Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pesah day 1 message

Passover Day One
Exodus 12:21–12:51 and Numbers 28:16–28:25
April 7, 2012 / 15 Nisan 5772
A Taste of Torah
A Commentary by Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz, Director of Israel Programs, JTS
This week’s commentary was written by Rabbi Marc Wolf, vice chancellor, External Affairs, JTS.
In September, a group of physicists conducted an experiment during which they seemed to prove that subatomic particles known as neutrinos had traveled faster than the speed of light. For those of us not tuned in to the wonders of science, that sounds impressive, but for those versed in the laws of physics, the outcome of this experiment was utterly mind blowing. Albert Einstein’s mind, to be precise. As the New York Times article featuring the potentially debunking results wrote,
After all, Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, which proclaimed the speed of light as the cosmic speed limit, is the foundation of modern science and has been shown to work to exquisite precision zillions of times. Knock it down and you potentially open the door to all kinds of things, like the ability to go back in time and kill your grandfather. (“The Trouble with Data that Outpaces a Theory,” 3/26/12)     
If their findings were verifiable, then much of what we believe to be true about the world—and have been proving for some time now with experiment after experiment—would crumble, and we would be forced to create a new understanding of our natural world. But Einstein can breathe easy. Shortly after the first experiment seemed to turn much of modern science on its head, another group using the same facility proved that the neutrinos actually did move at their expected speed of light.
It was not only the second group’s results that put Einstein back up on his throne. After all, Einstein’s theory of relativity is a theory. Prove it wrong once, and it should topple like a house of cards. However, the real chink in the armor of the debunking experiment was that it had no theory to back it up. As the article continues, “If a ‘fact’ cannot be understood, fitted into a conceptual framework that we have reason to believe in, or confirmed independently some other way, it risks becoming what journalists like to call a ‘permanent exclusive’—wrong.” 
As we gather to celebrate Passover this week, the attempts of all those who seek to prove or disprove the Children of Israel’s exodus from Egypt seem to surface anew. Applying the rigors of science to religion is no new endeavor for Judaism. In each generation—a theme these days—there are those who have attempted to reconcile Truths. How could the Torah’s version of history agree with the Truth that we know from philosophy or science? To answer, we search for proof, scientific facts, or historic records that will undisputedly confirm that the Children of Israel were in fact slaves and were freed in a mass exodus, and that God inflicted plagues upon the Egyptians. 
However, with the recent printing of Jonathan Safran Foer’s New American Haggadah, we actually seem to get our proof. At the top of each page of Foer’s work is a timeline that follows us through the evening as we turn each beautifully designed, exquisitely illuminated, and captivatingly commented page. The timeline begins with referencing the Exodus itself . . .
The publication and distribution of the JTS Commentary are made possible by a generous grant from Rita Dee and Harold (z”l) Hassenfeld.

No comments: