November 20, 2018

The Torah Is Not a Science Textbook

“Within the Jewish tradition, there have been many attempts to reconcile the Torah’s account of creation with scientific and philosophic conceptions. Such an approach is misconceived because the Torah is not a scientific, philosophic, or historical document. The Torah is a religious document intended to give, in the main, moral and spiritual guidance how to live.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook writes regarding the creation story:

Concerning the opinions of modern, academic research, the majority of which contradict the plain meaning of the Torah, my opinion in this matter is that…even though there is no necessary truth reflected in such research, in any case we are not obligated at all to deny such research and to oppose it because it is not the essence of the Torah at all to tell us simple facts and events that occurred. The essence is the internal, the internal explanations of the matters.

Rabbi Kook, a 20th-century Jewish mystic, is arguing here that only on a superficial level does the Torah record stories and events. The essence of the Torah, for Rabbi Kook, is what he calls “the internal” – by which he means its deeper moral, spiritual, and mystical teachings.”

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