This piece revisits something I discussed in a previous post: A sequence of ideas about God that connects “scientific” thinking with Torah teachings. [1]

In that post, which was based on a sermon I gave on Rosh Ha-Shanah 2017, I pointed out that many people have difficulty believing in God because such a belief contradicts what Science explains about how the universe works. 

It’s true, of course, that some — perhaps many — scientists deny the existence of God altogether. For example, the late Stephen Hawking said:

“I believe the simplest explanation is [that] there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.” [2]

Yet, others among the greatest scientists — Newton and Einstein, for example — had some sort of belief in God:

“Sir Isaac Newton, for example, said:

‘This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.’ [3]

He believed that God created everything with a plan, but that creation then proceeded on its own.

Albert Einstein believed in God, too:

‘God is a mystery. But a comprehensible mystery. I have nothing but awe when I observe the laws of nature. There are not laws without a lawgiver…’ [4]

He even expressed feeling an ‘awe’ in contemplating ‘the harmony of natural law’ that he compared favorably to the religious awe felt by ‘religious geniuses [and prophets] of all ages’:

‘…the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation…His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages’ [5].” [1]

But, as pointed out by Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein, both men — and many others — err because they confuse human creation with Divine creation:

“…the human mind is outside [of] and apart from the thing it creates, while the Divine Mind is within it and inseparable from it.” [6]

Precisely the same point is made by the Ba’al ha-Tanya — Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady (also called “The Alter Rebbe”),  the founder of HaBaD Hasidut:

“[In Creation by the Divine] The Activating Force [כח/power] of the Creator must continuously [perpetually] be in the thing created…” [7

The Alter Rebbe uses the analogy of sunlight: From our viewpoint, sunlight and the sun are something separate, but in essence, sunlight can’t exist without the sun. Take away the sun, and there can be no sunlight. I’ve heard the same topic discussed using the analogy of a wave in the ocean: The wave is not something separate from the ocean, but is rather a momentary expression of the ocean’s essence — i.e. water. Take away the water and there can be no wave.

In my sermon and post, I indicated that Newton and Einstein weren’t “wrong” or “against Torah” in their belief. Rather, their belief was only a first step in understanding and experiencing God. Torah goes much further:

“Newton and Einstein (and others, of course) understood that God created the world.

However, our daily prayers tell us ‘ha’m’chadesh b’tu’vo b’chol yom tamid ma’a’seh v’rei’shith’ [8] — God not only created once, but renews the act of creation every day. If He didn’t, all would cease to exist.

Hasidut takes it even further: God is renewing the act of creation from moment to moment. In the few minutes I have been up here in front of you, God has created the world (universe) again and again, many times.

The prayerbook also tells us, based on the prophet Isaiah, ‘M’lo kol ha-aretz k’vo’do’ — ‘The whole world (universe) is filled with God’s Glory’ [9] and ‘K’vo’do maleh olam’ — ‘His Glory fills the world/universe’ [10].” [1]

I remembered an email exchange I had about 15 years ago with Yosef ben Shlomo, z”l. He was a Jewish teacher I’d known when he lived in New York City in the ’70’s and early ’80’s; he later moved to Israel. Online, I came across some comment he’d made about “The Big Bang” being the beginning of Creation. I didn’t know him by his Hebrew name, but emailed a response that “The Big Bang Theory” is not congruent with what Torah teaches, because according to our daily prayers (which he himself would be saying regularly), God is continually creating the Creation.

He found it a compelling point and said so in the response que. 

I did not take it a step further, but I do so here:

The “Big Bang Theory” posits a pellet of “infinite density,” with no empty space between the atomic particles that compose it, which explodes with such force that the entire universe is created almost instantly.

But who, or what, created the original pellet? Where did it come from?

As Rabbi Lichtenstein, Rabbi Shneur Zalman and others teach: There can be no “matter” — regardless of how small — that is in any way separate from the Divine, because the existence of matter is based on the Divine existence:

“There is no presence without [God’s] presence, there is no life without His life, there is no substance without His substance, there is no particle, no atom without Him at its very core.” [11]

“Matter is not something apart from divinity, but only the visible aspect of divinity…” [12]

Thus, even the “Big Bang Theory” is based on a limited view of God that is common in Science but supplanted in Torah by a far wider view. 

Rebbe Nachman of Breslav goes even further, stating that all science examines only a minute part of the entire Creation. This statement is no less valid today, even with the advances in Quantum Physics and String Theory:

“The true wisdom of the Kabalah begins where philosophy and science end. Philosophers and scientists can speculate only within the limits of the physical world. Their knowledge may reach as far as the stars and galaxies, but beyond that they know absolutely nothing. Even their theories about the physical world end in great confusion, as they themselves admit.
The wisdom of the Kabalah begins where their wisdom ends – beyond the physical world. The Kabalah includes the entire physical world as part of the World of Action (Asiyah), the lowest world. But the Kabalah then goes beyond the World of Action to the Worlds of Formation (Yetzirah), Creation (Beriyah) and Emanation (Atzilut).
Even the World of Action has its own interior spiritual level, of which the scientists and philosophers have no knowledge at all. The Kabalah is concerned with the spiritual root of the World of Action and beyond. Thus the Kabalah begins where scientific knowledge ends.
The philosophers and scientists think that all knowledge ends with the stars, but the entire system of the Kabalah deals with worlds and levels that are beyond the stars.
Yet even one who gains some understanding of the Kabalah, the true wisdom, must recognize that in the transcendental worlds there are likewise levels beyond levels, high above high, without end or limit, for ‘His greatness is unfathomable’ [13].[14]

I’d point out here that although “World of…” is used, it’s not meant to be understood as a “planet” or a “place.” Rather, the term describes various aspects or levels of our experience of God — from the most material (“Asiyah”) to the most spiritual (“Atzilut”). We might also say that the “4 Worlds” refer to different levels within our own consciousness. The “4 Worlds” are contained within each other (as is also true of the Sephirot). Thus, “Asiyah” — the entire Creation — is an infinitesimal point within “Yetzirah,” which is an infinitesimal point within “Beriyah” which is an infinitesimal point within “Atzilut.” In this model, the Creation in which we live — the entire universe and any additional dimensions — is a barely perceptible point in Atzilut — in God’s own existence. 

The extreme statement of belief is that nothing actually exists other than God:

“Do not say, ‘This is a stone and not G-d.’ G-d forbid! Rather, all existence is G-d, and the stone is a thing pervaded [and surrounded] by divinity.” [15]

The same in its Hasidic formulation:

“There [or: “It”] is nothing but Him alone; once again, all is G-d.” [16]

I therefore don’t believe that there’s a conflict between “Science” and “Torah,” at least as regards belief in God.

Rather, I see a sequence or “continuum” of “beliefs” about God:

1. There’s no God or Creator
2. There’s a Creator

     a. The Creator creates once, after which creation proceeds on its own, mechanically.
     b. The Creator is unconcerned with the well-being of the things created.
3. The Creator is always creating and re-creating.
4. The Creator is always within the things created. Creation is never separate from the Creator.
5. The field of human/Divine experience extends far beyond Creation.
6. Only the Creator actually “exists.” Everything else is a temporary expression of Divine existence.

Because I began with reference to the beliefs of Hawking, Newton and Einstein, this would be the appropriate order of beliefs. But the order is only arbitrary. In a different discussion, it could as easily be given in reverse.

Nor does this list mention Divine Goodness and Care for Creation, or our interaction with God. Perhaps I’ll refine this list to include those in the future.

Both systems can “believe” in God, but differ in what they believe about God. Of the two systems, Science at best accepts only the most preliminary level of “beliefs.”

There’s so much more! 




[3] Principia Mathematica, Book III; cited in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from his writings, p. 42, ed. H.S. Thayer; Hafner Library of Classics, NY; © 1953, p. 42

[4Hermanns, William; Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man; Branden Books; Brookline Village, MA; © 1983; p. 60

[5] Einstein, Albert; The Religiousness of Science: The World As I See It; The Citadel Press, Secaucus, NJ, © 1934, p.29

[6] Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris: Jewish Science and Health; © 1925, p. 9

[7] Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady; Tanya; © 1981 by Kehot Publication Society; p.291/292 (Sha’ar Ha-Yichud…ch. 2)

[8] Traditional siddur/prayerbook; in 1st blessing before the Shema (morning), based on Hagigah 12b

[9] Yishiyahu/Isa. 6:3; also part of the Kedusha in the traditional liturgy

[10] Traditional liturgy; Musaf Kedushah (based on Isa. 6:3)
(These three quotations from the liturgy also illustrate that the liturgy is designed as ideas about God which we are meant not only to recite, but upon which we’re meant to meditate until our view/understanding of Creation itself changes)

[11] Lichtenstein; p. 14

[12] ibid.; p. 17

[13] Tehilim/Ps. 145:3

[14] Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov; Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom; #225, p. 361; Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, trans.; no copyright date or publisher given in my edition, but currently might be published by Breslav Research Center
(note: The words I quoted appear in brackets in the printed text. It’s likely that these exact words were not said here by Rebbe Nachman, but were probably added by Rabbi Nathan or by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan., who annotated the current edition. Nevertheless, the words accurately reflect other statements made by and views of Rebbe Nachman. It’s interesting to point out that Rabbi Kaplan, z”l, was himself a Physicist).

[15Cordovero, Rabbi Mosheh; Shi’ur Komah; p. 206b (Modena ms.)

[16] Jay Michaelson (Everything is God) offers the above quote, but without a specific citation. “Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik Epstein (1770-1857)…rabbi of the town of Homel in White Russia for 58 years, was a leading figure in the first three generations of Chabad Chassidism.” (