web analytics
January 30, 2015 / 10 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


‘Modern Science Is Discovering What The Torah Said Thousands Of Years Ago’: An Interview with Rabbi Yosef Bitton

Rabbi Yosef Bitton

Rabbi Yosef Bitton

The age of the universe. Fifteen billion or less than 6,000? The debate shows no signs of letting up in the Orthodox community.

One of the latest to toss his hat in the ring is Rabbi Yosef Bitton, formerly chief rabbi of Uruguay and today the head of a Syrian community in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. In his recently-published book, Awesome Creation: A Study of the First Three Verses of the Torah (Gefen), Rabbi Bitton scrutinizes the Torah’s words and those of Chazal, comparing and contrasting them with the latest scientific knowledge.

The Jewish Press: What kind of insights does your book offer on science and religion?

Rabbi Bitton: I examine, in depth, the first word of the Torah, “Bereishit.” As you know, the beginning of the universe was proven when scientists detected that the universe is expanding. So, in a sense, modern science is discovering what the first word of the Torah said thousands of years ago. I show that the prophets referred to the expansion of the universe when they said, “noteh shamayim,” that God stretches the heavens.

I also analyze every single word of the second verse of the Torah. I show that many translations reflect non-Jewish ideas. For example, “tohu vavohu” is usually translated as chaos even though this translation differs from how Chazal and most classic commentators understood these words. If you interpret “tohu vavohu” as chaos, you are in a sense following the Platonic view of creation. According to Plato, God was not the creator of the world but the one who put a chaotic universe into order.

Another example is “ruach Elokim.” It should not be interpreted as “spirit of God.” According to Chazal, Targum Onkelos, Maimonides, Radak, Ibn Ezra – practically all commentators – “ruach Elokim” means a physical wind. “Spirit of God” is a Christian concept that reflects the doctrine of the Trinity: the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.

Now, when you remove all these mistranslations, the second verse gives us an inventory of sorts of how the world looked in the beginning, and it’s very close to what modern science describes: a lifeless world, covered by water, with a dense and dark atmosphere.

How do you deal with the age of the universe?

I show that time was a consequence of the act of creation. Chazal said, “Kol ma’asei bereishit bekomotan nivra’u,” which means that all creation was created in a mature state. That mature state creates the illusion that things are older than they really are. For example, Chazal said that Adam Harishon was 20 years old when he was created. So five minutes after he was created Adam was, chronologically speaking, five minutes old. Nonetheless, he had the body of a 20-year-old man.

So if a scientist determines that the light of a certain star took several billion years to reach Earth, you would say that God created the world with that light already reaching Earth.

Yes, if I am a scientist and I try to track back creation – without considering the act of creation – then of course I will add billions of years to the equation. When scientists analyze and examine the world, they don’t consider an act of creation, which is the big difference between what the Torah says and what science says.

On the issue of dinosaur bones, surely God didn’t need to create a world with bones underground that appear to be millions of years old. Why would He mislead us?

I don’t want to refer to that right now. I’m planning to write another book on the appearance of life, evolution, and dinosaurs. In this book, I deal with the creation of the world as a structure, not with life – everything before life up to the fourth day.

You discuss the Big Bang in your book. I don’t think people realize how revolutionary this theory was in the history of science-religion debates.

Exactly. Popular knowledge has it that the Big Bang and creation are far apart, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. After thousands of years of holding the Aristotelian view of the eternity of the universe, science [since the mid-1900s] now asserts that the universe had a beginning. That’s a breakthrough, and it’s the closest that science has gotten to the first word of the Torah: “Bereishit.”

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “‘Modern Science Is Discovering What The Torah Said Thousands Of Years Ago’: An Interview with Rabbi Yosef Bitton

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Sen. Cruz Asks if Obama ‘Launched Political Campaign against Netanyahu’
Latest Indepth Stories
Israeli-flag

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

Rabbi Berel Wein

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Sheldon Silver

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

To defeat parasites-the hosts of terrorists-we need to deny them new people, potential terrorists

Combating Amalek doesn’t mean all who disagree with you is evil-rather whom to follow and to oppose

Desperate people take what they can, seizing opportunity to advance their main goal; the Arabs don’t

There was a glaring void in the President’s State of the Union speech: Israel.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Resnick-012315-Artist

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

Richard Dukas

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

You can’t say “Jewish French,” “Jewish British,” “Jewish Italian.” They are “French Jews,” “British Jews,” and “Italian Jews” – because they’re seen as Jews first and residents or citizens of their countries second.

Another thing they have been covering up is the nature of the building that was attacked. To this day people refer to it as a consulate or an embassy, but it wasn’t.

The reality is that civility is less important than clarity, and right now only very few people on the Left are interested in having a civil conversation about the merits of particular policy solutions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/modern-science-is-discovering-what-the-torah-said-thousands-of-years-ago-an-interview-with-rabbi-yosef-bitton/2013/09/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: