The renowned American psychologist, Gordon Allport, once stated that as soon as scientific findings contradict concepts or ideas held in a given faith or religious scripture, that faith or scripture is no longer relevant. In this week’s Torah portion entitled VaEtchanan, Moshe continues his final address to the people before his departure and the beginning of the Jewish conquest of the land under Joshua. Moshe asserts, “And you shall keep [the commandments] and do [them], for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the peoples, who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Only this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deut. 4:6). We recall that this statement was made about 3,300 years ago. It’s rather marvelous to witness how science has come to validate this biblical verse. Let’s look at just a few examples.
The Torah commands that Jewish males be circumcised on the 8th day after birth. Science has found that Vitamin K is crucial to prevent a baby from bleeding to death G-d forbid. Amazingly, Vitamin K peaks specifically on the 8th day serving as protection from this danger. In another example, we see that the Torah commands Jewish males to wrap themselves in prayer phylacteries, known as Tefillin. A new study from the University of Cincinnati has discovered that this practice has many benefits for the cardiovascular system.
A kabbalist by the name of Rabbi Isaac of Acco who lived in the 13th and 14th centuries published a work wherein he used the concept of Jubilees in the Torah, and an idea found in the oral tradition that prior to creating this world G-d created and destroyed worlds, to make a calculation of the age of the universe. His calculations brought him to the conclusion that the universe is approximately 15.3 billion years old. Prior to the year 1999, scientists had estimated the universe to be somewhere between 7 and 20 billion years old. Incredibly, new findings have managed to come to a more accurate reading and have estimated the age to be somewhere closer to 13.8 billion years old. A rabbi who lived 700 years ago, using the Torah as his guide, was able to reach a conclusion that our best scientists have only just recently concluded.
Let’s consider one final example. During periods in history when plagues ran rampant, claiming scores of lives, losses amongst the Jewish population were statistically low. Why? During those periods, hygiene and cleanliness were not yet known to prevent the spread of diseases and germs. Jewish law required Jews to wash their hands after using the lavatories and prior to eating. Thus, the wisdom of the Torah prevented much loss of life.
As the years go by, and with new scientific findings, we are able to see the incredible relevance of the words of Moses. Why does the Torah say to circumcise on exactly the 8th day? The world can now recognize the wisdom in this instruction. The same can be said of Tefillin, washing hands, the age of the universe, and countless other areas as well. We have been bequeathed an incredible gift; our precious Torah. It is what ultimately will bring the nations to see the brilliance of our tradition and come to recognize the unity of all things. May we merit recognizing the wondrous gift we’ve been given and share its wisdom with the world.
– Rabbi Liad Braude