bitten by a mad dog [affected with rabies, he should be fed the lobe of that dog’s liver.” This suggest that the Talmudic rabbis and sages knew about antibodies. His saved millions of lives of non-Jews.

But the question remains. Why didn’t the sage reveal this wisdom to non-Jews? The answer may be found in culture and customs regarding non-Jews.

For example, the Satmarer Rebbe taught that Chasidim should only read books titled by the orthodox faith. Which is good. But Maimonides said, “The truth is the truth no matter what its source.” Even if it is from the Greek pagan Aristotle.

For the Ramban writes, he “who makes up his mind to study Torah and not work, but lives on charity, profanes the name of G-d, brings the Torah into contempt, extinguishes the light of religion, brings evil upon himself, and deprives himself of life hereafter.”

That is not to diminish Torah study. Certainly the study of the Torah or Talmud are of most importance. What he was saying that one should have another occupation other than being a rabbi. In fact Maimonides said that one can only attain a place in the World to Come if they develop their intellect.

Near the end of his Guide, the Rambam writes that Talmudist stumble about G-d’s palace, never quite finding the entrance. This illiterates his point that an occupation is required for a good life. As the Torah desires. G-d does not want people to just sit around and attribute nothing. Though pious piety is good, G-d wouldn’t be pleased if we never donated to charity. A good. Needless to say the Talmud puts a lot of emphasis on giving to charity.

John Adam, Second president of the United States said:

“I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations ...

They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.”

John Adams would later say, “It was the Jews who have introduced morality into a world where the Greek and Romans were accustomed to tossing babies into the river. In addition to this, the Jews brought the sanctity of life, ethics, and monotheism.”

  • Thank you for accepting the challenge. I find it difficult sometimes to formulate my thoughts clearly and very often I'm misunderstood. I tried to articulate the point of social long term benefit, not personal and short-term. Simply studying sciences to excel in Torah understanding is not enough for social benefit. – Al Berko Jul 22 at 22:24
  • Regarding the second part, I didn't want to have a discussion about spiritual inheritance. I asked about technological contribution - I see none. Did Moses teach the Jews how to plow or water the fields efficiently? Did Yehoshua teach the nation how to feed cattle or keep food fresh? Morality aside, I don't see any contribution on this practical side. – Al Berko Jul 22 at 22:30
  • @AlBerko interesting thought. To my understanding of the Rambam, he taught that the Torah has three purposes. 1) to share some truths (he stressed some because even non-Jews could hold some truths). 2) to improve the self and 3) to improve society. – Turk Hill Jul 22 at 22:31

I might have an interesting direction of thinking on this topic. My answer is a bit philosophical but I think it nails it:

  1. A man was created deficient: Men's expectations or desires always fall short of reality on every subject - both physical (food, shelter, health, sex) and spiritual (respect, fulfillment, etc). Let's call it "ideal vs real".

  2. The goal of science and technological progress is to get reality closer to the ideal - supply an abundance of food, cure illnesses, provide unlimited respect and fulfillment (the Internet).

  3. The goal of religion is exactly the opposite - to lower the expectations in a way that the reality would seem desirable. Presenting even the harshest reality as G-d's benevolence eliminates the need for changing it, moreover the more challenging it is the merrier the promised end, the greater is the final reward.

It seems that the Rabbis (as pretty expected) are strictly and purposefully adherent to the religious doctrine and reject the scientific approach as pointless and useless (relatively to the goal of getting a peace of the World to Come).


The Torah brought the notion that there is only a One true G-d. A universal G-d for all people, all ages, and is eternally the same. This invisible, incorporeal G-d is moral and just. Contrary to the many pagan gods who were capricious, bound within the limits of nature. The Torah also brought human worth and love, created in the image of G-d (intellect), along with human rights. Though the Torah sometimes depicts Jews, more often than not, in a negative light, this only adds credibility to the divine aspect of the Torah.

Somewhere in the Zohar, it claims that the Messiah will arrive when human living conditions have improved. Does this indicate the advancement of science and technology? If so, then the rabbis were not opposed to the advancement of science. It fact, the Torah's purposes are three-fold. 1) to teach some truths since other nations such as the Greeks could hold some truths. For Maimonides says the truth is the truth no matter what the source. 2) to improve the self and 3) to improve society. When one studies natural law, they can decide by using the intellect what is good and fulfill the Bible's mandate as G-d desires. This means the progression of technology. The rabbis not only endorse it but advocates for the advancement of humankind.

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