Q. I’m a college student (after receiving permission from my Rosh Yeshiva, and doing pre-med), majoring in math and sciences. I learned in yeshivos and I understand the importance of learning Torah. Is there a point for me to use some of my learning Torah time to engage in Halacha questions and issues that depend on the math and science I’m studying, such as technical new shailos involving electronics on Shabbos or math involved in the Astronomy of Kiddush Hachodesh, as explained by the Rambam etc. Would then, at least part of my studies be counted also as Torah learning?
A. Midrash Rabba (Bereshis 1: 1 and Zohar) assert that Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. The above is usually understood as the Torah is the plan and map of all Creation. The universe, would then be the true reflection of the Torah blueprint used to create it. It would stand to reason that learning about the truth and science of the universe, would be tantamount to the learning of the Torah used to create it.
Furthermore Talmud (Yuma 28b) teaches that: Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah, before it was given. Emes Leyaakov and others maintain that he knew what was written on it by studying the world around him.
However as Horav Shlomo Miller Shlit’a and many other Sages point out, there is a very fundamental difference between the two. The Torah was given by Hashem and our belief is that it is an absolute truth. Sciences however, are subjective and based on research and the experimental understanding of what we perceive as reality. History, has and is constantly teaching us, that what we humans see and witness, is not necessarily the truth. Everything in this world can be and very often is, very deceiving and illusory. The fact that for a scientific principle to be accepted and recognized as true, one has to be able to repeat it again and again and under different scenarios and circumstances, in reality does not always work. Newton’s laws and Einstein’s Relativity are but one of many historic examples of the above. The constant development and exponential advancement of all sciences and technologies in our days is truly amazing. A quick Google search will reveal, that clinical and medical knowledge doubles today every few years and even months, and other fields are similar. That simply means, that either yesterday we did not know enough or we were probably, at least partially wrong.
Still, P’as HaShulchan (Introduction), tells us in the name of the Vilna Gaon that ‘all knowledge is necessary for the understanding of the Torah.’ Rav Baruch MiShklov who was a Talmid of the Vilna Gaon tells us in the introduction to his translation of Euclidean geometry and Music, that for every measure of knowledge one is missing… in Torah, this lack of knowledge is a hundredfold. (See also Ramban’s introduction to the Torah and Chazon Ish at the end of Emuna and Bitachon)
However, the studying of sciences and other fields of knowledge (chochmos chitzonios), has its very real danger. The S’kalier Rebbe (Ner Dovid on Chanuka p. 67) tells it well. The Yevanim so sought that our nation should forget the Torah. But how can you bring the “People of the Book,” the ones that knew the complete Torah by heart, to forget it all? He explains that it was quit simple, just replace it with something else, such as Greek philosophy or sciences. He adds that actually that was the very original sin, eating from the “eitz hadaas.” What can already be wrong with the the tree of knowledge? he asks. But partaking from the beautiful tree, without the tree of life, the Torah, is very dangerous.
Although much has been written and explained about the relationship of our Holy Torah and the other fields of knowledge. Horav Shlomo Miller’s Shlit’a insists that the above principle has to be maintained and kept constant in our minds. True, sciences, math, technological and other fields of knowledge may be helpful and even sometimes necessary to understand some Halacha questions and ak