Still Learning from Einstein

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Gabriella: This is a wonderful quote from Einstein:

"Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."

Rabbi: Here's another very similar quote from Einstein:

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable Superior Spirit who reveals Himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." 

I wonder what new points Einstein adds in the second quote. 

In both quotes, Einstein expresses the demand for our humility as man pales in comparison to God. 

However, in the second quote, he adds 3 new points in this phrase: "…who reveals Himself in the slight details we are able to perceive..." 

1) "reveals Himself": God "intends" knowledge of His wisdom be perceived by man. He intentionally reveals His wisdom to man, for the purpose of our discovery.

2) "slight details": God does not overtly expose Himself. Wisdom is revealed only in "slight details". Man must examine the universe beyond its bold appearance, and seek out those "details". (A point worth pondering further) Einstein attests to the depth of wisdom and the need to search it out.

3) "we are able to perceive": Meaning, He designed man with the "ability", or the purpose of perceiving the knowledge He imparts through those details.

In quote #2, Einstein adds that God 1) has specific intent; 2) uses a means of subtle disclosure; and 3) that man's purpose is to discover God's wisdom. Einstein's wisdom bears our King David's opening remarks to Psalms. There (1:3) King David says that one who desires God's Torah, will "give his fruit in its time, and his leaves won't wither." What is this metaphor of fruit and leaves? 

A tree produces these two elements. However, one is more central. Fruit sustains, and leaves do not. Fruit is the primary product. Man too gives forth fruit. As intelligence is our unique faculty over all else in creation, this must be the focus of King David's praise. Thus, giving forth fruit in its proper time must refer to man's expressed intelligence, shared only when it will be received as intended. The wise man knows there is a time to be silent. So his shared wisdom is the "fruit" in King David's metaphor. This is man's primary produce. If so, to what do leaves refer? This must refer to man's mundane speech: just as leaves are inferior to fruit, mundane speech is inferior to Torah discourse. But even here, the man who desires God's Torah is never divorced from his intelligence. Even in mundane matters, the intelligent man's wisdom is expressed. He approaches all matters with wisdom, as God desires. For the entire universe and all man's actions are in fact expressions of the Creator. Thus, these is wisdom to be share in all matters. The Torah teaches that "King David was wise in all his ways (Sam. I 18:14)."

In our case, Einstein is "giving forth fruit," as he is not addressing what is mundane, for he is describing God's relationship to man. Alternatively, one might suggest that as he is not addressing Torah, his quotes above would be considered "his fresh leaves" or his marvelous mundane speech. In either case, Einstein's words contain more than surface information. 

Ironically, Einstein himself was one of the "slight details" in which God "revealed Himself" to mankind. Maimonides says regarding Moses [1] that God "created" him. Meaning, Moses was an intentional aberration created by God to educate mankind. Perhaps this equally applies Einstein.

[1]  Laws of Star Worship, very end of chap. 1