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I read here in an article by Rabbi Gil Student that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe zy"a believed in the geocentric model despite the modern scientific evidence to the contrary. What is the source for this claim? Can someone cite a letter or Sicha from the Rebbe zy"a where he discusses his support for the geocentric model?

  • Perhaps he held like Reb Yonason Eibshitz who said it's assur to believe in the heliocentric model. Or he held like the Zohar in Vayikra 10b who chastised Rav Hamnuna for believing in the heliocentric model, with a bizarre story 'proving' Rashbi right, and Rav Hamnuna crying the rest of his life for not having believed the divrei chachamim. – user6591 Dec 8 '14 at 12:43
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    "the geocentric model despite the modern scientific evidence to the contrary" scientific evidence is that everything including the sun is "actually orbiting around a point" cold the barycenter i was taught that the Rebbe's view on this is: depending were you are looking from it will seem differently what is turning around what. so from the earths point of view the sun is going around the earth, even though the orbits look simpler if you take the sun as the center. – hazoriz Dec 8 '14 at 15:29
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    "simpler" youtube.com/watch?v=6laRU_BzhvU – Double AA Dec 8 '14 at 15:51
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    youtube.com/watch?v=EpSy0Lkm3zM – hazoriz Dec 8 '14 at 20:57
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    Yeyasher kochacha on getting R' Gil Student, long-time friend of Mi Yodeya, to finally post content here! – Isaac Moses Dec 9 '14 at 5:31
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See also this letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on this subject, in which he states:

It is my firm belief that the sun revolves around the earth, as I have also declared publicly on various occasions and in discussion with professors specializing in this field of science.

He also explains why he believed this way based on the Theory of Relativity.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya! If you would edit in a summary of what the letter contains, that would protect this answer against "link-rot" - what if the link goes down? If it does, then important information is still here in the post. Also, it's easier for our readers not to have to follow links. – Scimonster Dec 8 '14 at 20:26
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    Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. If you're the same Gil Student who's mentioned in the question, I recommend that you edit your profile to include, e.g. a link to your excellent website. – Isaac Moses Dec 8 '14 at 20:31
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    +1. This might not necessarily be a faithful representation of the scientific concept of relativity, but it is a correct answer to the question posed here. – Daniel Dec 8 '14 at 21:33
  • @Daniel Indeed. For someone so smart his deductions here are rather surprising. – Double AA Dec 9 '14 at 16:20
  • @DoubleAA the letter is from 1975. It could be that this is from before the concepts of relativity were widely understood by people outside the physics world – Daniel Dec 9 '14 at 17:32
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In 1975 the following letter was sent to a local Chabad emissary:

June 30, 1975

Rabbi Feivel Rimmler 824 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, NY 11213

Dear Rabbi Rimmler,

As per our conversation of today regarding taharat hamishpacha [family purity], etc., I did say to you, and am submitting the same in writing by means of this letter, that if the Rebbe would make a public statement to the effect that he personally believes and directs that his followers therefore believe that, since the Talmud states that the sun revolves around the earth, it is therefore his firm belief that the sun does indeed revolve around the earth, that I will;

a) Personally observe the laws of taharat hamishpacha, tefillin, and Shabbat, and b) Influence as many of my friends and colleagues to do the same.

It is, however, more than obvious to me that the Rebbe will not, in any way, make such a ridiculous statement, because

a) He does not wish to be labeled as a fool. b) He himself is not as foolish as some of his ardent but hypnotized followers.

I predict, with no hesitation, that I will not hear any more about this matter, either from you or from the Rebbe or through the press. I must tell you that I feel a deep personal hurt when people such as you make such asinine, ridiculous statements and then hide your abysmal ignorance behind the façade of “Torah.” Don’t you realize that you can still be believers and not live 500 years behind the times??


Rabbi Rimmler forwarded the above letter to the Rebbe, who replied with the following three letters:

By the Grace of G-d Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5736 Brooklyn, NY

Your letter, addressed to Rabbi Feivel Rimmler, reached me with considerable delay, more specifically before last Shabbos.

In view of its content, I naturally take this first opportunity of replying to it.

Not knowing whether you are more interested in the practical implication, and/or in the scientific aspect, I am writing two separate replies, enclosed herewith, which you can read in the order you prefer.

As customary in such a case, I am sending copies of the letters to Rabbi Rimmer, since it was he who conveyed your letter to me, and you will surely not mind.

With esteem and blessing,

[signature]

P.S. It is surely unnecessary to add – though I am add it for the record – that I take it for granted that you will keep your commitments with regard to the practical aspects of your letter.

By the Grace of G-d Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5736 Brooklyn, NY

Greeting and Blessing:

In reply to your question relating to the matter of the motion of the sun and the earth, whether the sun revolves around the earth or the earth around the sun.

It is my firm belief that the sun revolves around the earth, as I have also declared publicly on various occasions and in discussion with professors specializing in the field of science.

In view of the above, I have no objection, of course, if you wish to make this view known to whomever you choose, since, as mentioned, I have declared it orally and in writing to correspondents who had inquired into this subject, on more than one occasion.

With esteem and blessing,

[signature]

P.S. On several of the above-mentioned occasions, when I spoke on the subject publicly, I gave a clear and detailed explanation why this view is in no conflict at all with contemporary science. I emphasized, however, that I was speaking of modern and contemporary science, as it differs from Ptolemaic and medieval science when conflicting views were held on this subject. Modern science, on the other hand, having rejected both systems, has reached conclusions which present no problem to one holding to the belief that the sun revolves around the earth, as I have explained at some length somewhere.

By the Grace of G-d Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5736 Brooklyn, NY

Greeting and Blessing:

This is in reply to your inquiry on the question of the rotation of the sun and the earth in relation to each other, namely, whether the sun revolves around the earth, or the earth around the sun, and which view is to be accepted, etc.

I presume you have in mind the scientific view, i.e., what science has to say on this question, and I will address myself to this aspect.

It is well known that this was a controversial issue in ancient and medieval science. However, since about half a century ago, with the introduction of the theory of relativity, the latter has been universally accepted as the basis of modern science. To be sure, in the beginning there were scientists working under the Soviet regime who opposed the relativity theory – for various reasons which need not be reviewed here, but even this opposition fell by the wayside later, so that now all scientists generally accept the theory of relativity as the latest and most plausible scientific system.

One of the conclusions of the theory of relativity is that when there are two systems, or planets, in motion relative to each other – such as the sun and earth in our case – either view, namely, the sun rotating around the earth, or the earth rotating around the sun, has equal validity. Thus, if there are phenomena that cannot be adequately explained on the basis of one of these views, such difficulties have their counterpart also if the opposite view is accepted.

Secondly, the scientific conclusion that both views have equal validity is the result not of any inadequacy of available scientific data, of technological development (measuring instruments, etc.), in which case it could be expected that further scientific and technological advancement might clear up the matter eventually and decide in favor of one or the other view. On the contrary, the conclusion of contemporary science is that regardless of any future scientific advancement, the question as to which is our planetary center, the sun or the earth, must forever remain unresolved, since both views will always have the same scientific validity, as stated.

Thirdly, it follows that anyone declaring that a person who chooses to accept one of these systems in preference to the other is a fool, while one who accepts the other is a wise man – such a judgment shows that the person making it is ignorance of the conclusions of modern science, or that he has not advanced beyond the science of Ptolemy and Copernicus. Obviously, a person not versed in the development of science in the course of the past half-century or so is not qualified to make any judgment pertaining to science.

A further point may be added, though perhaps not directly pertinent to our discussion. It is that every person, including modern scientists, actually has three options to choose from in this matter:

a) That A revolves around B. b) That B revolves around A. c) That A and B revolve around each other.

But such a choice cannot be dictated by science; it would be one’s personal choice and belief.

What has been said above is – to repeat – the deduction of the theory of relativity, as it is expounded in various scientific tests, and it can be checked with any scientist who is thoroughly familiar with the said theory. Of course, on the elementary and high school level, science in general, and the so-called Solar System in particular, is taught from relatively simple textbooks, and the change in the scientific attitude towards the subject under discussion is not emphasized. But, as stated, it would be quite simple to verify it with any scientist who knows this particular field.

With esteem and blessing,

[signature]

  • ...wow. As a scientist, you'd have to cherry pick from a cherry picked basket to arrive at the conclusions that Rabbi Schneerson makes. Considerably illogical, and shows a lack of understanding of some rather basic science – bondonk Jun 22 '15 at 20:50
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In a letter posted here discussing reinterpreting established Torah truths in light of modern discoveries, the Rebbe zy"a writes:

It was conceivable, in those days, that if one approached a student who dabbled in science and told him that according to the Torah-hashkofo [Torah outlook], the sun revolves around the earth, he might well repudiate Torah altogether. So, in an effort to encourage the student to put on Teffilin [ritual prayer boxes], the well-meaning Rabbi did not mind conceding that the earth revolved around the sun. But surely there is no longer any justification whatever to perpetuate this ‘inferiority complex!’ Certainly there is no basis for holding on to views which have come down in outdated elementary and high school textbooks on science.

This matter of the sun and the earth is a further case in point. To declare categorically in the name of science, that the earth revolves around the sun, and not vise versa, is, as noted above, turning the scientific clock back to the 19th century and Medieval science. It is also at variance with the theory of relativity, which has likewise been universally accepted. Science now declares—as categorically as it is permissible for contemporary science—that where two bodies in space are in relative motion, it is scientifically impossible to determine which is at rest and which in motion.

It would seem that he felt that "conceding that the earth revolves around the sun" was an inappropriate reinterpretation of an established fact of Torah hashkafa.

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    This doesn't mean he believes in a geocentric model. This means he believes that one is indistinguishable from the other. This belief is not contrary to the modern scientific position; it is tantamount to the scientific position – Daniel Dec 8 '14 at 15:09
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    "it is scientifically impossible to determine which is at rest and which in motion" then doesn't that contradict the Torah's (alleged) claim that the sun revolves around earth? – Double AA Dec 8 '14 at 15:36
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    @DoubleAA why is the fact that it is impossible to ascertain something scientifically a contradiction to a claim to that position? – Jewels Dec 8 '14 at 16:05
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    @Jewels, the statment is not "safek" so much as "both are true" (according to relativity). Note that setting relativity aside and focusing on increasingly-precise models of mechanics, the contemporary model, as explained by hazoriz in a comment above would be "neither are precisely true, but the center is much closer to the Sun." Still, no safek. – Isaac Moses Dec 8 '14 at 16:44
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    @Jewels The (alleged) Torah claim is that the sun revolves around the earth AND the earth does not revolve around the sun (unless you want to claim Chazal understood Galilean relativity). This is patently false. The indeterminacy of relativity can be interpreted such that both revolve around each other or neither revolves around the other. Not that one does and one doesn't. – Double AA Dec 8 '14 at 17:28
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He supports this model, and general disapproval of the big bang theory, in a letter in the AOJS publication 'Challenge'.

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