Time to examine the relationship between Judaism and modern science
A scientist looks through a microscope
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The existing literature on science and religion often talks about them contradicting each other, or the necessity to reconcile them. I consider this approach wrong.How did I get here and why did I start writing about Kabbalah and science?
I was born in 1960 in Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union at the time, in the city of Dnepropetrovsk. My late father, Vladimir Shyfrin, was a professor of metallurgy. My mother, Eugenia Alexandrovskaya, was an engineer. Our family lived in a semi-underground apartment comprising one bedroom and a kitchen; legs constantly flashing in the window are one of my earliest childhood memories.
My parents couldn’t afford a car or a bigger apartment. However, they always found means to keep the house full of books.
I was brought up in an atheistic society and didn’t know anything about Judaism and the Torah whatsoever. I spent my last three years of school in a special class for physics, and for two consecutive years I won the all-Ukrainian physics Olympiad competition.
Despite these academic achievements and the fact that I scored 24/25 on the entrance exam (the entry requirement was 13) I was rejected from the Moscow Physics and Technology Institute. This happened because I am a Jew. Then I applied to the Moscow Steel and Alloys Institute to the physical chemistry department.
After graduating from university, I was sent to work on the metallurgical factory Dniprosptetsstal in Zaporizhye, a city in Southern Ukraine. I moved there with my wife and son and started my career at the mill as the foreman of the electric arc furnace. It was quite successful; in three years’ time I was already managing a thousand employees. In 1991, I completed my PhD in the physical chemistry of metallurgy, and in 1993, ten years after graduating, I left the mill and started my own business.
I met a Rabbi for the first time in my life in 1996, in Kiev. I got involved with a Jewish charity and, as a result, built a synagogue and a Jewish educational centre dedicated to my late father in Kiev. I was still far from Judaism though.
In 2002 a health issue changed my life. All of a sudden, existential questions started to bother me, and I felt that if I did not answer them, I would not be able to move on. My Rabbi advised me to get closer to G-d and to start the process of spiritual return: Teshuva.
I studied the Holy Scriptures along with Jewish customs and traditions, yet my scientific mind pushed me to ask certain questions. It seemed to be that the Torah and modern science were in full contradiction with each other. Existing sources didn’t help me resolve this apparent conflict. Since it was not in my character to back down, I decided to try and answer my questions myself. That’s how my journey into the world of Kabbalah and science began.
I explored the Torah and the Kabbalah and revised scientific literature. I learned Hebrew so that I could read the Holy Scripture in its original language. As a result I published a number of Torah commentaries on the website Chabad.org and wrote a book From Infinity to Man: basic ideas of Kabalah within the framework of information theory and quantum physics (also available on Amazon.co.uk)
Three important questions have continuously fueled my quest for truth:
Why science and religion?
The existing literature on science and religion often talks about them contradicting each other, or the necessity to reconcile them. I consider this approach wrong. In my opinion, there cannot be any contradictions between science and religion as both are revelations of one G-d. If it appears to us that there are contradictions, it means that our knowledge is either false or incomplete.
The scientific method involves finding patterns, expressing them mathematically and making predictions on their basis. But science often cannot answer why certain phenomena occur. Also, science is morally neutral. The fact that 2 x 2 = 4 can’t be considered good or bad.
Nor does science answer the basic questions of our life: why are we here (and hence the famous question of Leibniz: Why is there something rather than nothing)? How should we live? Why does the world work in a way that makes us doomed to die? What is the soul? What happens to us after death? And many other questions.
The Torah and the Kabbalah are not physics textbooks. We can’t expect to find formulae there. However, they contain the fundamental ideas underlying reality. Hence I believe that science and religion complement each other.
Over the last two centuries, the role of science in society has changed dramatically. It left the closed doors of universities and became public. But it has also undergone qualitative changes. We can call the science from before the 20th century ‘the science of common sense.’ But the new physics of the 20th century – quantum physics, relativity, information theory – took us beyond logical reasoning. We cannot comprehend four-dimensional spacetime. We cannot comprehend that time is relative. We cannot comprehend that a particle can be in different space points simultaneously. There are no proven explanations for these phenomena.
The last time an exhaustive account of the relationship between Judaism and Science was given was by the great Maimonides 800 years ago. Since that time, our body of scientific knowledge has grown enormously. I do believe it’s high time to examine the relationship between Judaism and the science of the 21st century.
The principal difference between the Kabbalah and science are their objects of consideration. Science deals with our universe, whereas the Kabbalah considers it just a part of the whole Creation. Consequently, the Kabbalah explores not just the interactions between the entities of our universe, like science, but also their relationship with their Source. This is a game-changer. I will expand on this idea in further posts.
Why Kabbalah and science, not philosophy and science?
Traditionally, Jewish thinkers were divided into two categories: philosophers and mystics.
Jewish philosophy flourished in the Yeshivas of Babylon. One of the most prominent figures from the Babylonian yeshivas was Sadia ben Yosef (Saadia Gaon), who wrote the book Beliefs and Opinions. After the demise of the Babylonian Jewish communities the philosophical tradition was continued by Spanish Jewry. From there came Yehuda haLevi, Abraham ibn Ezra, and finally, the greatest of all, Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides), who wrote The Guide for the Perplexed in the 12th century.
Jewish mysticism is much older than this. It was born together with Judaism and never ceased to exist. The basic book of the Kabalah, Sefer Yetzira, is attributed to our forefather Abraham. In the 1st century A.D. another seminal work of Kabbalah was produced. It was Bahir, attributed to Rabbi Nehunia ben Hakanna. The original Kabbalah was born in 12th century Provence. The most prominent Kabbalists of that time were Abraham ben David and Isaac the Blind. After that, it flourished in Spain and culminated in the publication of Zohar by Moses de Lyon in the13th century. Following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in the late 15th century CE, the centre of Kabbalistic thought moved to Safed in Northern Israel. Itzhak Luria (Ari haKadosh), Moshe Cordovero, Yosef Caro, Haim Vital, and many others produced their works there. From the 18th century the Kabbalistic tradition was carried forward by Hasidic masters.
It’s important to note that, whilst Jewish philosophers were scientifically educated people mystics were either unfamiliar with science or even suspicious of it. They derived their ideas from the Holy Scripture and mystical revelations.
The word mystical translates from Latin as ‘anti-scientific, irrational.’ But from my point of view, the science of the 21st century can also be considered mystical and irrational. Studying Kabbalah and science, I came to the conclusion that the Kabbalistic view of Creation deeply resonates with the theories of contemporary science and thus may bring insights into its conundrums. I elaborate on this idea in my book Infinity to Man. Writing it was a clean experiment. I attempted to show that people who were unfamiliar with science and deriving their ideas solely from the Holy Scripture and mystical revelations have produced a teaching which can deepen our understanding of contemporary scientific challenges.
In order to archive the goal of bringing Kabbalah and science together it was necessary to find common language for them. I’m convinced that the only language of Creation is information.
Why is all of this important today?
In the 19th century, after the walls of the Ghetto had fallen, the process of Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, began. On the one hand, it gave us Freud and Einstein, along with thousands of other talented scientists, doctors, lawyers, etc. But on the other hand, many people lost their Jewish identities to assimilation. I think that this happened mainly because they couldn’t connect the paradigms of the Holy Scriptures and those of the newly open world.
Currently, the process of assimilation continues. I myself used to be a typical representative of educated Jews without any religious knowledge. I consider it of utmost importance to help our brothers and sisters to return to their faith by showing them that scientific development by no means denies its main postulates. This is what I sought to achieve with my book. I don’t know whether I will succeed or not, but I think that even if it helps even one Jew to return, my mission will be
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AKANCopied from the book, Reality as Myth by Onyeji Nnaji. The influence of the
Akan on their content nations lies on their population and commonwealth of
their brother nations. The Akan are one of the largest ethnic groups in West
Africa. Their population is scattered across West Africa and beyond. Among this
huge population of the Akan, the Ghanaians are more popular, perhaps because of
the political influence of the Ashanti Empire in the area. Not much is heard or
known about other Akan settlements like the Akwamu, the Akyem , the Akuapem,
the Denkyira, the Abron, the Aowin, the Ahanta, the Anyi, the Baoule, the
Chokosi, the Fante, the Kwahu, the Sefwi, the Ahafo, the Assin, the Evalue, the
Wassa the Adjukru, the Akye, the Alladian, the Attie,the M'Bato, the Abidji,
the Avikam,the Avatime the Ebrie, the Ehotile, the Nzema, the Abbe, the Aboure,
the Coromantins, the Ndyuka people and other peoples of Côte d'Ivoire. Every Akan nation adopts the image…
from the Book; "Reality as Myth"
by Onyeji Nnaji
of the discovering of the Radar Rivers and their channels is that it disproves
the western hegemonic claim of the Euphrates valley being the position of the
birth of the great river, all the points that opposed their claims
notwithstanding. Even God himself was very perfect in His creation by placing
them in their positions, hierarchically, according to their birth. The first
river that flowed located the Havilah land where there are good quality gold,
bdellium and fine onyx stones. Pison was the oldest of the rivers and it flowed
through the land of the southern Africa. The second river flowed northward to
Ethiopia. It was when Africa had been overtaken by virtue of her proximity to
the Great Water that other parts of the world began to encounter the remaining
river; remarkable with Hiddekel.
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The major problem towards deciphering the original plac…
Copied from the book, Reality as Myths by Onyeji NnajiThe world of the Bantu travellers shows the walls of the
migration that recorded the highest population among the African settlement.
Originating from the largest population among the four races that settled in
the east before time, all Bantu travellers were pygmies; for that was the
nature of the Umudiala, the
generation that gave birth to them. Bantu migration was rated the third
earliest migration of the Negro race from the east. In this regard, all their
movement had involved great population of people compared to the number of
people involved in the two earlier populations that gave birth to Ethiopia,
Nubia and Egypt: the Walker Traveller, and the
Race of Anu. Bantu population as we have identified in the third chapter
above outweighs the rest of the population of the ancient fathers that founded
many of the nations of antiquity mentioned earlier. Discussing them in beat
will pose a little challenge since their migration condi…
The name Nkalaha is a
coinage which stands for a people occupying a geographical land and regional
setting in the eastern part of Nigeria. It is a coinage which attempts to
explain the direction of movement and adventure of the men who founded the
community in the 15th century AD. According to oral sources and some
documentation about this community, some of these men were believed to have
traveled from Ida, old Benue state of Nigeria to inhabit the land. These men
had traveled on different days to locate the place. Onojah who originally
founded the land was said to have been in a deep search for a place of safety
as he was besieged by a fate that appeared to make him somewhat incompatible
with his own people. Nkalaha
is one of the communities that make up Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi
State. Nkalaha occupied the northern part of Ishielu Local Government Area. She
is located through the zip 135.031.000. The community sits on 923.768km2. She shares boundaries with neighbourin…
My neighbour had vowed never to let any girl
survive as a salesgirl in my shop. This thing has happened for over three
times. Each time we brought a new salesgirl, the girl would stay for two or
three months; and suddenly she would end her contract with us. In all these, my
husband did not know. So, being that the girls usually stole money and other
items, the reason for their departure became genuine, thus: they ran away to
avoid being punished for their actions. But behind this, the underling truth is
that the girls had been embarrassed by my neighbour who would warn them to leave
her loosed husband. Recently, the woman threatened to f…
The Mystery of
Number, “Five” in the Igbo Cosmology.From: Aspects
of the Ancient African Metaphysics;Chapter: Seven;Topic: Igbo
Geometries and the Metaphysics of Numbers.Author: Onyeji
Nnaji. In the Igbo
cosmology, the word Isee is a definite symbolic word as revealed through
the Igbo language and culture. A human being has five fingers, five toes. The
hands and feet are fundamentals to the survival in life as they are necessary
in ensuring that man moves to places where he gets food and grapples on the
food to sustain his life. To this view, the rhetoric that binds vocatives in
the form of incantation (anchoring on the heart-lock: four) and the
concomitant reprisal in the manner of affirmation that holds the human life
bind to his original spiritual person, therefore defining existence and
essences are unified by the corresponding echo: Isee!!!!! Therefore
it stands that anytime a prayer is said in the Igbo land, the attendants who would
want the fulfillment of the prayer unanimously …
INTRODUCTION One thing that made Udi remarkable is the indubitable
legacy adopted in commemoration of the legendry fighter, Uto at Nsude. It was one
of the greatest contributions of the descendants of Agbaja to the survival of
Nsukka civilization of memory. Uto held from Oshie. Uto dies of small pox after
a mercenary battle he was hired to fight in the ancient Benin. His body was buried
in the evil forest as the tradition demanded. Although he lived no longer, the
stepped pyramids above were adopted to commemorate the lasting peace he brought
to the entire Oshie and Udi nation of people. Another remarkable thing about Udi is the
fertility of the land. This has contributed widely in sustaining the
inhabitants and provided a name for the inhabitants in the manner of Abakaliki,
Umudike, Ogbaru, Igboariam, Ohaji, Uzouwani, etc., especially in Amofia-Agu,
Affa. Udi is a land of great rivers and springs: Adaada, Ajali, Oji, Aria,
Nvenu, Ngene Evu, Iyi Ububo, etc. as was the situation every…
There are four generations…, and the fourth generation, which is the most exalted, is kingless and perfect. These people will enter the holy place of their Father and they will reside in rest … They are kings. They are the immortal within the mortal (The Nag Hammadi, 219)
Also read Nsukka Civilization: The Peopling of Ancient Nsukka One of the African homes that colonialism has completely deformed beyond certain level of recognition is Nsukka. Colonialism apart, the most affecting factor to the survival of the meaning which the rich cultural enclave, Nsukka, carries will best be blamed on postcolonial political structure. The biggest harm all these have against Nsukka as a people are that they rubbed her of the meaning of her name; their place of origin; how their fathers managed to come into their present abodes and who their ancestors are. A profound understanding of the excerpt above will open the door towards deciphering the meaning and origin of the people called Nsukka. Geographic…
ETHIOPIAHISTORY & ORIGIN (Extracted from the
book, Reality as Myth)BYONYEJI NNAJI
Those piles of ruins which you see in that narrow valley
watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the pride of the
ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. ... There a people, now forgotten, discovered
while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race
of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair,
founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems
which still govern the universe(Count Volney). Because of the position of Ethiopia
in the Bible story as one remarkable black nation with ancient history, it
becomes almost impossible to see any other nation as being of more ancient than
Ethiopia. Ethiopia suddenly became the yardstick for the analysis of the Negro
race. And with the influence of Christianity in the inner part of Africa, the
adherents were provided with bold pictures of the cradle of the human race…