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There are many articles and books available on the interplay between science and Judaism. Very often they come in the form of a halachic discussion of applying science to be able to resolve a halachic issue e.g. medical ethics (see techumin series for a whole collection of such essays). This avenue of interplay is useful, because the interplay directly sheds light on one another i.e. in terms of halachic decisions.

There is another area of interplay - in the realm of the esoteric and mystical, whereby science and Torah cannot be literally resolved. Often, in the form of 'sensationalist writing', authors will try to fit science into an esoteric understanding of Judaism. I will give an bad example in order to prove my point. This article asserts that the periodic table is found in the Torah:

Rabbi Akiva first identified and then elevated all the water parts of reality, the hydrogen element. In chemistry itself, hydrogen is no. 1 the most abstract of all elements. Hydro means water and hydrogen is the essential component of water, the oxygen part is the air element that we breathe but the hydrogen element of water is the water element. Even in chemistry, all elements are just composites of the hydrogen atom because hydrogen is one, one proton and one electron, and all others are just additional atoms of hydrogen, as it were.*

I often read sensationlist essays like this and think "is there any gain in doing something like this"? Is it a legitimate approach to take a theory in science and give a Jewish esoteric spin on the topic, even if it is never mentioned anywhere in scripture?

There is an interesting passage in Torah Umadda by Rabbi Norman Lamm which sheds light on this:

...The view some ascribe to the Gaon, that there is no autonomous wisdom outside of Torah, because all is contained in Torah, would leave committed contemporary Jews profoundly perplexed. No amount of intellectual legerdemain or midrashic pyrotechnics - or even sophisticated but capricious computer analyses of sacred texts - can convince us that the Torah somehow possesses within itself the secrets of quantum mechanics, the synthesis of DNA, and the like...

Do we have poetic license to invent otherwise non-existent connections between science and Torah, or does the Torah really 'know' about these things? There is an understanding that Hashem's 'unity' (including a revelation in His creation) will be revealed in the end of days - in what form will this revelation come?

*inaccuracies and non-truths in the quoted article: what is 'most abstract'? Hydrogen is not a fundamental particle in any case, and, as science understands it, was not the initial building blocks of the universe. 'Hydro' - the latin meaning of a word doesn't impinge on any Jewish importance, so far as I'm aware. Hydrogen is as essential as Oxygen, in water - not as asserted by the author. "All elements" are certainly NOT composites of hydrogen; in fact, all elements (except from hydrogen) contain neutrons... etc. etc.

  • Your title and question seem to ask two different questions. In your question, you seem to be accepting that the Torah doesn't know (or doesn't tell us, at least), and asking if there is any value in concocting such connections. – Y     e     z Jun 7 '15 at 21:12
  • @yEz I am concerned with: if the Torah 'knows', then how can we know? Does anyone know? If they do know, then how do they know (sensationalist Judaism, or legitimate endeavour)? If they don't know, then is it still a legitimate approach to invent allegorical connections? – bondonk Jun 7 '15 at 21:21
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/59626/… – SAH Dec 14 '15 at 5:26
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I'm not sure what you mean by "the Torah" knowing. The Torah was given from Hashem, and He is obviously aware of how He made the world. The Torah won't be saying something that is not true. Therefore, it can't be saying something that is the opposite of true scientific discovery.

As far as if all scientific facts of the universe is in the Torah, we find the Medrash about Rebbe Yehoshua ben Chananya pulling from a Pasuk what a contemporary scientist spent time testing. Rebbe Gamliel however, was not able to answer the question. So we see that although it is there in some way, it is not available for anyone to find it.

The Zohar Hakadosh famously says that Hashem looked into the Torah and made the world from that.

The Torah is the theme of the world, and of existence in general. Therefore, it follows that everything we find in the world should be traced back into the Torah in some way. Just like we put Halacha into a Pasuk, we put other truths into the Pasuk if we can. It is a form of Drush where we aren't quite searching to find an answer, but rather we know the lesson and are trying to find a source.

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The Torah is the blueprint for the entire creation and therefore contains everything in it. It contains all the DNA and all the elements, grand unified field theory, etc, etc. The best mashal we have is DNA itself. Something very small contains the instructions needed for something much bigger (a whole person).

The problem is that we don't have access to this perspective of the Torah yet - this is the Torah of Moshiach. When Moshiach comes, he will reveal a new dimension to the Torah we already have. This level of the Torah is called the Torah of Atik and corresponds to the razin d'razin.

As we get closer to geula and Moshiach we are getting closer to this level of Torah and certain aspects of it are being revealed now. A good mashal for this is quantum tunneling - it's impossible for an atom one one side of a barrier to get to the other side, yet due to probabilities, it can get to the other side. In the nimshal, some of the concepts of this future Torah are making their way into our pre-geula world.

I don't know about the specific examples your bring - I don't know if they are good Torah or good science. But at its depth, yes the Torah "knows" about everything because through the Torah everything was made.

  • How do we know that 'Torah' truth is being reflected if anyone can say anything with poetic license, since the Torah never mentions these things. Thats my point. I can say that Einstein's E=mc^2 means that all mass has spiritual energy... he would probably reel in his grave ;) – bondonk Jun 8 '15 at 4:56
  • I didn't say that anything people say as being based in the Torah is true (as I said in my answer.) I just said that everything is in the Torah, including all secular sciences, every movie that was every made, etc. EVERYTHING. It is the DNA of the universe so everything that came out of it was contained in the blueprint. But, we don't have access that level of the Torah now (for the most part.) Similarly, even though we can read our DNA, we do not currently know what will come out. Certain sequences indicate certain traits - but by in large we don't understand it yet. – Yehosef Jun 8 '15 at 6:13
  • Rabbi Tatz asserts otherwise. 'Tamei' things are akin to 'someone painting on the blueprint' i.e. the Torah does not contain the movie Titanic (for example) – bondonk Jun 8 '15 at 6:56
  • I don't know the vort or his references - but you see that Amalek and Balek are evil and are in the Torah. The Torah has references to things that are tamei. And I assert that Torah does contain Titanic, but we don't know how to decode it yet. And once we know, we won't care to watch it. But it could be like DNA - it's not that this certain sequences makes a nose or arm, but they create proteins which cause complex processes to happen and those combine to make the nose/arm, etc. Meaning it doesn't directly map but the components are there are I assume could be rerun/rebuilt. – Yehosef Jun 8 '15 at 8:19
  • One can say that the evils mentioned in the Torah are deliberately chosen and have well established purposes and meaning - an understanding of them occupies a vast amount of literature. The yetzer hara and 'evils' are big topics because of the way Hashem chose to create the world. I don't understand your point about DNA – bondonk Jun 8 '15 at 8:54
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If I am understanding your question correctly (which I doubt), I believe the answer is: those who say don't know; those who know don't say.

As far as the Torah itself encoding ideas beyond what was known thousands of years ago, that's an idea well established in Chazal, e.g. the mishna in Avoth (5:22) "בן בג בג אומר: הפך בה והפך בה דכלא בה" - "Ben Bag Bag says: Turn in it and turn in it for all is in it".

That said (and without actually evaluating the specific article you link), it is certainly reasonable to criticize forced interpretations of the Torah that try to find such encoded ideas (or any ideas for that matter, including halachik interpretations), as well as those that might not be forced but are presented in a manner that is not traditionally appropriate/permitted (e.g. revealing even true ideas to an unsuitable audience).

However, to deny that the Torah could possibly encode recent discoveries is so completely at odds with the beliefs of traditional Judaism as to smack of an underlying heretical assumption about the origins of the Torah.

  • I think you would have to take the heresy claim to Rabbi Lamm! He answers this in his book. I think his point is that if a scientist went to anyone in chazal (or recent) they wouldn't have a clue what quantum mechanics is... but they could probably think up a nimshal (at best)! Just because the Torah 'contains all' doesn't mean that a Rabbi/chazal somewhere has discovered it, let alone thought of a nimshal to it – bondonk Jun 8 '15 at 5:04
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    I'll take the claim wherever it goes. As far as what he really meant, I am only evaluating the excerpt you cite in the context you seem to cite it. If the issue is whether Chazal would have been able to decode such a reference, I have no problem saying that such is implausible. I was taking issue with the specific language that implied that the Torah itself encrypting such information is impossible. – Loewian Jun 8 '15 at 14:39

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