They came together on Har HaTzofim (Mount Scopus) with the Har HaBayis in full view to contribute what is hoped to be the final “stone” in the construction of the Third Beis HaMikdosh. Who were they and what was their stone? They were Jewish professors, scientists, engineers, Jews from the street and even protesters, and they came together to restore the letter א (the Hebrew letters are compared to stones), representing Hashem, to the wisdom of modern science thereby redeeming the sciences from their state of exile and allowing them to play their proper role in revealing the glory of Hashem.
Even the protestors contributed. They came to protest against one of the scheduled speakers, a very prominent Rav (Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh) who had recently published a strong article on Shleimus HaAretz. These leftist students were angry with him so they came to protest. When we told them that in fact he was not going to be there, they didn’t stop their protest. But when they got tired of our being nice to them instead of arguing with them, some of them left and the rest came in to join the conference.
But it was not just on Har HaTzofim. It was at the Hebrew University—a major stronghold of secularism in Israel—where we came to attend the 26th annual Moshiach and science conference of the Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib (RYAL) Research Institute on Moshiach and the sciences to transform secular wisdom to holy wisdom—a very appropriate preparation for Matan Torah. Think: Hodoas Yisro. (The Zohar says that when Yisro, a master of secular wisdom, came and declared, “Now I know that Hashem is greater than all the gods,” he transformed his secular wisdom to holy wisdom and Hashem was ready to give the Torah.)
The RYAL Institute, named after the brother of the Rebbe MHM, was founded by Professor Shimon Silman in 1993 with the approval and bracha of the Rebbe MHM, and every year on 13 Iyar—Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib’s yartzeit—it sponsors a conference on Moshiach and science. In recent years they have been held in Beer Sheva, Israel and, before that, in various cities in the U.S. and Canada.
From Gola to Geula
Prof. Silman opened the proceedings of the conference with the declaration of “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’Olam Voed!” He then discussed the famous sicha of the Rebbe MHM that explains the difference between exile and redemption. Exile (גולה) and redemption (גאולה) are composed of the same letters except for the “alef.” This means that redemption is built from the components of the world as it is in the state of exile, except that we see the alef in it. This alef refers to Alufo-Shel-Olam, the Master of the Universe. When we see the Master of the Universe revealed in the world of exile, it no longer remains in exile. It is transformed to a unified, purposeful and G-dly world. Thus world, and everything in it, has been redeemed.
The point is that we don’t reject and try to escape from the world of exile; we transform it. The same applies to the sciences. Science is not bad even though it has been used by bad people to try to deny Hashem. Science, like everything else, is a creation of Hashem and everything created by Hashem has the purpose of revealing His glory, as it says at the end of Pirkei Avos. Our job is to use science to reveal the glory and the wonders of the Creator and when we do this science is redeemed. It becomes part of the Geula.
In addition, there is a special role that modern science plays in the Geula. This was predicted by the Zohar that says that in the 600th year of the 6th millennium (1840 on the secular calendar) the windows of heaven will open up and knowledge will come down from above, and the fountains of wisdom below will break open and wisdom will come from below—just like the flood in the 600th year of the life of Noach—and this dual event will be a preparation for the Era of Moshiach.
In a famous sicha, the Rebbe MHM explains that the wisdom from above refers to the Chassidus of the Alter Rebbe that was published around that time (Torah Ohr and Likutei Torah) and the wisdom from below refers to the new theories and discoveries in modern science.
The spreading of Chassidus (Hafotzas HaMa’ayonos), of course, prepares the world for the time when “the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem as water covers the ocean bed”—the Era of Moshiach, and the unifying theories in science developed since the mid-1800s demonstrate an underlying unity in all of nature and prepare the world for the revelation of the absolute unity of Hashem (Achdus Peshuta) in the Era of Moshiach. (Likutei Sichos vol. 15, p. 42-48)
A Revision of Relativity
The keynote speaker, Professor Yakov Friedman of Machon Lev in Yerushlayim (Jerusalem College of Technology) successfully implemented this theme of developing unifying theories. He began by reviewing Newtonian dynamics and its limitations at high velocities. This gave rise to Einstein’s theory of relativity. But Prof. Friedman revised relativity theory by showing that the main focus should be on the acceleration, not on the velocity. His theory, known as Relativistic Newtonian Dynamics may bring about the long sought after unification of classical and quantum physics. While his lecture could be understood fully only by the professional scientists in the audience, he succeeded in providing enough background and explanatory comments to make it accessible to everyone.
Professor Friedman has performed a number of experiments in particle accelerators in Europe (Switzerland and France), and the results support his theory. We wish him much success and new breakthroughs in developing and verifying his theory—that could have applications in science that affects our daily life.
“The work of His hands is told by the Heavens”
Prof. Friedman gave a novel interpretation of this verse from the point of view of a religious Jewish scientist:
One of the difficulties facing physicists in taking measurements in experiments is the very difficult process of isolating the object being measured from the effects of the Earth’s environment on the measurement. For example, the measurement of the degree of the angle of inclination of a light beam due to the attraction of a solid body which it passes by. If we take such a measurement on earth, we will have to take into account many other parameters that will affect the outcome, such as the gravity of the earth itself, and more. Prof. Friedman pointed out that space, with the stars and other heavenly bodies, constitute for the scientist a perfect laboratory for experiments because in space objects are isolated: there is vast emptiness and the distance between the various objects is huge so there are areas where gravity has no effect, so there is sufficient space for a beam of light to travel enormous distances without being affected.
This may be a possible interpretation of the above posuk from Tehillim, Prof. Friedman suggested: that Hashem has provided a perfect laboratory in the heavens for the believing scientist, where he can do his experiments and make his observation and become aware of Hashem’s wondrous creations as they behave here on earth also.
The Unification of Light and Matter
In the famous sicha on the revelation of the wisdom from above and the wisdom from below that was mentioned earlier, the Rebbe MHM says, “The true unification of the sciences with Torah occurs when within the sciences themselves we see things from the deeper levels of Torah [Chassidus].”
The next speaker, Yakov Guggenheim, a research engineer and author of several books on Chassidus and science, spelled out the connection between light and matter based on Chassidus and from the point of view of modern physics, making the following points:
1) Light is the most delicate of all physical creations, almost spiritual. It can be observed as a particle or as a wave of energy. In some cases it is the choice of the observer himself how the light will be observed.
2) In Chassidus, the Rebbe Reshab describes how matter comes into being through the “condensation” of light. The light is repeatedly hidden (Tzimtzum) until its essence is transformed into a new entity—matter.
3) A similar concept exists in physics and experiments have been done on the “condensation of light”
4) This is analogous to the well-known conversion between matter and energy, as in E = mc²
The Rashab writes that when the light is condensed, it becomes a physical receptacle (kli) which is material so that in essence the material and the spiritual are the same—G-dliness (Elokus). This is real unification!
His lecture was very deep, as you can imagine.
At this point in the conference, as the hour drew late, everyone was hungry. Prof. Silman had announced at the beginning of the evening that it was not just a conference; it was a Chassidishe farbrengen. Now was the time! We had a short break during which round tables were rolled out and plenty of food brought out—from nowhere! This was all the work of Prof. Silman’s colleagues on location in Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Dubnick of Beer Sheva and Rabbi Dovid Rozner of Yerushlayim. They had arranged a feast worthy of—well, Dovid and Shlomo.
But the conference didn’t end there. There were two more fascinating lectures delivered during the farbrengen. One by Rabbi Avishay Ifargon on 25 years of Swords into Plowshares (since the declaration in 1992) and one by a bochur from Tomchei Tmimim named Aharon Kastel on the concept of gravity in Chassidus. Rabbi Rozner himself delivered a fascinating lecture on the refinement and transformation of Greek philosophy through modern science. We will report on these lectures in a follow up article.
The videos of all the lectures at the conference can be viewed through the website of the RYAL Institute: www.RYAL.org.
L’Shana HaBa’ah BiYerushalayim—let’s do it again!