Philosophers and scientists have been toiling with the question of the origin of the universe since the beginning of human history. Aristotle believed that the universe is as eternal as God Himself. Scientists to this very day have not yet decided if the cosmos has a beginning or it is infinite. As the nation of Israel who received Torah on Sinai, the question of an infinite universe does not exist in our lexicon. From Time immemorial Israel has believed in an Infinite Creator who has created a finite universe. The first three words of the Torah say it all – “Birashit barah ELokim” – in the beginning G-D created the heavens and earth.
Understanding a little about the sfirot (Divine emanations) mentioned in our ancient esoteric teachings of Torah we can clarify and put the three above approaches into their proper perspectives. According to Kabbala, everything in the created world is made up of ten Sfirot. The Sfirot are ten Divine emanations that serve as a transition connecting the infinite light of G-D to a finite reality. The first three Sfirot are: Keter – crown, chochmah – wisdom, and Binah – understanding. There is another Sfirah which is called Da’at meaning knowledge. Da’at in reality is the same Sfirah as Keter. It is another dimension of a single force of Divine energy. Therefore, in Kabalistic literature one will find either the Sefirah of crown mentioned or its counterpart the sfirah of knowledge. They will never be mentioned together since there are ten not eleven Sfirot. The sfirah of Keter crown is the highest sfirah which in Hebrew has three meanings: to wait, a crown, and to surround. Waiting refers to faith this represents the highest level of Keter waiting for Hashem to reveal Himself. The sin of the Golden calf came about as a result of not waiting for Moshe to come down from the mountain. Lack of patience shows a lack of faith. The crown situated on one’s head symbolizes being adorned with the radiance of the Divine allowing it to seep into one’s consciousness. The meaning surrounding refers to the power of the will –the word for will in Hebrew is called Ratzon רצון)) the letters in Hebrew are the same letters as Tzinor צינור)) which means a pipe. This pipe channels the Divine Will into all aspects of life. (See psams 145:16) “G-D opens up His Hands and bestows upon all creations Will” In other words Keter reflects the highest connection we have with Hashem. The next Sfirah is called Chochma wisdom. Chocmah refers to the ability of looking deeply into something and trying to bring it to the surface. For example sometimes people experience a sudden burst of light entering their brain giving them an insight into something. At this point, they still may not work out all the details but they have a first general picture of some abstract idea. It can be likened to an architect sketching a general plan of a building. The next sfirah to follow is Binah – understanding. It is where an idea that originated from chochmah is broken down into details forming an entire picture. As we mentioned before, if the sefirah of Keter is not mentioned then Da’at (knowledge) replaces the Keter – but it follows Binah (understanding). The sfirah of Da’at (knowledge), as the other side of Keter, brings wisdom and understanding down to another level and allows us to recognize and connect with the concepts that were achieved in wisdom and understanding. It therefore is also the source of our emotions.
After this small introduction, we can now try and explain how Torah, philosophy, and science all connect.
The word philosophy originates from the Greek word “philo” meaning love and Sophos meaning wisdom. In other words, philosophers are connected to the sfirah of wisdom. They attempt to draw a general picture of the universe relying on their intellect. Perfection, according to them would be the development of the intellect to its highest capacity. Science comes from the Latin work Scientia meaning knowledge. Science by definition bases itself on establishing theories after repeated observation and testing. For them seeing is believing. This is connected to the sefirah of knowledge – in order for them to grasp the universe they must see it for themselves. Otherwise, they cannot become emotionally attached to it. Philosophy and science share in common their total dependency on the human intellect in order to achieve or accomplish their goals. We must remember, however, that they are both entirely human creations. Torah on the other hand, is not a creation of man. Just as Hashem created the world in an instant the same way He gave the Torah to Israel. This is reflected the sfirah of Keter. Science, philosophy and other man made religions lack the Keter – the crown. The crown represents the revealing of the Divine presence to the world. Human intellect is a vital part of a health society but not enough. We need Hashem to place a crown on our intellect allowing us to connect to Him. This can only come through the study and living a life of Torah. This is why we don’t find any great philosophers and scientists experiencing prophecy. Only those that are pious G-D fearing individuals crowned with the crown of Torah can prophesize.
This week’s Torah portion opens up with “listen Heavens and I will speak and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” Moshe Rabeynu is revealing a beautiful song to the people of Israel before his death. He chooses as his witnesses the heavens and earth who will be around long after those that have toiled and struggled to try and paint a picture of the universe using their human logic and intellect.
“When I call out the name of the Hashem, ascribe greatness to our God.” (Deuteronomy 3:3) The time will come when the entire universe will testify to the existence of G-D!
Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith