Modern Science as A Prelude to MoshiachLikutei Sichot, vol. 15, p. 42ff. We have included only a portion of the discussion and footnotes, in abbreviated form.

The Torah tells us:2 “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life… all the fountains of the great deep burst forth (and the windows of the heavens were opened).” On this verse the Zohar comments:3 “And six hundred years into the sixth millennium the gates of wisdom from above and the fountains of wisdom from below will open, and the world will be corrected as a preparation for its elevation in the seventh [millennium.]”

There are two concepts hinted at in the verse: “fountains of the great deep” (wisdom from below) and “windows of the heavens” (wisdom on high). Higher wisdom refers to Torah and lower wisdom refers to the sciences.4

Indeed we see that around that time there started an additional revelation of Torah wisdom, especially of the inner dimension of Torah5:

There was a calculation in several holy books that implied that Moshiach would come in the year 5608 (1848). The Tzemach Tzedek explained that it was actually fulfilled, since in that year Likutei Torah was printed. (After all, the focus of Moshiach’s arrival is that then “the world will be filled with knowledge of G‑d.”6) Also, several years earlier, Torah Ohr was printed (in 5597 – 1837). It was only when the study of Chassidut reached the clarity and depth made possible through those books that one could truly say that people were “sustained” by the Zohar,7 and that a “dissemination” of the wellsprings of the Ba’al Shem Tov had been achieved.8 (Interestingly, the Ba’al Shem Tov’s revelation was around the beginning of the sixth century, 5500 – 1740.9)

Furthermore, there also began in that era an increased development in areas of worldly wisdom.

But a question remains. We can understand how the revelation of the inner dimension of Torah is a preparation for the world’s “elevation in the seventh,” since when Moshiach comes “the world will be filled with knowledge of G‑d as waters cover the sea.” Therefore it makes sense that prior to his arrival — as a preparation — there should be a revelation of the inner dimension of Torah, which is a foretaste of the Torah of Moshiach. The question is, however, what relationship is there between the progress and discoveries of science and the era of Moshiach?

Moreover: Since the Zohar brings both of these ideas together, it is obvious that they are related to one another. Indeed, the new revelation in areas of Torah wisdom, which came as a preparation for Moshiach, is what “caused” the discoveries and development of the sciences. The two disciplines seem quite disparate, being that the sciences — “from below” — are incomparably lower than the wisdom of Torah — “from above” — and especially in comparison to the inner dimension of Torah. Why then should the revelation of one be dependant on the revelation of the other?

Elevating Science: A Risky Business

The entire world and everything in it was created “for the Torah and for Israel.”10 “All that G‑d created in His world, He created solely for His honor.”11 Thus, it is understood that the ultimate intent of every created entity is a Jew’s use of it for Divine service.

The same is true with regard to worldly wisdom: the Divine intent behind the recent development of the sciences is — as the Tanya puts it12 — “to use them for the service of G‑d and His Torah.”

However, not every person can achieve this goal, as the Alter Rebbe concludes, “This was the intent of Rambam and Ramban, of blessed memory, and their associates, who studied secular knowledge.” In other words, it is only fitting for special people of this sort. Anyone else is, on the contrary, “defiling the intellectual faculties of his Divine soul” by pursuing such studies.13

The Case Against College

Something must be pointed out, although truly it is obvious:

What was said above has no bearing whatsoever on the question of studying in college or university.14 Such study involves a strict prohibition and danger (“danger is even more severe than prohibition”15), since the entire atmosphere, environment, and outlook of such institutions nowadays is permeated with denial of the Almighty’s providence and involvement in the world. In their view there is no entity or power that can influence the way the world runs or the laws of nature. (In fact, this is accepted as something that is so obvious (and need not even be proven) and is the basis of many areas of study; so much so that it need not even be openly discussed.) In most such institutions, they also study heretical teachings, idolatrous beliefs16 etc.

Furthermore, in just about all of them the boundaries of shame and modesty have been completely broken down, so much so that they laugh and ridicule those who do take modesty into account. On the contrary, according to them, the more vulgar, the better, etc.

The terrible situation on campuses, in dormitories, meeting places, etc., is infamous, and there is no need to discuss at length something so distressing, especially when it is to such an awful extent.

The famous “argument” that it won’t hurt this particular student, since he or she will be able to withstand the test, etc., has an equally famous, and simple, response: Even a perfectly righteous person on the last day of his one hundred twenty year life petitions G‑d in his morning prayers, “bring me not to a test.”17 There is plenty more that can be said, but here is not the place.

A Taste of Things to Come

Since the Zohar associates the development of science with preparing for the seventh millennium, it must be that the benefit of scientific knowledge is expressed in something that serves as a preparation for the attainments of the Messianic era.

One of the main accomplishments of the Messianic era is the fulfillment of the promise18 “And the glory of G‑d will be revealed, and all flesh will see together that the mouth of the L-rd has spoken.” In other words, the Divine revelation will not be only in a manner of “the world will be filled with knowledge of G‑d,” but rather even “all flesh will see,” i.e., that even our physical flesh will see that “the mouth of the L_rd has spoken.”

Thus, we will not merely perceive G‑dliness in our “spiritual, mind’s eye”; we will also “see physically with our physical eyes.”19 Furthermore, the verse states, “all flesh will see,” not “the eyes of all flesh will see” [similar to “may our eyes behold”20]. This implies that not only will our “physical eyes” see G‑dliness, but even physical flesh itself will behold that “the mouth of the L_rd has spoken.”

Herein lies the connection between the strides made in the sciences and the preparation for “being elevated in the seventh”. Our using worldly knowledge “for the service of G‑d or for His Torah,” helps to ready us for a taste of “all flesh will see” — a physical, tangible, seeing — in matters of Divine service.

“An Eye that Sees and an Ear that Hears”

To illustrate, consider one of the powers inherent in nature which has existed in full strength ever since the six days of creation, and yet was never before known to man and has only been revealed and developed in recent times, namely the ability for the sound of a person talking in a given place to be instantaneously heard in a remote location, even on the far side of the earth, on the moon, etc. This is possible through telephone, or — even more so — via radio. And also, more recently, this includes the ability to see someone from afar, with all of his movements, etc.

This achievement in the world — the ability to hear every sound a person makes, or see him, at the very same second in all corners of the globe — acts as a very tangible and real example for the concept of “an Eye that sees and an Ear that hears.”21 After all, if the “ear” down here in the physical world can immediately hear [and similarly the “eye” down here — through the development of yet another potential in nature — can see] what is happening on the other side of the world, how much more so can the supernal “ear” and “eye.” “Shall He who implants the ear not hear? Shall He who forms the eye not see?”22 He is not bound by any limitations, Heaven forbid. Everything that man does, even be it hidden in the most private of inner chambers, is — at that very same moment — caught by “an eye sees, an ear hears, and (therefore) all of your actions are recorded in a ledger.”

When a person has such a tangible example for this concept, his meditation about the concept that “behold G‑d stands over him… and looks at him, and searches kidneys and heart to see if he is serving Him properly”23 becomes something that is not merely understood in his mind’s eye alone. That does not always have a full effect on a person. Rather, it becomes much closer to the person’s physical senses and feelings, and therefore has a greater effect on his emotions, and even on his thoughts, speech, and actions.

Science is Golden

Although everything in this world was created “for Torah and for Israel,” the Sages singled out certain things by emphasizing that they were created solely for a specific use for Torah and Mitzvot. For instance: “The world was not worthy of using gold. Why, then, was it created? For the Tabernacle and for the Holy Temple.”24

The difference between these most distinguished items and all other created entities is: All other entities, although they exist “for Torah and for Israel,” may still fulfill their purpose in creation through being used for physical matters (permitted pursuits, etc.), as long as those pursuits themselves (eventually) provide a benefit for Divine service.

Regarding gold, on the other hand, we are told, “the world was not worthy of using gold.” Using gold for worldly needs is a descent for the gold. Its entire raison d’etre was only to be utilized directly for the needs of the Tabernacle and Temple. [It is just so that people should have free choice that G‑d allows it to be used for other purposes as well.]

The same is true in our context: The Zohar’s association of the development of secular wisdom with the revelation of (the inner dimension of) Torah and with “being elevated in the seventh” is in itself clear proof that this is the entire purpose and intent25 of this development. [The fact that the benefits of this advancement can be used for other areas is only so that man should have free will, as discussed earlier.]

In other words: The fact that one may derive a tangential benefit in Divine service from some scientific advancement does not yet fulfill the ultimate goal of its development. (After all, at that stage the science still remains a part of the material world, a permissible matter from which some specific benefit to Divine service is extended.)

The true purpose of their development is achieved when these advances are themselves utilized for Torah or Mitzvot. Furthermore, since the Zohar relates this process to the time when the inner dimension of Torah is revealed, the ultimate goal must be to use them specifically for the revelation and dissemination of the inner dimension of Torah.

The Sea of Knowledge ~~ In Waves

As discussed previously, the novelty of Messianic times is expressed in two aspects: “The world will be filled with knowledge of G‑d, as water covers the sea,” and this itself will be in a manner of “all flesh will see etc.” Accordingly, the accomplishment and purpose of using secular wisdom for the dissemination of Chassidut (which is, as mentioned, a “taste” of the Torah of Moshiach), is that through these advances the revelation of the inner aspects of Torah as a preparation for Moshiach’s Torah is accomplished in (at least a “taste” of) those two manners: “The world is filled etc.” and “all flesh will see etc.”

A practical example: When one uses a radio to disseminate teaching of Chassidut, the topic of Torah being studied is heard — physically, and in all corners of the globe.

Furthermore, the Chassidic teachings being taught on the radio permeate the entire world, even where there are no radio-receivers to receive the transmission. (Radio waves spread everywhere, throughout the entire world — and actually, not just potentially. The receiver is only able to pick up the voice and transform it in various ways; it does not create the voice.)

This means that through utilizing secular advances to spread the inner dimension of Torah, there is a taste of: a) “The world will be filled with knowledge of G‑d…” without any limitations, in every single place. And b) it is in a manner of “all flesh will see…” — the sound is physically heard at that very moment.

Unity Within Nature, a Sign of Divine

Even in this case, secular wisdom is still being utilized for something else — in this case Torah and Mitzvot. In the technological developments themselves we have not yet discussed any connection to holiness. The true fusion of secular wisdom with Torah is when one can discern aspects of the inner dimension of Torah within the secular wisdom itself.

One of the main areas where we see this clearly: The inner dimension of Torah reveals the ultimate unity of G‑d within the world. Despite the myriad different creations that exist, they don’t contradict G‑d’s essential oneness, since the very existence of the many separate entities is itself derived from the essential oneness of G‑d, as is explained in various sources.26

Since the true existence of the world is G‑d’s “simple unity,” this oneness is expressed even within the physical nature of the world: the world has the quality of unity.

This idea — the oneness of our world (which in its inner essence is really the oneness of G‑d) — is becoming ever more apparent with the further development of scientific knowledge.

People used to think that each of the forces of nature is completely separate; that the matter of every object is comprised of numerous distinct elements. The more science develops, however, the more it reaches a recognition that all of the diversity and disparity among the various elements is only an external factor — the way in which the components fuse, the degree of contraction or expansion, etc. Thus, the scientists are continually decreasing the number of fundamental components, until they recognize that the basic existence of the world is simply the combination and interaction of just two aspects: quantity and quality (matter in which energy is contained, and the energy itself). This, then, is the connection between the development of secular wisdom and the revelation of the inner essence of Torah, both as a preparation for “correcting the world to be elevated in the seventh [millennium].”27

The revelation of the inner dimension of Torah automatically causes the development of secular wisdom, since thereby is achieved a “taste” of Moshiach’s Torah (which reveals G‑d’s oneness in the world) in a manner which is (at least) a “taste” of “all flesh will see…” — when the world itself becomes a “vessel” for the oneness of G‑d, and we see this unity and oneness within the world itself.

When we see this, we truly realize that this unity is not something separate from the simple unity of G‑dliness28 (which is revealed in Chassidut). Through this, the “world is corrected to be elevated in the seventh [millennium]” very soon.