Torah, Science, and Greek Philosophy

Dr. Zvi Shkedi

One of the obstacles to the joint study of Torah and science is the mistaken perception as if there are contradictions between Torah and science. There are Torah scholars who do not learn science because they believe that science contradicts the Torah.

Not everything called "science" is science, and not everything called "Torah" is Torah. We show that there is never a contradiction between real Torah and real science. Human imagination, extrapolations, wishful speculations, mistaken theories, and leftovers of Greek philosophy are often believed to be part of Torah or science rather than what they really are. The controversy involving contradictions between Torah and Science is a result of such mistaken beliefs. Understanding the source of the mistaken beliefs resolves the apparent contradictions and shows that Torah and Science are in perfect harmony.

In this article we present one side of the debate - “Not everything called 'Torah' is Torah”. The other side of the debate, "Not everything called 'science' is science", is presented in the article: ”Torah and Science – Facts, Theories, and Fiction”

(We do not endorse and do not agree with the approach taken by Natan Slifkin to the subject of Torah and Science. Slifkin is not a recognized scientist. We were unable to find a single original-research scientific article written by Slifkin and published in a respectable peer-reviewed scientific journal. Slifkin failed to realize that not everything called "science" is science. Slifkin has mistakenly accepted as "science" many nonsensical speculations which do not qualify as science. Then, he distorted fundamental Torah principles in order to make them fit these nonsensical speculations.)



The desire to understand God's creation has dominated human thinking since early history. The quest to discover nature and to understand the laws by which God controls nature is a never ending process. It probably started thousands of years ago when people got curious about the motion of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky. How do they move? What is their trajectory? Why do they move? And, later on, what exactly is moving? What are the forces and rules of nature which govern this motion?

Then came the quest for understanding life. What is life? How did it start? Where do tiny creatures come from if we can't see how they are born?

There are two parallel paths which dominate this quest. One, is the religious path - the way of the Torah, or at least, what we think we understand from the Torah. The other, is the path of scientific research where nothing is taken for granted - everything is subject to questioning, criticism, research, and discovery. Somewhere in between these two, lies the philosophical path which is an attempt to understand the world through human intelligence, emotions, and imagination. The religious and scientific paths have crossed roads since early history, sometimes in perfect harmony and sometimes in heavy conflicts and apparent contradictions. This article will be limited to clarifying the religious Torah view of scientific knowledge.

The apparent contradictions between what some people believe is their understanding of the Torah and their understanding of science, will not be resolved in a democratic way. Majority opinion and majority vote mean nothing in this quest. Just try to imagine how to determine who should have the right to vote on these questions. Does every individual get an equal vote? How about a joint decision by all the Rabbis and all the supreme courts in the world today? If they decide that the earth is flat, will the earth be flat? Personal credentials, authority, fame, and world recognition are just as meaningless in the quest to resolve such contradictions. When it comes to establishing the truth, the only thing that counts is the truth itself.

Psychological barriers to accepting the truth cannot be ignored. It is only natural for people to reject knowledge which they don't understand. Regardless of how true the knowledge is, lack of understanding creates a psychological barrier which most people cannot overcome. The reaction to Einstein's theory of relativity teaches us an important lesson. When Einstein first published it in 1905, all the physicists in the world rejected it - it was too difficult to understand. Today, on the other hand, every physicist knows how true it is. Many years later, Einstein himself, when introduced to the new principles of probability and quantum mechanics, rejected it with his famous saying: "God does not play dice with the universe." Even Einstein fell into the trap of this psychological barrier, unable to accept the new and difficult-to-understand discoveries. Again, today, every physicist knows how true these new discoveries are.

Many debates involving the apparent contradictions between Torah and science begin with phrases like: "Torah says that ..." and "science says that ...". Is it really what the Torah or science say? As we will see, this is not always the case. Not everything called "science" is science, and not everything called "Torah" is Torah. There are no contradictions between real Torah and real science. Apparent contradictions are only a result of misrepresentations of Torah, misrepresentations of science, or both. The most common misrepresentations occur when human imagination, extrapolations, and speculations are presented as if they were facts. An understanding of the misrepresentations resolves the conflicts and shows that Torah and science are in perfect harmony.

The Classification of Scientific Knowledge

Scientific research is a human process. It is a process by which people try, and occasionally succeed, to find answers to questions about the universe. All the knowledge which people tend to describe as "science" or as the "fruit of science" can be classified into four categories:
a) Fact
b) Scientific theory
c) Speculation
d) Imagination
Let's examine each of these categories in detail.

a) A fact is something which is well proven and established by experiments. All experiments yield the same consistent results. All attempts to disprove the fact have failed, and will most likely always fail.

b) A scientific theory is an attempt to explain an observation in a logical way. Most scientific theories are expressed in the form of mathematical equations or formulas. A scientific theory must be stated in such a way that enables experimental scientists to perform experiments to test the validity of the theory. A claim or opinion which does not avail itself to experimental testing is not a theory - it is just a private opinion or imagination. A scientific theory must be based on facts which support the theory, and, there cannot be any fact or observation which contradicts the theory. However, since the factual basis on which the theory is based is not sufficiently broad or complete, we still call it a theory rather than a fact.

c) Speculation is an attempt to explain an observation without a sufficient foundation of scientific facts. Such a theory may sound right, may be pleasing to our senses, and may even offer a possible explanation of an observation. However, the observation may also have other possible explanations which can be very different. What makes a theory "speculative" is the possibility of other theories and the lack of sufficient evidence to prove which one of these theories is the right one.

Wishful speculations are the worst of the worst. Wishful speculations always contain a hidden agenda. They are crafted with the intention to prove a pre-determined desirable result. Fragments of information are pieced together in a way that will "prove" a desirable result, while ignoring information which contradicts the desired end result.

d) Imagination is just that. Some people use their imagination to explain certain observations without support from scientific facts. Every observation which we do not understand triggers our imagination and we try to develop some explanation in our mind. Almost all human beings develop at least one imaginative explanation during their lifetime. The milky way is there because someone spilled milk in the sky. The moon is made of a green cheese and a cow eats from it during the second half of each lunar month. During the day we hear more noise than at night because the movement of the sun in the sky makes noise. Sea water at night is warmer than by day because the sun warms it up from underneath the earth at night. People come from monkeys - they turn into people when nobody is watching. There is no limit to human imagination. All so-called "theories" which do not avail themselves to experimental validation are included in this category of imagination.

Not Everything Called Torah Is Torah

The Greek philosopher Aristotle lived during the time of the Second Holy Temple. The Hellenistic (Greek) period which followed his death in 322 BCE, and the conquest of the Holy Land by the Greeks, had a powerful influence on Jewish life. Following the defeat of the Greeks on Chanukah, the hope was that the Greek philosophy would no longer have an influence on the Jewish religious view of the world. Unfortunately, history proved otherwise. The Greeks were defeated, but, their philosophy was not. Aristotle's philosophy dominated the world at that time, and it also found its way into the Jewish religious literature, including the Talmud, and later, into the writings of the Rambam. It took the scientific world 2200 years to finally rid itself of the influence of Aristotle's imaginative theories. Because Aristotle's philosophy penetrated the Jewish religious literature, the religious world is still suffering from its influence, up until today, unable to distinguish between certain teachings of the Torah and the philosophy of the Greek.

Another non-Jewish influence which penetrated the Jewish literature is the Christian division of the Bible into chapters. The entire Jewish world accepted this Christian division, even though it is Christian in origin, it distorts fundamental Jewish concepts, and it gives the Bible a little bit of a Christian flavor. For example, chapter 1 in Bereshit (Genesis) contains only the first six days of creation, while the seventh day of Shabbat is separated from the six days of creation by being placed in a new chapter. This is the Christian interpretation of the creation of the world. The Shabbat is a foreign concept to Christians; it is not part of the creation of the world; it does not need to immediately follow the six days of creation; therefore, it needs to be separated from creation by being placed in a different chapter. This is extremely contradictory to the Jewish view, yet, the Jewish world swallowed this bitter pill without protest.

The first one to propose that animals can transform into different species, was the Greek philosopher Anaximander (after the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash). This was the beginning of the imaginative theory of evolution. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle further developed this imaginative theory and called it "development". They also promoted their imaginative theory of spontaneous generation of life. Almost everyone accepted what they said, including, unfortunately, Chazal. (The scholars of the Talmud Yerushalmi accepted the idea of animals transforming into different animals, but, there is no indication that they agreed with spontaneous generation of life).

The most flagrant example of how the Greek imaginative theories penetrated the Talmud, both Bavli and Yerushalmi, is found in the descriptions of how every seven years various animals transform into different animals or into plants, and how a male hyena transforms into a female hyena [1]. Nobody ever claimed to have seen such transformations, yet they were recorded in the religious literature as if they were an absolute truth and an established fact. Transforming monkeys into humans would have been much easier than that. Nowadays, even those who still believe in spontaneous generation of life, know that such transformations are impossible.

Any mouse walking through wet mud will look like it is part flesh and part dirt. An observer who believes in the existence of a mouse which is part flesh and part dirt, will cite seeing a mud-covered mouse, as evidence. The Mishnah (Chulin 9.6) and the Talmud Bavli (Sanhedrin 91a; Chulin 126b; Chulin 127a) mention that mice can be half flesh and half dirt. Yet, the Rambam (Chulin 9.6) had the courage to doubt the existence of such a creature, even though it was mentioned in the Mishnah and in the Talmud [14].

The scholars of the Mishnah and the Talmud never considered themselves to be perfect. They knew that mistakes are possible and, when discovered, they need to be corrected. That's why we have Massechet Horayot, teaching us what to do when a mistake is discovered. In Psachim p.94a Rabbi Yochanan says explicitly: "...the Rabbis made a mistake". There are also many examples in the Gmara in which the Rabbis admit their mistakes. Again, mistakes occur and those who are intellectually honest acknowledge and correct them. Even Moshe Rabbeinu, with all his greatness, made mistakes. Why, then, are we so afraid today to admit that mistakes are possible?

There are those who argue that only Chazal have the authority to establish the truth or to declare something as a mistake. They must have forgotten what Rav Hai Gaon and the Rambam said: "Accept the truth from whoever said it."[2] , and: "in every subject for which its reasoning was discovered and its truth became known through faultless evidence, we do not rely on the person who said it or who taught it, but, on the evidence which was discovered and the reason which became known."[3]

The most striking statement by any Torah scholar on the subject of Chazal's knowledge of science, comes from Ralbag - Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (1288-1344). He said that even a prophet (using the prophet Ezekiel as an example) does not necessarily know all the secrets of science:
"It is not self evident that a prophet will have all the correct knowledge in the subject of the secrets of scientific reality." [4]
The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim (V.3 ch.14) tells us that the source of the scientific knowledge of the Jewish sages was not divine, but was learned by them through observation or from the gentile scientists.
“Do not ask me to reconcile what they (the sages) said in matters of astronomy with the scientific reality, because the sciences at their time were lacking. They did not talk about it because they had a tradition from the prophets, but, because they knew the subject best in their generation or because they learned it from the gentile scholars.” [5]
Then, the Rambam says in Moreh Nevuchim (V.2, ch.8):
"You must not find it strange that Aristotle differs here from the opinion of our Sages. The theory of the music of the spheres is connected with the theory of the motion of the stars in a fixed sphere, and our Sages have abandoned their own theory in favor of the theory of the gentile scholars in this subject of astronomy. Thus, it is distinctly stated, "The gentile scholars have defeated the scholars of Israel." It is quite right that our Sages have abandoned their own theory; because theoretical matters every one treats according to the results of his own study, therefore, it is necessary to accept that which was established by proof." [6]
Rabbeinu Avraham Ben HaRambam said the same thing that his father said. Scientific reality is learned through observation and evidence. In matters of scientific reality, individual opinions and authority do not count.
"The greatness of the sages of the Talmud and the completeness of their skills in interpreting the Torah, and the correctness of their explanations, do not obligate us to defend and accept their opinions in everything they said in medicine and in science and in astronomy... Now it has been clarified to us that Chazal do not delve into ideas and do not study them except through their truthfulness and through their evidence, not because of who says it, whoever it is." (MaAmar Al Drashot Chazal) [7]
In Tshuvot HaGeonim we find the same approach to the medical knowledge of Chazal - The Rabbis are not doctors; they learned it from others or from their own worldly observations; their words are not obligatory.[8]

Hallachic rulings apply to specific realities. The reality must be known before a Hallachic ruling can be made. Unfortunately, the reality is not always known. Sometimes the reality is not known because of insufficient data, for example, in subjects which require scientific knowledge. Sometimes the reality is perceived incorrectly because of obstacles or because of reliance on mistaken theories. In either case, when the reality or our understanding of the reality changes, it may also be necessary to adjust a Hallachic rulings.

In the Tosefta (Horayot ch. 1.5), in the Gmara (Yevamot, p.92a), and in the Rambam (Hilchot Shgagot ch. 14.7) we find a fundamental rule which governs the relationship between the scientific reality and the Hallachic opinion of the Rabbis:
"A court of Rabbis decided that it is the end of Shabbat and later the sun became visible. This is not a Hallachic ruling but a mistake."
From here we learn two lessons. a) The scientific reality supersedes the opinion of the Rabbis, and, b) It is possible to make a mistake even in a matter of a Hallachic ruling, when the scientific reality is not sufficiently known.
"Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Zadok said that two questions his father has presented to the Rabbis in Yavneh... about a woman who had a certain miscarriage... his father asked the Rabbis and the Rabbis asked the doctors. Then, again, on a similar question, his father asked the Rabbis and the Rabbis asked the doctors." (Nidah, p.22b)
Here we learn that occasionally the Rabbis need to know what the scientific and medical experts have to say on a subject, before they can issue a Hallachic ruling. This is common practice up until today. Many questions relevant to a determination of whether something is kosher or not, require consultation with experts in the field.

One subject which has been discussed extensively is the medicines mentioned in the Gemara. Many asked why these medicines don't work today. The consensus is that these medicines should NOT be used to day, even though they are mentioned in the Gemara. The reason for this apparent discrepancy is very simple. These medicines were the best medicines known those days and were applicable to the living conditions those days. The knowledge of medicine advanced over the years and today we know more than what was known in the past. Today's environment and living conditions also changed and it is well known that certain medicines which work on some people do not work on others.

The Meiri (1249-1315), in Beit HaBchirah on Psachim p.109b, explains the inclusion of mistakes and nonsensical ideas (Havalim) in the religious literature [9]. It was, and still is, common for the public to make mistakes and believe in nonsensical ideas. As long as such mistakes and ideas did not involve prohibitions, the Rabbis avoided disputing them because they were too widespread and heavily ingrained in the public opinion. This is why such mistakes and nonsensical ideas were included in the Talmud - to avoid conflicts and to please the public opinion at that time.

Another example of nonsensical ideas copied into the religious literature is the belief in the ability to make gold from other metals. Some religious books went as far as publishing actual recipes for making gold. Ibn Ezra (1089-1164), in his commentary on Bereshit, ch.36, v.39, explicitly calls these ideas nonsense. It is not the contents of the nonsense which is important. What is important is the fact that the religious literature is not immune from containing nonsense.

In Chulin p.57b, we find one of the earliest recorded cases in which a scientific experiment was performed to disprove a speculation. The Tannaim disagreed on the conditions under which an injured chicken can survive or not survive. Rabbi Yehudah said that if a certain feather is removed, the chicken cannot survive. Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta performed an experiment to prove Rabbi Yehudah wrong. Then, the Tannaim disputed other matters of biology, and Rabbi Yosei Ben Hameshullam also quoted experimental evidence to prove his argument. From here we learn that the Tannaim assigned weight to scientific experimental evidence even in matters in which a Hallachic ruling needed to be made.

In Psachim p.94b, the Jewish scholars of the Talmud admitted that their theory for the movement of the sun was wrong [10]. (By day the sun moves from east to west under the sky and at night the sun moves back from west to east above the opaque sky). This same theory is also presented in Baba Batra p.25b. In a debate with the gentile scientists, the Jewish scholars accepted the gentiles' theory as being more correct. (The sun moves in a continuous circle above the earth by day and under the earth at night). From here we learn that the Jewish scholars did not mind the possibility that their theories in the field of science could be wrong - they were always open to learning from the wisdom of the gentiles. This dispute is also mentioned in Midrash Rabbah, Bereshit 6:8. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai concludes that: "We do not know whether they (the stars) fly through the air, glide in the heaven, or travel in their usual manner. It is a very difficult matter, and people cannot understand it." A similar dispute is mentioned in Midrash-Hagadol, Bereshit 1:17, regarding the movement of the stars in the sky. The Midrash concludes that "the gentile scholars defeated the scholars of Israel".

There is a famous dispute between the Geonim and Rabenu Tam regarding the time of Tzet HaKochavim - when do the stars come out after sunset. The Geonim said 18 minutes, while Rabeinu Tam said 72 minutes. Most of the Rishonim and Achronim followed Rabeinu Tam. Yet, the Vilna Gaon (1720 -1797) said that "Reality contradicts" the opinion of Rabeinu Tam, and decided that 18 minutes is the correct time. When "reality contradicts", the scientific reality is stronger than the opinion of the Rabbanim. Practically all of the Jewish world today follows this decision by the Vilna Gaon. Similarly, high quality kosher supervision of food today is also guided by the same principle - the reality, as determined by technical specialists, based on science, takes precedence over the written words in the literature. It is interesting to note that the same Rabbanim who argue that it is impossible for the religious literature to contain mistakes, are also those who do not recognize the Kashrut of food if its kosher certification is based exclusively on the words of the Shulchan Aruch while ignoring scientific facts...

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808 - 1888), provides a very educational answer to the question of scientific reality vs. mistaken theories in the religious literature:
"In my opinion, the first principle that every student of Chazal's statements must keep before his eyes is the following: Chazal were the sages of God's law - the receivers, transmitters and teachers of His toros, His mitzvos, and His interpersonal laws. They did not especially master the natural sciences, geometry, astronomy, or medicine - except insofar as they needed them for knowing, observing and fulfilling the Torah. We do not find that this knowledge was transmitted to them from Sinai. …We find that Chazal themselves considered the wisdom of the gentile scholars equal to their own in the natural sciences. To determine who was right in areas where the gentile sages disagreed with their own knowledge, they did not rely on their tradition but on reason. Moreover they even respected the opinion of the gentile scholars, admitting when the opinion of the latter seemed more correct than their own." (Trusting the Torah's Sages, Chapter 4)
Mistakes in the Jewish literature are rare, but, they do exist. Chazal were careful to admit a mistake when they noticed it, and made corrections. Why are students today mis-educated in this regard? Why are students today taught to believe that the Talmud has no mistakes and that every word in the Talmud and in the Rambam is an absolute truth said "BeRuach HaKodesh" while Chazal themselves said the opposite? Isn't it much more honorable to admit a mistake and correct it, then to refuse to admit it? Isn't this the essence of Tshuvah? Unfortunately, the quest to learn the truth today is hindered, and sometimes suppressed, by a political-religious environment which is hostile to suggestions that the religious literature could contain mistakes or that the knowledge of Chazal was not always acquired "BeRuach HaKodesh".

The following example further demonstrates how mistaken is the opinion that Chazal knew everything in science.

Rav Shmuel was one of the greatest astronomers of his time. He made a famous declaration - "I know the paths of the stars in the sky like I know the paths of my home town, except the comet which I don't know what it is."[11]  With this declaration, Rav Shmuel tells us that his scientific knowledge was acquired by observation, not by Ruach HaKodesh. Had he acquired his scientific knowledge by Ruach Hakodesh, he would have also known what a comet is. The fact is that today, through scientific research, we know what a comet is, while Chazal admitted to not knowing what it is.

NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft took this picture of 
Comet Hartley 2 from a distance of 435 miles.
Comets are loose collections of ice, dust, and small rocky particles, ranging in size
from a few hundred meters to tens of kilometers. When a comet passes near the sun,
the solar heat and radiation release some of the comet's material and produce a tail.

Science is an integral part of the Torah. The Rambam, the Vilna Gaon, and others, learned science from all available sources, including also non-Jewish books. The Vilna Gaon used to say that whatever a person is missing in the knowledge of science, he is missing a hundred times more in the understanding of the Torah, because Torah and science are coupled together. Everyone is obligated to learn as much science as he can. Not knowing science is a desecration of the name of God.[12][13]

There are also Torah scholars who ignored the Rambam and the Vilna Gaon. They did not learn science and do not understand the difficult process of scientific research. They don't understand that almost all scientific knowledge is acquired through a lengthy process which begins with imagination and speculations; continues through a variety of preliminary theories, experiments, mathematical models, theoretical predictions, and experimental verifications; until full agreement is reached between the theoretical predictions and the experimental results. They object to learning science because scientific research involves intermediate steps of speculations or extrapolations. Yet, they see no problem in enjoying the final fruits of the scientific research process. They also see no problem in relying on speculations and extrapolations while learning Torah. Almost all Pilpulim include steps of speculations and extrapolations. It is a disgrace to the study of Torah when these same scholars fully accept as an absolute truth Greek-originated speculations, just because they were copied into the religious literature.

Spontaneous Generation of Life

The imaginative theory of spontaneous generation holds that complex living organisms are generated from decaying organic substances. For example: mice spontaneously appear in stored grain, mice are spontaneously generated from mud, maggots spontaneously appear in meat, and worms spontaneously appear in fruit and in cheese. According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, it was a readily observable truth that aphids arise from the dew which falls on plants, fleas from putrid matter, mice from dirty hay, and so forth.

In the 17th century such imaginative theories started to be questioned. Sir Thomas Browne, in 1646, published an attack on such false beliefs and "vulgar errors." The belief in spontaneous generation was so widespread that he was heavily criticized. Alexander Ross wrote: "To question this (i.e., spontaneous generation) is to question reason, sense and experience. If he doubts of this let him go to Egypt, and there he will find the fields swarming with mice, begot of the mud of Nylus (Niles), to the great calamity of the inhabitants." Uneducated farmers in Egypt believe up until today that their mice are spontaneously generated from the fertile soil near the Niles river.

Any mouse walking through wet mud will look like it is part flesh and part dirt. An observer who believes in the existence of a mouse which is part flesh and part dirt, will cite seeing a mud-covered mouse, as evidence. The Mishnah (Chulin 9.6) and the Talmud Bavli (Sanhedrin 91a; Chulin 126b; Chulin 127a) mention that mice can be half flesh and half dirt. The Rambam (Chulin 9.6) had the courage to doubt the existence of such a creature. Others fully believed in the possibility that mice can be spontaneously generated from dirt [14].

A computer search of the texts of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmud Yerushalmi, did not reveal any explicit indication of a belief in natural (non miraculous) spontaneous generation. The Talmud Bavli and later writings, on the other hand do mention it. For example: snails appear from rain (Sanhedrin 91a); worms, lice, and flees spontaneously appear in various foods, soil, and sweat (Rambam, Hilchot Shabat, ch.11, 2-3 ; Rambam, Maachalot Asurot ch.2, 13-18); and, lice do not multiply through procreation (Talmud Bavli, Shabat, 107b) therefore, it is permitted to kill them on Shabbat. The belief in spontaneous generation was so strong that the Rambam cited it as an explanation for the permission to eat worms which were spontaneously generated inside a picked fruit or a dead fish or standing water in a dish (Rambam, Maachalot Asurot ch.2, 13-18).

The astronomer Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996) coined a philosophical play with words: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". This argument was used by him to defend his theory that there are millions of intelligent civilizations in outer space. It was also used to defend the claims of the existence of UFOs. The fact that we have no evidence of such civilizations, or UFOs, does not prove their absence. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that they do not exist. This argument was also used to defend the theory of evolution. Absence of evidence that humans evolved from monkeys is not evidence that humans did not evolve from monkeys. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the theory of evolution is wrong.

The same type of deceptive reasoning has been used to defend the theory of spontaneous generation. “The fact that we cannot see spontaneous generation in action does not prove that it does not exist.” Such argumentation may be applicable only if experiments cannot be conducted to find and isolate the evidence. In the case of outer-space civilizations or UFOs, such experiments are obviously impossible. This argumentation does not apply, however, when controlled experiments are conducted and evidence is developed to isolate the exact conditions under which something can or cannot exist.

Alchemists tried for centuries to turn lead into gold. Such recipes were also published in Jewish religious books. Similarly, every year the US patent office gets hundreds of patent applications for perpetual motion machines. Despite endless failures, all these futile efforts are motivated by the same philosophy - absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Try the following simple experiment: Take two large metal boxes full of rotting grain. Seal one box with a tight-fitting lid with small holes in it (so air can get in but mice cannot) and leave the other box open. Inspect the boxes after a few weeks and search for mice. The presence of mice in the open box and the absence of mice in the closed box are solid evidence that mice get in from the outside and are NOT spontaneously generated in the rotting grain. If you are not convinced, repeat the experiment as many times as you wish, just make sure that mice cannot get in from the outside into the box with lid.

Food in sealed sterilized metal containers is extremely popular. Once the container is sealed and sterilized, new organisms cannot enter the container and the food cannot spoil. Sealing alone will NOT protect the food. It must also be sterilized to kill all pre-existing organisms. If spontaneous generation was real, new bacteria and worms would grow in the food regardless of it being sealed and sterilized. Some people think that air is needed for bacteria and worms to grow. This can easily be proven to be a false assumption. If a non-sterile food container is sealed, bacteria and worms do appear, while, if a sterile food container is opened to air under sterile conditions where dust and outside contamination cannot enter, bacteria and worms do NOT appear. Why do bacteria and worms not appear while the container is sterile? Why do they appear in a non-sterile sealed container or after the container is opened under non-sterile conditions? The answer is that microscopic bacteria and worm-eggs float in the air like dust. If they are allowed to contact the food, bacteria and worms will grow. If they are prevented from contacting sterile food, bacteria and worms will not grow. The inability to see these bacteria and eggs without a microscope creates the illusion of spontaneous generation.

In 1668, the Italian Francesco Redi proved that no maggots appeared in meat when flies were prevented from landing on it. This was the first positive experiment which proved that living organisms could appear in meat when contaminated flies were permitted to land on it, while they did not appear when flies were denied access to the meat. (Today we know that flies carry with them microscopic eggs of various organisms. The inability to see these eggs without a microscope, creates the illusion of spontaneous generation.) From the seventeenth century onwards it was gradually shown that the previous theories regarding spontaneous generation were wrong. This was the first time in history when scientists began to realize that every living organism comes from a pre-existing organism.

In 1683, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria. Then, it was discovered that even though food was protected by screens, bacteria and other low organisms still appeared. They did not know yet that bacteria and microscopic eggs can be carried by dust in the air. Sterilization was also not invented yet. This observation supported the illusion of spontaneous generation and further delayed the final proof that it is an illusion and a false theory.

In 1768 Lazzaro Spallanzani proved that microbes came from the air, and could be killed by boiling. Yet, it was not until 1862 that Louis Pasteur performed a series of careful experiments which finally proved that organisms do not appear on their own.

The French Academy of Sciences sponsored a contest for the best experiment to either prove or disprove spontaneous generation. Pasteur heated the neck of a flask in a flame and bent it into the shape of the letter N. He intentionally designed his experiment so that air could enter the flask, but dust and airborne organisms could not - they would settle by gravity in the neck. Then, he boiled meat broth in the flask to kill the pre-existing organisms. New organisms did NOT grow. When Pasteur tilted the flask so that the broth reached the lowest point in the neck, where any airborne particles would have settled, the broth rapidly became cloudy with life. Pasteur had both refuted the theory of spontaneous generation and convincingly demonstrated that organisms are everywhere and are transported from place to place as dust in the air. This experiment was repeated many times by many scientists and students, always with the same results. It is so easy to perform, that even children can do it in school.

With this experiment, Louis Pasteur provided the final proof that the theory of spontaneous generation is false. He also scientifically proved the truth of what it says in the Torah: "From all life all flesh bring two of each kind into the ark to live with you, they shall be male and female." (Sefer Bereshit, Parashat Noah, ch. 6, v. 19) and: "Every beast, every crawling creature, and every bird, all that move on the land, according to their species, went out of the Ark." (Bereshit, ch. 8, v. 19). The Torah did not leave any room for new species or creatures which have not been in the ark and are not produced through procreation. If spontaneous generation of life was possible, there would be no need to bring all the creatures into the Ark. They could have been regenerated after the flood. By saving these creatures in the Ark, God taught us that spontaneous generation of life is impossible.

The painful question is why was spontaneous generation of life believed, by great Torah scholars, to be true. The answer may have been given above - Aristotle's philosophy dominated the world and found its way into the religious literature. It took the scientific world 2200 years to finally rid itself of the influence of Aristotle's imaginative theories. But, because Aristotle's philosophy penetrated the religious literature, the religious world is still suffering from its influence, up until today, unable to filter out the philosophy of the Greeks from the teachings of the Torah.

Louis Pasteur proved that the ancient theory of spontaneous generation is wrong. Based on that, he invented the sterilization of food and medical equipment. Sterilization works only because spontaneous generation does not exist. When we eat old food from a sterilized container, or take a sterile medicine, we all trust the sterilization. We know that bacteria and worms will not spontaneously appear in there, even if air is left in the container. If Rabbis of recent generations really believed in spontaneous generation of life, they would have prohibited eating old food from sterilized containers. Needless to say, nobody issued such a prohibition. By eating such food, they demonstrate, without saying it, that deep in their heart they know that spontaneous generation of life does not exist.

The Solar System and the Stars

Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. He improved the design of the telescope, and used it to study the relative motion of the sun and the planets. His conclusions supported those of Copernicus - the sun is at the center and the planets, including the earth, orbit around it. His findings resulted in the condemnation of the sun-at-the-center theory in 1616 by the Catholic Church as being contrary to the Bible: "Sun, stand still upon Giveon; and Moon, in the valley of Ayalon." (Yehoshua, 10, 12) The Catholic Church would not allow anyone to argue with the theory that the earth is the center of the universe and all the heavenly bodies orbit around it. In 1633 Galileo was forced by the Italian Inquisition, under threat of torture, to retract his teachings. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest as a punishment for publishing his scientific findings, contrary to the orders of the Church. It took the Catholic Church more than 350 years to finally apologize and to admit, in 1992, that Galileo was right.

What is the Jewish view regarding the shape of the earth and the relative movement of the earth and the sun? Sefer HaZohar, in Parashat VaYikra tells us as follows: (literal translation) "In the book of Rav Himnona it explains that the whole settled world spins around in a circle like a sphere. Some people are below and some people are above... and because of that, there is a place in the settled world, when it is light for some it is dark for others. For some it is day and for others it is night. And, there is a place where it is always day and it is never night, except for a very short period of time."

In this description, we see a clear understanding of the fact that the earth is shaped like a sphere and spins around its axis in a 24 hour cycle, as opposed to the theories of the flat earth and the sun orbiting around the earth. We also see an understanding that people live all around the earth and while it is day for those on the side facing the sun, it is night for those who live on the other side away from the sun. Not only that, but as we know today, there is indeed a place (near the poles of the earth) where the day can be very long while the night is very short.

This description of the earth as a sphere spinning around its axis every 24 hours is fully validated by modern science. Astronauts who landed on the moon saw, and cameras on the moon pointed towards earth have shown, how planet earth is shaped like a sphere and spins around its axis. The sun and the moon do not orbit around earth every 24 hours. It is earth that spins around its axis, causing this illusion.

The following picture (courtesy NASA) shows earth rising above the horizon of the moon. It was taken by the Apollo 11 astronauts, after they landed on the moon. The white swirls are clouds on planet earth. The sun shines on earth and on the moon from above. To an observer standing on the moon, it appears as if the moon is at the center of the universe, and the earth, the sun, and the stars orbit around the moon once a month. While standing on the moon, it is easy to see how the earth spins around its axis every 24 hours, as opposed to the Greek theory as if all stars orbit around the earth every 24 hours.

The sun and stars orbiting around the earth is the Greek and the Christian view of the world. This is not, and never was, the Jewish view. In the very first letter published in Igrot Kodesh Vol 1, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, confirms that the Rambam's model of the world is based on the Greek philosophy, particularly that of Aristotle. The question which most rabbis struggle with is: "Why did the Talmud and the Rambam present the Greek theory, ignoring the Jewish knowledge?" The answer is given by the Rambam in Sefer Zmanim, Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh, at the end of Ch. 17 (literal translation):
"And the reason for all these calculations... and how do we know each of these things, and the proof for each and every thing, this is the wisdom of periods and calculations about which the Greek scholars composed many books, and these are the books which are now available to the scholars. But, the books composed by the Jewish scholars from the tribe of Yissachar at the times of the prophets, did not reach our hands."
The Jewish books were lost, and the only books available were those written by the Greeks. Sefer Hazohar was not available for study except to a few Mekubalim in Eretz Israel. It was also not available for study in the Rambam's time, nor was it studied in Bavel at the time of the Talmud Bavli.

The Rambam continues and sets the stage for how to deal with new scientific knowledge:
"We do not worry about who is the author (of the knowledge), whether it was authored by the prophets or by the gentiles. Because, in every subject for which its reasoning was discovered and its truth became known through faultless evidence, we do not rely on the person who said it or who taught it, but, on the evidence which was discovered and the reason which became known." [3]
The same approach to the superiority of scientific evidence over the authority of individuals is also mentioned by the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3:14 and 2:8). This is a dramatic deviation from the classical religious blind reliance on the authority of a Rabbi who makes a religious ruling. According to the Rambam, when it comes to establishing scientific truth, personal credentials and authority carry no weight. The only thing that counts is the scientific evidence. Not only that, but:
"A person should never throw away his knowledge (could also be translated as understanding or common sense), because the eyes are in the front not in the rear." (Rambam, Letter to the scholars of Montpellier, printed in Igrot HaRambam - Jerusalem 1995 vol.2)
In Sefer Mada, Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah, ch. 3, the Rambam presents in great detail Aristotle's Greek theory about the structure of the solar system and the stars. The earth is stationary at the center, and all the heavenly bodies orbit around it in a series of layers, with no empty space in between. The Rambam also goes out of his way to provide a rare reference to the source of this knowledge - books composed by the Greek philosophers (Sefer Mada, Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah, ch.3.5). There have been arguments in the rabbinic world that the Rambam wrote everything by "Ruach HaKodesh". However, where the Rambam himself gives the source of his knowledge as being the Greek philosophers, and clearly states that the Jewish books were lost, the argument of "Ruach HaKodesh" does not apply.

We still need to understand the reason the Rambam included the Greek model in "Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah" - the most fundamental laws of the Torah. Is a detailed knowledge of physics and astronomy a fundamental part of the Torah? When we study chapters 3 and 4 we see that the Rambam gives us a brief summary of all the available knowledge of science, particularly physics and astronomy, at his time. The Rambam then tells us that the study of science is "Ma-aseh Bereshit" - the science of creation. The study of science and the quest to discover and know as much as possible about the laws of nature is a fundamental and integral part of the study of the Torah.

The Talmud Bavli, in Psachim p.94b also refers to the Greek model of the world. The Jewish and the gentile scholars discuss the movements of the sun and the stars in the sky. They disagree on the details, but they all agree that the heavenly bodies orbit around the stationary earth.

One of the attempts to defend the Greek, geocentric, model of the world, was based on a verse in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). This verse says: "Generation goes and generation comes, but the earth exists forever." (ch.1, v.4) When the first half of this verse is omitted, the second half can be translated as: "and the earth stands forever", implying that the earth stands still forever. This is nothing but a misinterpretation and mistaken translation, out of context. This verse talks about human changes over time. This verse is not a lesson in astronomy.

When observing the movements of the stars without a telescope and without the slightest understanding of the laws of physics, the Greek model makes perfect sense. In this regard, Aristotle was a genius. However, once a telescope is brought into the picture, coupled with an understanding of the God-given laws of physics, the Greek model is nothing but human imagination.

In Tehilim 19:5 we find the following verse: “For the sun He has set a tent in them” - God set the planets as a tent for the sun. The Meiri, at the beginning of his introduction to Beit HaBchirah [15], is using this verse as proof that the sun is at the center and the seven known planets orbit around it. The Meiri teaches us that David HaMelech (the author of Tehilim) knew that the sun is at the center through Kabbalah, while the greatest of the later scholars were confused about it. This original Jewish knowledge, that the sun is at the center and the planets orbit around it, was recorded in Tehilim even earlier than in the Zohar. The Meiri knew very well that the Rambam accepted the Greek model of the world. Yet, the Meiri rejected the Greek model as presented by the Talmud and by the Rambam, and preferred the Jewish model, as expressed by David HaMelech. There are those who argue that the Meiri wrote what he wrote in order to appease and avoid a conflict with the Christian church. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Christian church has adopted the Greek model, and their Inquisition prosecuted anyone who openly challenged their doctrine. The Meiri defended the Jewish model of the solar system, even though he had to take a risk in doing so.

There has been an attempt to apply Einstein's theory of relativity to this controversy. The theory of relativity has two parts. The "easier" part is "special relativity" which is studied by most physicists. The other part is "general relativity", a very difficult field which is rarely studied, and is understood only by a few physicists who specialize in it. Practically all discussions of relativity refer to "special relativity". In "special relativity" it does not matter who is moving and who is stationary, the only thing that matters is the relative motion. Based on that, the German philosopher, Hans Reichenbach, argued in his book "The Philosophy of Space and Time" (1928), that for the earth to orbit around the sun is the same as for the sun to orbit around the earth. This argument may be an interesting philosophical play with words, however, scientifically it is a bad mistake.

This attempt to apply special relativity to the orbital motion of astronomical bodies ignored the differences between special relativity and general relativity. It also ignored the orbital motion of the moon and other planets. Is the moon orbiting around the earth the same as the earth orbiting around the moon? Is Venus orbiting around the earth the same as the earth orbiting around Venus? If yes, then, around what is the earth orbiting according to the theory of relativity? Around the sun, around the moon, or around Venus?

Special relativity is a very narrow application of relativity which deals ONLY with motion on a STRAIGHT LINE at a constant speed, without accelerations, without rotations, and without the influence of gravity. Once we add one of these factors into the picture, (and in our case all three are present) special relativity is no longer applicable. We enter the realm of general relativity. In the presence of gravity, acceleration, and rotation, it makes a huge difference who is moving and who is not; who has a low mass and who has a high mass. Therefore, for the earth to orbit around the sun is NOT the same as for the sun to orbit around the earth. Any attempt to equate them is nothing but a mistake in the understanding of the theory of relativity.

For example: When placing an item on a fast rotating disk, the item flies out and falls off. If the the disk were to be stationary and the entire world were to spin around it, the item would not fly and would not fall off. There is a significant difference between who is moving and who is stationary. Because of the rotation, special relativity is not applicable.

The theory of relativity is such a difficult subject, that even Einstein's own students had difficulties understanding it. Hans Reichenbach included the embarrassing mistake in his book, even though he learned the theory of relativity personally from Einstein by attending his lectures. In later years, many philosophers and scientists misunderstood, like Reichenbach, the theory of relativity, and published mistaken conclusions. Common sense and classical logic only get in the way and prevent understanding of the theory of relativity. Unfortunately, Rabbinical authorities also copied the mistakes, not realizing that they were based on lack of understanding of the theory of relativity.

One of the fundamental tenets of the theory of relativity is that nothing can move faster than the speed of light. Even scientists have difficulties understanding this limit. If we shoot a bullet forward at speed V from a plane flying at speed V, then, the speed of the bullet is V+V=2V. Plain common sense. But, if we assume that the speed of the plane and the speed of the bullet are the speed of light C, then, the flying speed of the bullet is C, not 2C. At the speed of light: C+C=C. At a speed of half the speed of light: 0.5C+0.5C=0.8C. Simple logic and common sense do not work in the theory of relativity. Understanding this subject requires a lot of study and specialization.

The attempt to introduce relativity into the discussion also involves a serious built-in contradiction. If we try to fix the earth at the center and let the stars, outside the solar system, orbit around the earth once per year, all the stars of the universe will have to move at a speed greater than the speed of light, because of their distance. If we try to fix the earth at the center and allow the planets to orbit around the earth once per day, then also Neptune and the farther planets, in addition to the stars outside the solar system, will have to move at a speed greater than the speed of light. So, is relativity applicable or not? We cannot choose one half of relativity which is convenient to the argument and ignore the other half. From here we learn that the Greek theory, as if the earth is stationary at the center and all the stars orbit around it, stands in stark contradiction to the theory of relativity.

Here is the exact description of who orbits around whom:

The sun and the planets together form a system which has a certain point in space as the system's center of mass. This point is inside the sun, but is not exactly at its center. All the planets and the center of the sun orbit around this center-of-mass point. When we say that the planets orbit around the sun we mean that they orbit around the center-of-mass point which is inside the sun.

The orbit period, in years, of each of the planets is: Mercury - 0.24, Venus - 0.62, Earth - 1., Mars - 1.88, Jupiter - 11.86, Saturn - 29.46, Uranus - 84.01, Neptune - 164.8

The average distance from the sun, in millions of kilometers, of each of the planets is: Mercury - 58, Venus - 108, Earth - 150, Mars - 228, Jupiter - 779, Saturn - 1434, Uranus - 2873, Neptune - 4495. The closest star outside the solar system is Alpha Centauri  at a distance of 4.2 light years - 9,500,000 millions of kilometers.

The following animations (courtesy Wikimedia Commons) demonstrate three examples of orbits around a center-of-mass point.

1. The relative motion of two stars with equal mass.
(This condition does not exist in the solar system)

2. The relative motion of the earth and the moon (not to scale)

3. The relative motion of the sun and the earth (not to scale)

This drawing shows the sun and the planets which orbit around the sun.
Relative sizes are correct, but, the distances to the sun are not shown to scale.
Showing the distances to scale would require a screen which is 300 meters long.

Occasionally Venus transits between planet earth and the sun.
This photograph was taken through a telescope. It shows Venus
(dark circle) in front of the sun. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Sunset on Mars. Photographed by the Mars Exploration Rover
which landed on Mars in 2005. (Source: NASA).

The surface of Mars looks like the surface of earth.
Photographed by the Mars Exploration Rover
which landed on Mars in 2005. (Source: NASA).

The arrow points to planet earth on the background of sunshine  in the sky of Mars.
Photographed by the Mars Exploration Rover which landed on Mars in 2005 (Source: NASA).
To an observer on earth, Mars looks like a star in earth's sky.
To an observer on Mars, earth looks like a star in Mars's sky.

Is the Earth Flat or Spherical?

The theory that the earth is flat is as old as ancient history. Members of the "Flat Earth Society" believe up until today that the earth is flat. They believe that airplanes flying around the earth are really flying in a circle like a fly around a pizza pie. They call missions to space a hoax, and they don't believe the stories of astronauts who observed earth from the moon, seeing how the spherical earth spins around its axis in a 24-hours cycle.

The ancient Greek philosophers debated whether the earth is flat or spherical. Aristotle wrote that the earth must be shaped like a sphere. He based it on observations of the shape of the shadow cast by the earth on the moon during a lunar eclipse. A spherical shadow could be cast only by a spherical earth, not by a flat earth. Another observation which indicated that the earth is spherical, not flat, was the slow disappearance of boats in the see once they approached the horizon. The Rambam acknowledged that the earth being spherical is a proven fact [16].

We find the same debate among Chazal. The view of the Zohar was already presented above. In the Talmud Yerushalmi [17] and in Midrash Rabba [18] we also find that the earth is shaped like a sphere. In the Talmud Bavli we find some indications of the belief that the earth is flat. In Psachim, p.94b, we find a discussion about the movement of the sun. The Gemara states that fountain waters at night are warmer than by day because the sun warms up the water during the night from underneath the earth. (An analogy taken from fire heating up water in a pot from underneath the pot.) This is used as evidence to support the opinion of the gentile scientists that the sun is traveling under the earth at night. In Chagigah p.12b we find a discussion about the number of support columns on which the earth stands. Opinions on the number of columns vary, but everyone agrees that the earth stands on columns [19]. (Probably an analogy taken from a flat table standing on legs.) How are the columns supported? What do they stand on?

In the Talmud Yerushalmi we find only one hint to the flat earth theory through a mention of the thickness of the earth [20].

Hundreds of pictures of earth taken from outer space show that the earth is a sphere, not flat. There are no columns in any of the pictures. The following picture shows the earth and the moon as seen from mars (courtesy NASA). Only the side illuminated by the sun is visible.

Today, even those who still believe in the Greek's imaginative model of the solar system, as described by the Rambam, have accepted the scientific evidence that the earth is not flat, but shaped like a sphere. Some of those believers have also accepted that the earth spins around its axis once every 24 hours. What some believers are not yet willing to accept is that the earth and all the planets orbit around the sun, and not the sun and the planets around the earth.


The Rambam, more than anyone else, acknowledged the influence of the Greek philosophy on the scientific information recorded in the Jewish religious literature. Today we all know that the Greek theories were based on nothing but imagination.

Sefer HaZohar provides us with the earliest recorded evidence of the Jewish Torah knowledge that the earth is a sphere - not flat - and that it spins around its axis every 24 hours. Similarly, the Meiri teaches us that David HaMelech already knew that the sun is at the center of the solar system and the earth, together with the other planets, orbit around it.

Every Rabbi who learned the Zohar and the Meiri knows that according to the Torah the earth is a sphere, not flat, and that the sun is at the center of the solar system, not the earth. Unfortunately, the political domination of those who learn only the Gemara and the Rambam prevents those who also learn the Zohar and the Meiri from openly expressing what they know.

The best proof that deep in their heart everyone accepts the scientific model of the world (sun at the center), comes to light every Friday evening. The time of sunset on Friday evening is critical to the determination of the beginning of Shabbat. Is there anyone in the world who knows how to calculate, years in advance, based on the Greek model of the world (earth at the center), the correct times of candle-lighting and sunset in any location in the world? Rabbis and non-Rabbis alike, all around the globe, including those who openly reject modern science, when they need to find out these exact times, they look at the times published in their local Jewish calendar. All these times are determined by SCIENTIFIC calculations which are based on the SCIENTIFIC model of the world.

The same is true for spontaneous generation of life. Louis Pasteur proved that the ancient theory of spontaneous generation is wrong. Based on that, he invented the sterilization of food and medical equipment. Sterilization works only because spontaneous generation does not exist. When we eat old food from a sterilized container, or take a sterile medicine, we all trust the sterilization. We know that bacteria and worms will not spontaneously appear in there, even if air is left in the container. If Rabbis of recent generations really believed in spontaneous generation of life, they would have prohibited eating old food from sterilized containers. Needless to say, nobody issued such a prohibition. By eating such food, they demonstrate, without saying it, that deep in their heart they know that spontaneous generation of life does not exist. Besides, if spontaneous generation of life was possible, there would be no need to bring all the creatures into Noah's Ark. They could have been regenerated after the flood.

In summary - be it the procreation of life only from existing parents as described in Bereshit; the orbiting of the earth and the planets around the sun as described in Tehilim; or the spinning of the spherical earth around its axis as described in Sefer HaZohar - the ancient Jewish (not Greek) Torah knowledge of science is fully validated by and is in perfect harmony with modern science.

  1. דתניא: צבוע זכר לאחר שבע שנים נעשה עטלף, עטלף לאחר שבע שנים נעשה ערפד, ערפד לאחר ז' שנים נעשה קימוש, קימוש לאחר שבע שנים נעשה חוח, חוח לאחר שבע שנים נעשה שד, שדרו של אדם לאחר שבע שנים נעשה נחש. (בבא קמא טז, א). קמקמה מיתעביד חו רב. פדה חד אפר מיתעביד שר מומיתא דרישא מתעביד עקרב. ודמניא שממי. תולעתא דסוסיא מתעבדא אירעו. ודתורתא דברי. צבוע הזכר נעשה נקבה. עכברא דטורא מתעביד חזיר בר. שיזרתא דנינא מתעביד נדל. ודבר נשא חיוי. (תלמוד ירושלמי, שבת, פרק א' ה'ג).
  2. וכלל גדול כללו חכמינו: "קבל האמת ממי שאמרה" (רב האי גאון, נכתב ע"י תלמידו - ר' מצליח אבן אל-בצק). ושמע האמת ממי שאמרה. (רמב"ם, הקדמה למסכת אבות).
  3. כל דבר שנתגלה טעמו ונודעה אמיתתו בראיות שאין בהם דופי, אין סומכין על זה האיש שאמרו או שלימדו, אלא על הראיה שנתגלתה והטעם שנודע. (רמב"ם, הלכות קדוש החודש, יז, כד).
  4. כי לא יחויב שיהיו לנביא כל הדעות האמתיות בענין סודות המציאות. רלב"ג (רבי לוי בן גרשון) פירושי התורה, ביאור דברי הספור, בראשית טו, ד
  5. ואל תבקשני לתאם כל מה שאמרו מענייני התכונה עם המצב כפי שהוא, לפי שהמדעים באותו הזמן היו חסרים, ולא דברו בכך משום שיש להם מסורת באותם הדברים מן הנביאים, אלא מצד שהם ידעני אותם הדורות באותם המקצועות, או שמעום מידעני אותם הדורות. מורה נבוכים, חלק ג, פרק יד
  6. ואל יהא מוזר בעיניך שהשקפת ארסטו חולקת על השקפת חכמים ז"ל בזה, כי השקפה זו כלומר אם יש להן קולות נספחת לדעה גלגל קבוע ומזלות חוזרים וכבר ידעת שהכריעו השקפת חכמי אומות העולם על השקפתם בענינים הללו של התכונה, והוא אמרם בפירוש "ונצחו חכמי אומות העולם". וזה נכון, כי הדברים העיוניים לא דבר בהם כל מי שדבר אלא כפי שהביאו אליו העיון, ולפיכך צריך לסבור מה שנתקיימה ההוכחה עליו. רמב"ם, מורה נבוכים ב, ח
  7. אברהם בן הרמב"ם, במאמר על דרשות חז"ל, אמר: אין להאמין בדבר רק בגלל אומרו ... לא נתחייב מפני גודל מעלת חכמי התלמוד ותכונתם לשלמות תכונתם בפירוש התורה ובדקדוקיה ויושר אמריהם בביאור כלליה ופרטיה, שנטען להם ונעמיד דעתם בכל אמריהם ברפואות ובחכמת הטבע והתכונה, [ולהאמין] אותן כאשר נאמין אותן בפירוש התורה... אתה רואה החכמים, במה שלא נתברר להם מדרך סברתם ומשאם ומתנם, אומרים: "האלהים, אילו אמרה יהושע בן נון לא צייתיה ליה". כלומר לא הייתי מאמין ביה, ואע"פ שהוא נביא, כיון שאין בידו יכולת להודיע העניין בכוונה מדרך הסברא והמשא והמתן, והדרכים שבהם ניתן התלמוד להידרש... כי האדם כשישליך מעל פניו השקר ויקיים האמת ויכריענו לאמיתו ויחזור בו מדעתו כשיתבאר לו הפכה אין ספק כי קדוש הוא. והנה נתבאר לנו כי החכמים ז"ל אינם מעיינים הדעות ולא מביטים אותם אלא מצד אמיתתם ומצד ראיותיהם לא מפני האומר אותו יהיה מי שיהיה.
  8. צריכין אנן למימר לכון, דרבנן לאו אסותא אינון, ומילין בעלמא דחזונין בזמניהון וכחד חד קצירא אמרונין, ולא דברי מצוה אינון. הילכך, לא תסמכון על אילין אסותא, וליכא דעביד מינהון מידעם, אלא בתר דמבדיק וידע בוודאי מחמת רופאים בקיאים דההיא מילתא לא מעיקה לה, וליכא דליתי נפשיה לגבי סכנה, והכין אגמרו יתנא ואמרו לנא אבות וסבי דילנא, דלא למעבד מן אילין אסותא אלא מאי דאיתיה, כגון קיבלא דקים ליה לההוא דעביד ליה דלית ביה עקתא. וכולהי מילי לא צריכינא לפרושנון וטעמי ליכא לגלואינון, אלא מילי דחזיננא דעמיקן עליכון התם. (אוצר הגאונים, גיטין סח/ב, חלק התשובות עמ' 52, תשובת רב שרירא גאון. מועתק מתוך "המחלוקת בהלכה", לקט מקורות, כרך ב' עמ' 967). תרגום לעברית: וששאלתם לכתוב לכם אותן רפואות של "מי אחזו קורדיקוס" (במסכת גיטין) מן "רב ושמואל" עד פסקי המשנה, איך קבלוהו ופירושו בלשון הגויים. צריכים אנחנו לומר לכם, שדברי חכמים אלו אינם רפואות, ודברים מן העולם הם, שראו בזמנם, ורק בחולה אחד אמרום, ולא דברי מצוה הם. לכן לא תסמכו על רפואות אלו, ואין מי שעושה מהם מאומה, אלא רק לאחר שבדק וידע בוודאי מדברי רופאים בקיאים שאותו דבר לא יזיק לו, ואין מי שיביא עצמו בסכנה, וכך לימדנונו ואמרו לנו אבותינו ואבות אבותינו, שלא לעשות מאותן רפואות אלא מי שיש, כגון "קיבלא", שידוע לו למי שעושה את הדבר שאין בו מיחוש. וכל אותם דברים אינם צריכים שיפרשום, ואין טעמים לגלותם, אלא רק אותם דברים שראינו שקשים עבורכם שם
  9. בכמה מקומות ביארנו שבאותם הזמנים היו העם נמשכים אחר דברים המוניים כלחשים ונחשים ופעולות המוניות, וכל שלא היה בהם סרך עבודה זרה ודרכי האמורי לא חששו בהם חכמים לעקרם, וכל שכן במה שהיה הרגלות אצלם בו כל כך שהיה טבעם מקבל בענין חזוק או חולשה וכמו שהעידו בסוגיה זו דקפיד קפדינן ליה, דלא קפיד לא קפדינן ליה וממין דברים אלו שהיו רגילים להזהר מן הזוגות, וכשתקנו חכמים ארבע כוסות שלא לגרוע או להוסיף מצד אותם ההבלים, הוצרכו לרוב רגילותם לתת טעם לדבריהם והוא שאמרו ליל שמורים הוא לילה המשומר ובא מן המזיקין... כבר ביארנו שלא הותרה הרצועה בלחשים אלא בדברים המונים שאין בהם סרך עבודה זרה...
  10. חכמי ישראל אומרים ביום חמה מהלכת למטה מן הרקיע ובלילה למעלה מן הרקיע וחכמי אומות העולם אומרים ביום חמה מהלכת למטה מן הרקיע ובלילה למטה מן הקרקע א"ר ונראין דבריהן מדברינו שביום מעינות צוננין ובלילה רותחין. פסחים, צד, ב
  11. אמר שמואל נהירין לי שבילי דשמיא כשבילי דנהרדעא לבר מכוכבא דשביט דלא ידענא מאי ניהו. ברכות, נח, ב
  12. ובהיותי בק"ק וילנא המעטירה, אצל הרב המאור הגדול, הגאון מאיר עיני הגולה, החסיד המפורסם מו"ר אליהו נ"י, בחודש טבת שנת תקל"ח, שמעתי מפיו הקדוש, כי כפי שיחסר לאדם ידיעת שארי החכמות, לעומת זה יחסרו לו מאה ידות בחכמת התורה הקדושה, כי התורה והחכמה צמודים יחד. וציווה לי להעתיק מה שאפשר ללשוננו הקדושה מן החכמות וכו' ישוטטו רבים ותרבה הדעת בין עמנו ישראל, ותסור לשון לאומים אשר כשאון מים רבים ישאון לעומתנו, 'איפה חכמתכם', ונמצא שם שמים מתחלל. (ר' ברוך שיק משקלוב, בהקדמתו לספר "אוקלידוס" )
  13. כה אמר (הגר"א): כל החכמות נצרכים לתורתנו הקדושה, וכלולים בה. וידעם כולם לתכליתם (עד סוף הידוע לנו), והזכירם: אלגברה, ומשולשים (גיאומטריה), והנדסה, וחכמת המוסיקה, ושיבחה הרבה. הוא היה אומר אז כי רוב טעמי תורה וסודות שירי הלויים וסודות תיקוני זוהר אי אפשר לידע בלעדה. ( ר' ישראל שיק משקלוב, בהקדמה לספרו 'פאת השולחן')
  14. פירושים למשנה - חולין, פ'ט, מ'ו: רמב"ם: "מציאות בעל חיים כזה דבר מתמיה ולא נודעת בו טענה (אין לו הסבר) בשום פנים". ר' עובדיה מברטנורא: "יש מין עכבר שאינו פרה ורבה אלא מעצמו נוצר מן האדמה כאשפה המשרצת תולעים. ואם עדיין לא נשלמה בריאת העכבר אלא מצדו אחד הימני או השמאלי, הנוגע בבשר טמא, באדמה שכנגדו טהור". מלאכת שלמה: "מין אדמה יש המשריץ עכברים". תפארת ישראל: "מין עכבר שאינו פרה ורבה, רק גדל מן הארץ". רש"י, גמרא חולין, קכו, ע'ב: "יש מין עכבר - שאינו פרה ורבה אלא מעצמו נוצר מאדמה כאשפה המשרצת תולעים ואם עדיין לא נברא העכבר אלא צדו אחד הימני או השמאלי הנוגע בבשר טמא באדמה שכנגדו טהור".
  15. י ... הוא אמרו (דוד המלך, תהילים, יט, ח) "תורת ה' תמימה" על מה שסמך לזה ענין רומז בו על תכונת הגלגלים, רוצה לאמר שבעה כוכבי לכת היות השמש באמצע, באמרו (תהילים, יט, ה): "לשמש שם אהל בהם", והוא דבר נבוכו בו גדולי החכמים עד היום, ואמר שנתגלה לו זה דרך קבלה ועדות ברורה ונאמנה מפי התורה, כמו שנרמז בתכונת כלי הקדש, אע"פ שנעלם זה ממנו אולי מצד העיון, והפליג על זה בשבח התורה איך היא תמימה, רוצה לאמר שלמה ומוציאה לאור כל תעלומה. (המאירי, פתיחה לבית הבחירה)
  16. וכבר התבאר במופת שהארץ כדורית. (מורה נבוכים, ח'א, פ'עג, הקדמה עשירית)
  17. כדור - שהעולם עשוי ככדור. א"ר יונה אלכסנדרוס מוקדון כד בעא מיסק לעיל והוה סלק וסלק סלק עד שראה את העולם ככדור ואת הים כקערה. (תלמוד ירושלמי , עבודה זרה פ"ג ה"א)
  18. מזרק אחד כסף, כנגד העולם שהוא עשוי ככדור הנזרק מיד ליד. (מדרש רבה, במדבר, פרשת נשא, פרק יג)
  19. הארץ על מה עומדת, על העמודים, שנאמר המרגיז ארץ ממקומה ועמודיה יתפלצון, עמודים על המים, שנאמר לרוקע הארץ על המים, מים על ההרים, שנאמר על הרים יעמדו מים, הרים ברוח, שנאמר כי הנה יוצר הרים ובורא רוח, רוח בסערה, שנאמר רוח סערה עושה דברו, סערה תלויה בזרועו של הקב"ה, שנאמר ומתחת זרועות עולם. וחכמים אומרים על י"ב עמודים עומדת, שנאמר יצב גבולות עמים למספר בני ישראל, ויש אומרים ז' עמודים, שנאמר חצבה עמודיה שבעה, ר"א בן שמוע אומר על עמוד אחד וצדיק שמו, שנאמר וצדיק יסוד עולם. (חגיגה, יב, ע'ב)
  20. וכשם שעוביו של רקיע מהלך חמשים שנה, כך עוביה של ארץ ועוביו של תהום מהלך חמשים שנה (תלמוד ירושלמי, ברכות, פ'א ה'א, דף ד, ע'ב)
  21. טענות של השתנות הטבע.

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