Scientific Discovery and Revelation

    Scientific Discovery and Revelation

by Rabbi Rick Brody

There is so much wonderful work being done to fashion a new Jewish theology that takes scientific knowledge seriously and celebrates the majesty it reveals.

There is holiness in knowledge just as there is holiness in mystery. That which we do not know an be a source of awe, but we need to be careful not to confuse the power of “mystery” with scientific knowledge we have not yet learned. We don’t want a “God of the Gaps” that gets smaller and smaller the more we discover but rather a God of indescribable awe at all the things we can and do (as well as can’t and don’t) learn and discover. Beholding mystery is a radically different kind of knowing that can’t be taught but must be lived and experienced.

All discovery can be revelation, a standing at Mt. Sinai in the awesome and awe-inspiring, all-encompassing glory of the Source of Creation. It’s no accident that Moses ascended a mountain and that the Israelites heard (and saw!) thunder. The grandeur of natural phenomena were (and are) inextricably linked to our ever-growing knowledge of the Divine.

While Rabbinic Judaism celebrates the learning that happens over a text in a beit midrash (study hall), usually over the written word, we mustn’t forget that all Torah (the blueprint for the entire created world, according to the mystics) first came outdoors, in an unadulterated, unmediated communion within nature. Every new insight that occurs during traditional Jewish learning or prayer and every new discovery that occurs in a laboratory links us back to that multi-sensory peak experience of transformative Divine knowing and guidance that occurred at the foot of a mountain. That mythic mountain continues to tremble at each new contribution of scientific knowledge. May we listen closely not just to the content of what we keep learning about the world but also to the kolot—the thunderous echoes of Divinity—that reverberate during this never-ending process of Revelation.

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