By the Grace of G‑d. 5731 [1971]

Dr. ________,

Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists

Sholom uBrocho,

Although I do not know you personally, I am taking the liberty of writing to you, having just received the Av, 5731 (Aug.'71) issue of INTERCOM, with your article in it. I find myself in agreement with some points brought out in your article, which encourages me in the hope that as Editor and influential member of your Association you may be able to give new impetus to the Association and its members, and, especially, help clear up once and for all certain misconceptions which - as it seems to me - are still troubling some orthodox Jewish scientists.

Specifically, I find it incomprehensible and regrettable that some of our orthodox Jewish scientists still evince an apologetic attitude vis-a-vis science and certain scientific theories. This is evident also in some articles in the present INTERCOM and I have seen it also in personal discussions with some genuinely frum scientists.

To put it bluntly, some orthodox scientists seem to be ashamed to declare openly their adherence to such basic tenets of the Torah as, for example, that G‑d created Adam and Chava, or the possibility of a miracle (Ness) in the present day and age, as a Ness is defined in Torah, namely, an occurrence in defiance of the (so-called) laws of nature. When I asked them, squarely, how do they reconcile this lack of conviction in basic Torah-matters with what every believing Jew believes and professes, the answer was that they have managed to "departmentalize" their day -Tfila and Torah, etc., being one "department", science another.

Needless to say, such an attitude is untenable. For, when a Jew declares daily, Hashem hu hoelokim, ain od Milvado, it is plainly meant that this is for the whole day, not part of the day. Moreover, a scientist with such a split personality is a contradiction also to the concept of Hashem echod, as the Chazal interpret "echod" - aleph, ches, dales - that aleph, i.e. alupho shel olom, rules not only in the seven heavens but also on earth (ches -"eight"), and in all the four directions (dales) (SeMag, quoted in Beis Yosef, Tur Orach Chaim, par. 61).

As for the matter of miracles, as it affects the daily life, the Torah view is clear: It rules that "one should not rely on a miracle," but at the same time it requires every Jew to be permeated with complete faith that G‑d acts through nature, and also "above" nature. This is also the plain meaning of the posuk: "And G‑d, your G‑d, will bless you in all that you do." It is necessary to do (not rely on miracles), yet ultimately the blessing comes from G‑d. To think otherwise would also be contradictory to the three daily Tefilos. The blessings of Shemone-esrei are clearly based on the conviction that G‑d can interfere with nature, e.g., heal the sick and bless the crops, etc., even where the natural factors are unfavorable. Unless one believes in G‑d's omnipotence and personal interest in every individual's daily life, there is no sense in praying to Him, and asking Him for His blessings.

Of course, when a Jew finds himself in an environment of non-believers, it is difficult to be different and face possible ridicule. But this too has already been forewarned by Shulchan Aruch. At the beginning of the very first volume, the Shulchan Aruch lays down the basic principle for the fulfillment of all the four volumes: "And let him not be ashamed in the face of men who may scoff at him in his service to G‑d."

What is even more surprising - and as yet I have not received any answer from those with whom I had occasion to speak on the matter - is that the said apologetic attitude is completely out of harmony with the view of contemporary science. If a century ago, when scientists still spoke in terms of absolute truths, it was "understandable" why a person who wished to adhere to his faith might have been embarrassed to challenge "scientific" claims, this is no longer the case in our day and age. Contemporary science no longer lays claim to absolutes; the principle of probability now reigns supreme, even in practical science as applied in common daily experiences. Certainly in such realms as the origin of the universe, the origin of life on earth, and the origin of the species, where theories are based on speculative extrapolation, and even more so in the realm of pure science, where everything is based on assumed premises (IF we assume that, etc., then it follows, etc.) - scientists do not deal with certainties.

Need one remind our orthodox Jewish scientist, who still feels embarrassed about some "old fashioned" Torah truths, in the face of scientific hypotheses, that Heisenberg's "principle of indeterminacy" has finally done away with the traditional scientific notion that cause and effect are mechanically linked, so that it is now quite unscientific to hold that one event is inevitably a consequence of another, but only most probable? Most scientists have accepted this principle of uncertainty (enunciated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927) as being intrinsic to the whole universe. The 19th century dogmatic, mechanistic, and deterministic attitude of science is gone. The modern scientist no longer expects to find Truth in science. The current and universally accepted view of science itself is that science must reconcile itself to the idea that whatever progress it makes, it will always deal with probabilities; not with certainties or absolutes.

Needless to say, it is not my intention to belittle science, applied or speculative, and especially for quite another reason. For, as a matter of fact, the Torah bestows upon science - in certain areas at least - a validity much greater than contemporary science itself claims. The Halacha accepts scientific findings, in many instances, not as possible or probable, but certain and true. There is surely no need to elaborate to you on this.

In the light of what has been said above, there is no basis whatsoever for any religious Jewish scientist to be embarrassed, since modern science cannot legitimately (and I mean "legitimately" even from the viewpoint of science itself) challenge Torah from Sinai.

It follows that there is no need whatever - however well intentioned - to attempt to reinterpret passages in the Torah in order to reconcile them with scientific theory, not to mention "reinterpretations" which do violence to the letter and meaning of the Torah. Thus, for example, the attempt to "reinterpret" the text of the first section of Breishis to the effect that it speaks of periods or eons, rather than ordinary days, or to apply indiscriminately the dictum that "the Torah speaks in the language of man," etc., is not only uncalled for, but it means tampering with the Mitzvah of Shabbos itself, which "balances" all the Torah. For, if one takes the words "one day" out of their context and plain meaning, one ipso facto abrogates the whole idea of Shabbos as the "seventh day" stated in the same context. The whole idea of Shabbos observance is based on the clear and unequivocal statement in the Torah: "For in six days G‑d made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested" - days, not periods.

Such attempts at reinterpreting the Torah are, of course, the outmoded legacy of the 19th century and before, when in the face of the dogmatic and deterministic view of science prevailing at that time, a whole apologetic literature was created by well-meaning religious advocates and certain Rabbis, who saw no other way of preserving the Torah heritage in their "enlightened" communities except through tenuous and spurious reinterpretations of certain passages of the Torah in order to accommodate them to the prevailing world outlook. No doubt they knew inwardly that they were suggesting interpretations in Torah which were at variance with Toras Emes. But, at least, they "felt" they had no alternative. 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.

It is very saddening to think that those who should be the champions of the Torah-hashkofo and its advocates, especially among Jewish youth in general and academic youth in particular, are timid, or even ashamed to expostulate it. This is all the more regrettable precisely in this day and age, after science had finally come out of its Medieval wrappings, and accepted the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty, etc., etc., which makes it so "easy" for an orthodox Jewish scientist to espouse the Torah-hashkofo boldly and forcefully, without fear of contradiction. Yet some Jewish scientists apparently have not yet managed to free themselves from the fetters of the 19th century approach and inferiority complex. Surely the time is ripe for a reassessment as to where they stand.

I trust that you will use your good influence to the end that the articles appearing in the future issues of Intercom be permeated with the Torah hashkofo, and that the same approach should be reflected in all public lectures and private discussions. By closely adhering to the Torah, Toras Emes, one can rest assured of walking the path of truth, and truth does not admit compromise. I sincerely hope that you will take up this matter with your colleagues, and "words coming from the heart, enter the heart," especially a Jewish heart, and find a ready response in terms of action, for the essential thing is the deed.

May I conclude on a note, which is of course in no way meant as a disparagement, that every Jew engaged in any scientific field will be characterized as a "truly believing Jew and also a scientist," rather than as a “scientist and also a believing Jew.”

With blessing,