Nosson Avrohom, Beis Moshiach
Jehonathan Bentovish (Jonathan Bentwich) PhD, one of the leading scientists in the fields of neuroscience and physics in the world, is now part of the Chabad family in Zichron Yaakov. His typical Lubavitcher appearance belies his background, profession, research and discoveries.
Fascinating stops along the journey of his life include the Shabbos table with his grandfather, Yosef Bentwich, awarded the Israel Prize for education and principal of the Harieli school, and searching for the truth while still a boy at a famous observatory in America. He later developed a unique bio-medical device which helps Alzheimer patients function again. Another important station in his life was his internationally acclaimed breakthrough making waves today in the world of science about “G-d’s power” which brings all of existence into being.
The ultimate stage in his life journey was his discovery of Chassidus and the Rebbe at a time when he was working to complete his post-doctoral studies at one of the exclusive research institutes in the United States.
The steps he took from the world of science and medicine to the world of Chassidus were big and broad. Still, I look in astonishment at how someone who is considered a leading thinker in the world of science in the fields of physics and the brain is a G-d fearing, ardent Chassid of the Rebbe. How is this possible? The explanation has to do with one of the shocking scientific discoveries that shook the world of Dr. Jehonathan Bentovish and led him to build a long bridge from there to here, and back.
When I interviewed him in his home in Zichron Yaakov, he said, “The Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach says that science itself must point at the unity of G-d and unite all forces of nature in one, simple formula!”
Indeed, the scientific world is working on finding the formula that will provide a unified field theory. Scientists haven’t yet found it but we already know there is a Creator of the world who created and sustains it every second.
Is there a chance that the entire scientific world will ultimately come to recognize this?
Dr. Bentovish smiles, “It is still hard for them to say it but they are on their way to understanding it.”
He was born in Yerushalayim and grew up in Rechovot, the United States, Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-Heh (named after the “convoy of 35” Haganah fighters who were slaughtered on the way to provide supplies and backup for the Jews blockaded in the Gush Etzion region during the War of Independence) and other places. His parents are well-known experts in medicine. His father, Zvi Bentwich is a doctor, clinical immunologist and world-renowned expert on AIDS research. His mother Tirza was a family doctor for many years.
“Although in the house I grew up there weren’t many traditions, we had kiddush on Friday night and we occasionally went to shul on holidays and Shabbos. In my childhood, the emphasis was on education and a scientific-pluralistic environment.”
His great-grandfather, Zvi Herbert Bentwich was a proud religious Jew who lived in England and was one of the founders of the Maccabim Club. He took part in efforts that led to the Balfour Declaration. His sister was Thelma Yellin, a cellist.
Another great-grandfather, from his mother’s side, was Dr. Hillel Yaffe, after whom the Hadera medical center is named. His grandfather was Mr. Yosef Bentwich who, as mentioned previously, was an Israel Prize winner in the field of education.
“My grandfather passed away when I was thirteen but I’ll never forget visiting his home in Yerushalayim. He was a very traditional Jew with a great neshama.”
The house he grew up in was more humanistic than traditional but bits of religious values seeped through to him, mainly thanks to his grandfather. The flavor of Kabbolas Shabbos in his grandfather’s Rechavia home are etched in his memory. He speaks of this nostalgically:
“I would join my grandfather for Kabbolas Shabbos in his warm home in Rechavia. His prayers were heartfelt, the words said with tears and silent melody. These experiences will never be forgotten.”
Although in his own home there was no practical observance of mitzvos, the values of Ahavas Yisrael and helping others were paramount.
“My father, a world renowned professor in internal medicine, is considered an expert in HIV-AIDS and led several medical treatment programs and inoculation programs in Africa, saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. I would see him working long nights over research that led to the saving of lives. My mother held the same values and considered medicine not only as a profession but as a holy mission. She would personally call her patients every morning and encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle that is full of hope.”
In his childhood, Jehonathan belonged to the HaShomer HaTzair youth movement but from a young age he was preoccupied with questions which his friends found boring. Jehonathan describes a formative experience that remained with him his entire life.
“When my father was on sabbatical in California, we once visited the Mount Wilson Observatory. The guide told us about Albert Einstein who visited the observatory. ‘With the help of this telescope the secrets of existence were discovered,’ said a scientist to Einstein’s wife when they took Einstein to see the telescope that was considered the most advanced in the world at the time. She said, ‘My husband discovers the secrets of existence by drawing on a napkin with a pen …’”
This line about existence and its secrets began to preoccupy the mind of Jehonathan and he had a strong desire to crack the secrets of existence, its origins and purpose – who runs the world? How was the world created and what drives it?
Although he was a boy, these questions bothered him. Before he became of draft age he read many books that purported to give answers to these questions. He also checked out mysticism and studied yoga and meditation. At a certain point, he became a yoga instructor but none of this gave him true peace. The desire to discover the truth gave him no rest.
Upon completing his army service in the armored corps as an officer, he began to realize his dream. After a brief trip to India, he registered for university. He earned his bachelors at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev in the field of behavioral science. He spent days and nights studying cognitive psychology, as he also pursued studies in physics. He completed his degree in a program for elite students in behavioral psychology and immediately went on for his masters in cognitive psychology at Tel Aviv University. “These two degrees were prerequisites to receiving a doctorate degree.”
Then he went to Claremont University in California where he began his research career.
“I developed a model which could explain the Stroop Effect which was named for John Ridley Stroop, a psychologist.”
What is the Stroop Effect?
The Stroop effect is the delay in reaction time between congruent and in-congruent stimuli. An example would be, our tendency to experience difficulty naming a physical color when it is used to spell the name of a different color. For example, reading the word “red” when the word is in a different color, “red.” We pause a moment, maybe even get confused. It won’t be with the same fluency as when reading a regular word.
“After extended research, I realized that the brain processes different types of information differently and words and colors are different types of information in this context. When there is no congruity between the color and the word, our brains are confused.”
For ten years, the Bentwich family lived overseas. After Jonathan completed his doctorate he continued his post-doctorate studies in New York. The Brookhaven National Laboratory where he did his post-doctorate research is home to one of the world’s only heavy ion collider-accelerators and is one of America’s national laboratories. It’s considered quite exclusive.
“My post-doctorate work dealt with research in the neuroscience department with a focus on children on the autism spectrum. We tried understanding which areas of their brains are affected and how – if at all – one can improve or advance their condition. This research took a long time.”
During that time period, Shoham, his oldest son, was born and he received the distressing news that his mother was sick with Alzheimer’s.
“I tried translating the knowledge I acquired in neuroscience research into practical tools to help my mother. Unfortunately, I found out then, ten years ago, that this field is one which is complacent. I worked on it a lot and after a while I was able to make a breakthrough. I developed a device that was able to stimulate cells in the brain both electronically and visually, thus significantly improving the conditions of those who suffered from cases that were mild or average.”
Dr. Jehonathan Bentovish founded the Neuronix company which began marketing a device hailed as a leading treatment for Alzheimer’s as it enables patients to regain normal function. It has been received to great acclaim and is considered the most promising development in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients, enabling them to function normally. The treatment is comprised of cognitive exercises as well as electromagnetic stimulation aimed at those parts in the brain that are affected. The treatment is in the middle of clinical trials at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and was already approved for use by the Israel Healthy Ministry and in Europe. Tests were even conducted at the medical school at Harvard University.
“The premise of this development is a significant breakthrough in the field and is cited today around the world.”
What is the core premise that led you to think out of the box and come up with a new approach?
The prevalent view of psychiatry is that the brain is an organ comprised of physical matter. The brain is a box comprised of flesh and blood, chemicals and nerves. When the brain matter is injured it loses its ability to react to stimulus. Based on a number of assumptions I discovered that this approach is incomplete. Reality dictates that the brain is not merely a physical organ comprised of matter, but is operated by an ethereal “fundamental consciousness” that is not restricted to chemical or electronic responses.
At that time I hadn’t yet thought in terms of the neshama or a G-dly power but it was clear to me that in order to help Alzheimer’s patients, we needed to create a synthesis between physical electronic stimuli and specially designed cognitive stimuli that will reawaken the mental capacities that have been compromised by this difficult disease.
Thank G-d I was able to develop a method of treatment and a medical device which helps many Alzheimer patients today in Eretz Yisrael and abroad.
G-DLINESS AND PHYSICALITY
That groundbreaking premise in neuroscience which led Dr. Bentwich to develop a treatment for Alzheimer patients, often considered the most advanced of its kind in the world today, paved the way for his groundbreaking discovery in physics which is called the “Unified Field of Consciousness Theory.” This theory is becoming more and more accepted today as a new paradigm for the twenty-first century in physics.
He has worked on this theory for the past twenty years despite opposition. However, in the last five years, over forty articles of his have been published in scientific journals. Dr. Bentwich is invited to open international physics conferences with this revolutionary theory which points at the oneness of G-d as the basis for existence. Lately, they’ve started calling it “G-d’s Physics,” which is also the name of his new book. It seeks to resolve the historic contradiction in the world of science that hasn’t found a solution in over a hundred years.
“There is a basic contradiction between Quantum Theory and the Theory of Relativity, the two leading theories in how we view the universe. The Theory of Relativity addresses the microscopic world, the stars and the galaxies. Quantum Theory is about subatomic particles. In the past hundred years, the world of science has been in a crisis because each of these theories sees the universe differently.”
Can you explain this in simple terms so that even the uneducated among us can understand it?
“Imagine a photographer taking a picture of a building from the outside and the result is a picture of a grand edifice. Then he takes a picture from the inside of the floor tiles and what emerges is the picture of a hut. That, more or less, is the confusion in the scientific world; a contradiction regarding reality.
“The first one to seek a theory that would unite both views was Albert Einstein. He dedicated the second half of his life to a mighty attempt at resolving this riddle. Those in the know say that until his last day he sketched formulas and equations that were supposed to resolve the contradiction. He called his theory the Unified Field Theory. His colleagues laughed at him and said that in his dotage he squandered his genius in pursuit of a solution, but he was determined to try and find it. His assumption was G-d does not play dice with the universe; there must be a theory that unifies both views, the world is not random.
“Today, a hundred years later, this is the hot topic in the physical sciences. Scientists changed the name that Einstein gave his theory and called it ‘The Theory of Everything.’ Scientists around the world are working today on finding a theory that will show that there is one framework of physics that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe.”
Every youngster who learns the Shaar Ha’Yichud v’ha’Emuna of Tanya will tell you that.
Dr. Bentovish laughs.
“Indeed, but back then I still didn’t know what Tanya is.”
Dr. Bentovish boldly decided to become one of those scientists who was trying to crack the riddle of existence, no less. After twenty years of exhausting research, he felt he had arrived at a unified theory.
“True reality, as I found in my research, is not materialistic as we think and as science posits, but there is a principle of ‘universal consciousness’ (which, by divine providence, I used a yud to represent) which runs the world.
“You need to understand that in those years I was not religious and I arrived at this conclusion without knowing anything about Chassidus or the Rebbe. I maintained that the physical world that we see and experience receives its life force from that letter yud and that this force renews existence at a rate that is hard to grasp. At every moment, the world is regenerated at a rate of billions of times a second and this is what comprises those images that form our existence.
“Today, I know to refer to this force as ‘G-d’s power’ which brings the world into existence out of nothing at every moment, but then I called it the ‘universal consciousness principle.’ The claim I made is revolutionary in the world of science, and maintains that true existence is not material but a yud brings the world into existence in all dimensions of time, space, mass and energy.
“The new paradigm of the theory of G-d’s Physics which I discovered revolutionizes physics of the 21st century as opposed to the old materialistic-causal paradigm by which the governing principle of our lives is limited exclusively to a materialistic and causal perception.
“With my theory, I used the analogy of a movie that portrays a scene in which a glass is thrown on the ground and it shatters. Although, at first glance, it seems that what shattered the glass was its falling on the ground, a deeper analysis shows that what looked like simple cause-and-effect is on a deeper level the result of the ‘director’ of the movie arranging the scenes in such a way that gave the impression of cause-and-effect but in truth the source is the desire of the ‘director.’
“In other words, there is a greater force which arranges, brings into existence and shapes all of existence, what I later learned is called ‘hashgacha pratis.’ Every pixel and every tiny dot of existence is caused by the G-dly force that creates it billions of times every second!”
According to what you’re saying, science does not contradict religion, right?
“There is a letter of the Rebbe to Professor Velvl Greene in which he writes that there is progress in science regarding the unity that lies behind the physical world and with time it becomes more and more clear so that science is now looking for the ideal formula that will comprise all phenomena of nature in one inclusive equation. The Rebbe writes that this search is a reflection of the true belief in a Creator of the world according to the view of Judaism.
“It looks like the Rebbe knew that the day would come when the world of science would recognize this perspective which is actually Chassidus. In the scientific approach that I presented, I actually actualized what the Rebbe said to Prof. Greene even before I became a Chabadnik.
“As for your question, science not only does not contradict the Jewish perspective, but reveals the G-dliness in the world through scientific means and that’s already Yemos HaMoshiach! In Chassidus it talks about meditation on the greatness of G-d leading to love and fear of Him. I experienced this myself. All of existence, every split second is engineered by a G-dly force. There is no material existence that can switch from form to form; it all comes into existence out of nothingness every moment.
“Every pixel, worm, star or cell in the body – all need to be formed and developed by a G-dly power that recognizes, knows, brings into existence, sustains and develops the smallest dot in every fraction of a second. This is not something human understanding can grasp.
“Think for a moment. You are in your study. Look around and see how many hundreds of sefarim there are. Do you remember even a fraction of their names? Think about what it means when there is a force in the universe that not only remembers every detail of the universe but also gives it life infinite times a second!
“The discovery I arrived at caused me personally to feel tremendous amazement. It is beyond comprehension how much intelligence and wisdom there is in it. Today, more and more scientists are starting to recognize this new paradigm of G-d’s Physics that I discovered and I pray that it will be accepted across the board and create a revolution throughout the world of science. I have no doubt that the moment science accepts this G-d’s Physics paradigm that it will lead to a very significant change in people’s perspective of existence itself.”
CLOSURE ON FRIDAY NIGHT
At the point that Dr. Bentovish discovered G-d’s Physics, he began his journey toward Torah.
“One morning, I was reminded of a pamphlet written by my grandfather, Yosef Bentwich. It was called Yahadut. I remembered reading there that it is not possible for a Jew to come down to live in the world seventy-eighty years just to eat, drink and sleep. It seems he was quoting the Baal Shem Tov. These words suddenly struck me and in the face of my recent discovery, I realized that the material aspect of the world is a marginal element in creation.”
After decades of study in the USA, years during which his Jewish identity was pushed aside, all those memories of his grandparents’ home began to suddenly come to the fore.
He and his wife had their second son and Jehonathan began to be perturbed about the type of education he would give his children as well as their identity. These thoughts preoccupied him and confronted him with many questions.
When did you begin your actual journey toward Torah and Chassidus?
Jehonathan stops speaking and suddenly recalls an occasion when it all began to change.
“I wanted my second son to have a bris in shul. I looked for a rav and a kehilla and found Rabbi Tuvia Teldon. I soon realized I had met an amazing person. He was very warm and welcomed us and even invited us for a Shabbos meal. I really wanted my children to get some Jewish values and accepted the invitation. During the meal, the guests were invited to speak and I introduced myself and chose to speak about my theory.
“When I finished explaining the universal principle that brings creation into existence, R’ Teldon said, ‘It’s a nice theory but hundreds of years earlier, the Alter Rebbe wrote that in his Tanya.’ I was thunderstruck. The most amazing part was that I had brought proof to what I said in the theory that I discovered while R’ Teldon smiled and said that the Alter Rebbe used the same examples. For example, the sun and its ray of light. R’ Teldon brought over a Tanya and showed me where it was written.”
How did you feel?
“That Shabbos meal provided closure for me. I remembered my Saba Yosef and his tears when he would sing ‘Lecha Dodi.’ I thought of Einstein who struggled to find the theory that would point at the G-dly power behind creation. The simple fact that a tzaddik who lived 250 years before had discovered what modern science was still finding hard to accept undercut my entire worldview and made me reexamine my fundamental premises at that time, according to which science is the most advanced and modern thing that there is.
“I was stunned by the awareness that a tzaddik of 250 years ago summed up in a few lines of the Tanya all the conclusions that it took me twenty years of research to arrive at. It hit me hard. During those hours at the meal it all came together for me and everything became clear; all my life experiences suddenly took on another dimension. I came to see that Chassidus is far more advanced than science.”
Things moved quickly after that. Jehonathan bought some sifrei Chassidus and began listening to and attending shiurim. It all felt right to him.
“All sorts of insights and semi-insights that I arrived at over the years suddenly took on real substance. All the questions that preoccupied me since I was a child were resolved with every maamar and sicha of the Rebbe that I learned. Now I understood that that ‘universal principle’ that I conceived was actually a G-dly force.”
MOVING TOWARDS ACCEPTANCE
When the Bentwich family returned to Eretz Yisrael, they lived at first in Kiryat Tivon where they connected with the Rebbe’s shluchim. When they moved to Tzipori, Jehonathan Bentovish would go every week to the shiurim of the mashpia, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Dubroskin with whom he became friends.
“After a few years of learning Judaism and Chassidus, the inner change was reflected outwardly too. There were some difficulties I went through and I wrote to the Rebbe about them and saw wonders in my family life.”
How did your scientific environment react to the spiritual change you underwent and, in general, to your theory?
“I am in touch with scientist colleagues from all over the world. I am invited to lecture about the new G-d’s Physics paradigm as the opening speaker at international science conferences. There’s no question that my theory is making waves. Whenever one of my articles is published it generates numerous responses, positive and otherwise and I understand why. There’s fear in supporting a thesis like this because accepting it will draw in its wake a great wave of emuna. I have colleagues who reacted angrily but that’s okay.”
Why – doesn’t every scientist want his theories to be accepted?
“Because in the world of science, things change as part of an extended process. There was a scientist by the name of Thomas Kuhn who published a book in 1962 called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He compared the revolutions to a protracted process of expanding our understanding of reality. There are times when the basic precepts of science work but then suddenly a new scientific precept is discovered that contradicts everything we once knew and science must expand its understanding by accepting a new, broader, more advanced paradigm.
“It’s hard for any of us to make a change; all the more so with theories that scientists accept as absolute axioms. When the existing paradigm has outlived its usefulness we start over. That happened with Einstein and I believe it is happening now too.
“There are scientists who are hanging on by their fingernails so as not to change, but science is facing a change and the theory that I developed is becoming more widely accepted. I am convinced that the G-d’s Physics paradigm will be accepted, after additional supporting proofs are discovered, as the accepted paradigm of physics for the 21st century, with Hashem’s help, so that the world will be ready and more prepared for the fulfillment of the prophecy, ‘And G-d will be King over all the earth. On that day, G-d will be one and His name will be one.’ Simple unity.”
Jehonathan Bentovish now lives in Zichron Yaakov. His spends his day serving in the social sciences department in the Michlala of Safed (Tzfat College) while being very involved in developing various tools for those suffering from brain disorders. In recent years he has worked on developing tools to help patients with depression.
His book G-d’s Physics refutes, one by one, the theories of Darwin and others like him who think that things in the world were created of themselves.
“True reality is that there is one G-dly power that gives life to the universe, out of nothing. In my book I explain this in a scientific-academic way in language understandable to all.
Even if you are not scientists, you will certainly hear more about Dr. Jonathan Bentwich (Jehonathan Bentovish).
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