THE CONVERGENCE OF KABBALA AND SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT
A REVIEW OF THE BOOK SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT IN MESSIANIC TIMES BY PROFESSOR SHIMON SILMAN
By Rabbi Dovi Reichman, J.D.
Finally, religion is on the offensive. Science not only does not debunk religion, quite on the contrary, it helps us understand and prepare for the coming of Moshiach, as Professor Shimon Silman, Professor of Mathematics at Touro College and Founder/Director of the RYAL Institute, asserts in his new book Scientific Thought in Messianic Times.
Kabbala calls it “Unification.” Science calls it “The Theory of Everything.” But regardless of the disparate nomenclature, the two terms represent the epicentre of both Kabbalistic and (current) scientific thought. Science is finally coming around to support the mainstay of Kabbalistic and Chassidic thought.
Myriads of books and articles have been published attempting to explain – to various degrees of success – why science does not conflict, contradict, or disprove religion. Science used to be, and is still considered by many, a foe of religion and everything Divine. Religion has seemingly been on the defensive since time immemorial; even the Rambam, living in the 12th century, had to respond to challenges made by advocates of the scientific disciplines.
Professor Silman, turning the tables on religion bashers, shows how science is currently coming of age and is rapidly trending in the direction of actually proving the central theme of Kabbala and Jewish Mysticism—the absolute unity of G-d. Not that Kabbala needs support or approbation from science, quite to the contrary. But showing how science supports the central notion of kabbala, and furthermore, prepares us for the raison d’etre of our existence—the coming of Moshiach—is, for the understatement of this millennium, revolutionary.
The book’s title Scientific Thought in Messianic Times should not frighten away science-phobes. In fact, everyone, from the layman with no prior scientific knowledge, to the advanced theoretical physicist, from the scholar of Judaism to the neophyte, will find many chapters of interest in this 721 page opus.
The book begins with a detailed overview of the identity, personality, and function of Moshiach, extensively referenced with citations ranging from Talmudic and Midrashic, to Kabbalistic and Chassidic sources. It also gives comprehensive contextual “Cliff notes” in both Chassidus and science necessary for understanding the central concepts discussed in the book. Concepts such as the rationale of mitzvos and tzimtzum, the role of axioms, Euclidian geometry, and quantum mechanics are elucidated and explained in terms accessible to every reader.
Professor Silman does not shy away from controversial issues. Major questions relating to Torah and Science are dissected and analyzed. Issues such as proving the scientific viability of creation while exposing the theory of evolution for the sham it is, are tackled head on. The tentativeness and non-absoluteness of scientific theories are also explicated in clear and unambiguous terms.
The fulcrum of the book is the lectures given at the annual Moshiach and Science Conference of the RYAL Institute. The conference, as well as the publishing of the lectures given there, was encouraged by the Rebbe. Lecture notes and essays from well known Jewish scientists such as Professor Alvin Radkowsky a”h (nuclear physicist and chief scientist at the U.S. Navy nuclear propulsion division), Dr. Tzvi Yehuda Saks a’’h (internationally renowned topologist with the IBM Corporation), and Dr. Naftali Berg a’’h (director of the Advanced Technology Office of the U.S. Army), and many others are included.
And given the fact that the RYAL institute was founded to preserve the memory of R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib Schneersohn, the Rebbe’s brother, a full chapter is devoted to giving a detailed biographical sketch of this man who fused a profound understanding of Chassidus with tremendous mathematical insight and creativity.
Bifurcated into different chapters, Silman first demonstrates how science, across a wide range of disciplines, is moving towards transforming military technology initially developed for battle and bloodshed into tools of peace, health, and prosperity, thus actualizing Isaiah’s prophecy of “turning swords into ploughshares.”
But even more avant-garde, the author then shows how the current scientific vogue, with “string theory” and “the theory of everything” being the all the rage, actually prepares us for the Messianic era! In the Messianic era we will see the unity of G-d, and these theories give us a mindset of unity of the entire universe! The book concludes with an impressive and inspiring view of the nature of science in the era of Moshiach.
This book is obviously not exclusively for those who are passionate about science, or only for those who anticipate the imminent coming of Moshiach. It is for anybody who is ready for a fresh, profound, and novel vision of a world that we are all currently living in, and the world which we will soon see! If you are ready to view reality, Moshiach, and the Torah from a fresh, enriching, and true perspective, this book is for you.