An edited excerpt from this week’s Temple Talks follows below.
Should there be limits on what we should do or study? Are there questions we should not investigate or ask? What are you going to say when I tell you I know why this is true? Let’s say science could tell you, from an evolutionary standpoint, why there is yetzer hara (evil inclination) and yetzer hatov (good inclination). Is that going to diminish it for you?
I read the Yuval Harari books, Sapiens & Homo Deus. As I was reading them I thought, wow this guy is really pulling apart the universe into its component parts. He wants to explain scientific rationalizations for everything. When I finished it, I was both incensed and really mobilized. I was jazzed up. When I read it I thought, huh, yeah you do think that…but you’re wrong! There was something inside me that was arguing with his very practical consideration of everything.
So my answer to your question would be, no, we should not stop analyzing. There should not be limits. Keep doing it! But always have one eye on the people that have faith in certain aspects that might be unanalyzable. I don’t think it’s a problem. I think it’s good when scientists and theologians sit down together. In fact, it might be the only solution for the planet’s problems because if we look at what’s being done environmentally to this world, and we look at it only from a scientific standpoint, I’m not sure that’s going to suffice.
Right, in fact we know it’s not. We know, for example, with all the misinformation that we’re experiencing now, that just giving people more facts is not the answer. We need to understand something about them as human beings and where they’re coming from. Science can help with some of that, but cultural and religious understandings need to come into play as well to understand where people are.
That answers your question, doesn’t it? Don’t limit what can be studied, but also don’t put all your marbles in that basket.
I come into a similar conflict all the time. I go to services and read the liturgy, and we say things like “who causes the sun to rise in the morning and the moon at night.” First of all, it’s factually incorrect because the moon is up during the day as well, not just during the night. And we know why the sun rises and sets. Then there’s other things like, “who can count the stars?” Well, I can.
You can and you have!
So I have to just sort of relax, because the language means other things. And we have to simultaneously be people and be these analytic creatures that are trying to understand in this other way.
Welcome to Temple Talks, a new podcast from Temple Israel in Minneapolis, where Jewish wisdom meets our ever-changing world. Join us as we talk with our favorite partners and thought leaders, from around town and around the world. We hope these talks will inspire you, challenge you, and give us all new ideas about Judaism, religious life, and social justice. Join us for services, learning, and community at TempleIsrael.com.
What is Temple Talks?
Welcome to Temple Talks, the podcast of Temple Israel in Minneapolis, where Jewish wisdom meets our ever-changing world. Join us as we talk with our favorite partners and thought leaders, from around town and around the world. We hope these talks will inspire you, challenge you, and give us all new ideas about Judaism, religious life, and social justice. Join us for services, learning, and community at TempleIsrael.com.
Join the conversation with Rabbi Zimmerman, Rabbi Klein, Rabbi Hartman, Rabbi Moss, and Cantor Abelson.
Join us for services, learning, and community at TempleIsrael.com.
We welcome questions and comments directed to TMoss@templeisrael.com