The Higher and Lower Waters:
Incorporating Art and Science into Torah Education
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, expounding upon the
teachings of the Zohar, teaches that beginning from the year 5,600, or
1840 according to the secular calendar, the higher and lower waters opened.
The lower waters are the wisdom of science. The higher waters are the
wisdom of the Torah. The higher waters fertilize the lower waters, while
the lower waters fertilize the higher waters. A great offspring will
be born of the union of the two waters. This is a very important part
of the Messianic vision.
Science, Music, Torah -- Worlds, Souls, Divinity
The Ba'al Shem Tov teaches that there are three
dimensions of reality: Worlds, Souls and Divinity. Each has its inherent
wisdom. The pure wisdom of Worlds, created reality, is mathematics; the
pure wisdom of Souls is music and the wisdom of Divinity is the wisdom
of Torah. The Vilna Gaon and other sources explain that the
epitome of science is pure mathematics. This is verified by scientists
as well. The common expression in science is that mathematics is the
queen of the sciences. The expression goes on to say that pure number
theory is the queen of mathematics. Thus, the epitome of knowledge vis
a vis Worlds is pure mathematics or pure number theory. This is explicitly
explained by great Torah scholars who also state that above mathematics
is music. Music relates to the soul itself, which is above the concept
of Worlds. Above all, the wisdom of God Himself is the Torah. This can
be likened to a pyramid of three levels, in which the highest level is
infinitely above the others. Nonetheless, there is a relationship of
Torah becoming experienced in music, and then being reflected in pure
mathematics, the ultimate wisdom of Worlds.
Following the disciplines closest to
Torah, music and mathematics, the sciences must be clarified. This is
called berur. Nowadays, as most of the sciences become more "spiritual" it
is possible to clarify the sciences with the proper intention and study
by those people capable of undertaking such a task. A negative aspect
of science is that it gives reality a feeling of yeshus, physical
existence. This yeshus is being progressively stripped, as in
the theory of today's scientists that an electron is not a physical entity.
This means that reality is being appreciated from a spiritual perspective.
One of the most negative aspects of science was always the Greek theory
of the primordial existence of the physical universe. Now science is
very near the theory of continual creation of all matter and energy.
Science is approaching the Unified Field Theory. Time and space have
already been clarified. In Kabbalah this is called yichuda ila'ah.
Matter and energy have also been unified, as represented by the equation:
E equals MC squared. This is yichuda ta?ta?ah. Now it remains
to unify all four forces of nature, wherein each force corresponds to
one of the four letters of God's Name and to the four Worlds, etc.
There are still disciplines which a
Jew in no manner whatsoever need touch. Anything which smacks of blasphemyshould
be discarded, as its purpose is not positive. The members of the Sanhedrin
were appointed by God to judge reality. As such, they had to be expert
in all the areas they judged, such as idol worship or foreign languages.
This does not apply to the average person. A person could definitely
have a sense or talent for literature or poetry, which should be developed.
These subjects can be developed in the context of purely kosher thought,
which is basically Torah, but can include anything else which is kosher,
and does not smack of blasphemy.
The ability to appreciate and understand
the above concepts comes specifically from the inner dimension of the
Torah. Those involved or conscious only of the revealed dimension of
the Torah have much more difficulty appreciating or understanding the
union of the higher and lower waters of the Torah. Although it appears
that the revealed dimension of the Torah is closer to topics which are
not explicitly Torah, the vision to make the match between the Torah
and secular topics which have been incorporated into holiness comes specifically
from the inner light of the inner dimension of the Torah.
The Tanya's Two Reasons for Studying Secular Topics
In chapter 8 of the Tanya it is explained that
the study of secular topics is permissible either for the sake of creating
a source of income, or to use that knowledge for the service of God,
as was the case with the great sages, the Rambam and Ramban.
These two reasons are not presented by the Tanya in a negative
light, as though people who are not able to master Torah may instead
study secular subjects. The very opposite is true. Secular studies were
permitted especially for the very greatest masters of Torah, such as
the Rambam and Ramban, who were first expert in all
the revealed and esoteric dimensions of the Torah. They invested a great
amount of time to master the secular subjects of mathematics, science
and medicine. Medicine is for the sake of helping mankind, which is a mitzvah ("commandment").
The other topics were studied because by knowing them one can better
serve God. Through the knowledge of science one can meditate upon the
greatness of God in the creation of the universe. The Rambam at
the beginning of the Mishnah Torah explicitly says that one
should meditate on the wonders of nature, as explained in science, in
order to achieve proper Love of Godand Fear of Heaven.
The necessity to study secular topics as a source of
income can also apply to a great Torah scholar. It is in no way a derogatory
statement. This is a lower level than the person who studies secular
topics in order to better serve God. In previous generations, study of
secular topics in order to better serve God was reserved for the elite,
such as the Rambam and Ramban. However, in our generation
this knowledge is more accessible and, as stated above, more "spiritual." Science
is so close to Torah, that the ability to use science for the sake of
serving God is much more applicable to everyone than it was in the time
of the Rambam and Ramban. Both the above reasons for
studying secular topics according to the Tanya are in no way derogatory.
On the contrary, they apply to very great souls.