Reb Albert Einstein wrote:

But 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…It is beyond question closely akin to that [awe] which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.” [1]

In medieval Western philosophy, there were 4 “proofs” of G-d, of which only one remains. Put simply:  The obvious order in the universe (i.e. to Creation), strongly suggests an intentional design, which then almost irresistibly implies a “Designer.”

It’s this “proof” to which Einstein refers.

Speaking as a “scientist,” he affirms and endorses the “orderliness” of Creation. For him, this is born out by scientific investigation. Inquiry reveals Order.

For example: What Ecology teaches about how every single detail of a natural environment is inter-related is a never-ending source of amazement. There’s absolutely nothing random!   

Einstein says that this produces in the scientist a “rapturous amazement.”

More than once, he famously said (in variant forms):

 “…G-d doesn’t play dice with the world [or universe].” [2]

For which his friend, physicist Niels Bohr, supposedly once chided him, “How would you know?”

Bohr wasn’t being crass. Rather, he wittily parried Einstein’s certainty with conventional scientific uncertainty: Can we be sure that we know what we think we know? How? Are we G-d?

“The human mind searches for knowledge, it toils with great effort and assiduity to discover a truth. It explores and experiments, it analyzes and synthesizes, before it realizes a law of nature. It obtains wisdom only step by step, bit by bit, after much drudgery and speculation. And even when truth is apparently established, its future remains uncertain. It is subject to change through the greater efforts of keener human minds, who may consider the same phenomena from a different angle and therefore interpret them in a different light.” [3]

On the other hand, the “religious genius,” the prophet, the one who receives spiritual knowing, is nothing if not certain:

“Surely G-d is in this place and I didn’t know it.” [4]

So yes, the “awe” that a scientist can feel at the apparent orderliness of things can resemble, even parallel “yirat Ha-Shem” — the “awe of G-d” that a “religious genius” such as a prophet might feel. But “Certainty” is where the scientist parts ways with the prophet; where Einstein parts ways (as it were) with  Mosheh.

Why should that be? Why can’t the scientist become the prophet?

Because the source of the knowledge itself is different. The source of scientific knowledge is the human intellect. The source of spiritual knowledge is the Divine revealed as Present to, with, in, and around us: 

“When the Divine Mind transmits a truth to man, be it pertaining to the laws of nature [for how often does “scientific” knowledge come from inspiration?], or to man’s own conduct, or to his social organization, or the aesthetic realm, it comes without any effort on the part of man. Man then becomes the receiver, not the seeker of Truth…the Divine Mind appears in a flash, It overwhelms the human mind, staggers its logic, and strikes all its faculties with conviction.” [5] 

So, yes, as Reb Einstein says, the scientist can feel true “yirah.”

But it’s from David and Shlomo that we learn: “Yirah” is only the beginning of wisdom.

The prophet — man or woman — spiritually sees the same “orderliness” in him/her-self and in the events of his/her life, as the scientist sees in the natural laws of the universe. 

The scientist might be amazed at the orderliness he or she sees, but the spiritual heart hears:

“Take your shoes off…you’re on holy ground.” [6]


[1] Einstein, Albert; The World As I See It;  The Citadel Press, Secaucus, NJ, © 1934, p.29 ( “The Religiousness of Science”)
[2] Hermanns, William; Einstein and the Poet; p. 58 (quoting a 1943 conversation between the author and Einstein)
[3]  Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris; Jewish Science and Health; Society of Jewish Science, © 1925; p. 31
[4] B’reishith/Gen. 28:16
[5] Lichtenstein; Jewish Science and Health; p. 31
[6] Sh’mot/Ex. 3:5