Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth

There are frequently times when two people are learning together and one says "This posuk means this" and the other says "No, it means this." The Gemorah is full of arguments about the "real" meaning of certain words and phrases. We follow the reasoning of the person who is "ranked" higher. Sometimes these rankings change. Generally, those of us on a lower madrega are told to accept one particular viewpoint or the other. Sometimes those viewpoints change position as the centuries move on. Sometimes a third or a fourth or a fifth interpretation comes to the forefront.

Much the same thing happens in the secular world. Great men of learning argue with each other about what is possible or probable about the world that we live in. And here, too, we are asked to follow the ideas of the "giants," men like Albert Einstein.

In graduate school I was required to take a course entitled "Biblical and Classical Literature." Youch. At least the instructor was sticking to the "old testament" for the biblical portion. I was truly having some difficulty hearing that Tanach was actually "literature," written by a person and credited to God because of "sociological imperatives extant at the time of the writing." "Says who?" I asked. "Biblical scholars," I was told. "Greats like Wellhausen," the instructor chimed in. One student asked me if I could prove that God had written the Bible. I fired back "Can you prove that He didn't?" The student then answered "Can you prove that there is a God?" to which I answered "Can you prove that there isn't?"

And then the "magical" name came out. "Well," the student began, "Einstein was a genius. Would you agree with that?" I could hardly say no. "Einstein didn't believe in God or that there was a God," the student threw out to me. For the paper that we were supposed to be writing about this "enlightening" idea I threw caution to the winds and wrote what follows below. I actually didn't care much about what the grade was going to be because I was frankly pissed off. Luckily for me the instructor believed that the paper actually met the requirements of the assignment to a t.

I offer it now as a warning of sorts against placing our "greats" on too high a pedestal, any of our "greats," of assuming that because they have a lot of knowledge they must have all knowledge, or of confusing their vast knowledge in one area with the idea that they must be knowledgeable in all areas. Human beings, by definition, are not infallible; the "greats" can make mistakes.

After his death, Albert Einstein found himself inexplicably in heaven, a heaven whose existence he had doubted for years. So profound was his puzzlement at finding himself in heaven that he wandered unseeing and unknowing through the clouds-that-are-not-clouds, breathing-but-not-breathing the air-that-was-not-air. His wanderings came to an end at last when he stumbled against the foot of the throne of the King of the Universe. He threw up his hands to shield his eyes from the unbearable intensity of the light-that-is-like-no-other-light. And Einstein was suddenly filled with immeasurable fear.

And there came a voice-like-no-other-voice: “Are you surprised, Einstein, to find yourself in Heaven?”

And Einstein’s fear abated somewhat—questions and answers he could deal with. “Actually yes, Sir, I am.”

“And why do you suppose, Einstein, that you have been allowed into heaven?”

Einstein, as befitted a man-god of science, wrestled with the problem in his mind, turning over one possibility after another, until he had extracted the most logical answer at his command. “I have heard, Sir, from those who believe, that men who do good deeds find themselves here.”

And G-d looked down upon the man whom He had wrought in His own image and sighed. “And what good deed have you done Einstein?”

At this, Einstein straightened his shoulders and put his head up and preened more than a little. “I suppose, Sir, that even in heaven You have heard of E=mc2?”

And the Lord sighed once more. “Actually, Albert, we need to talk.” And the Lord G-d caused there to be something out of the nothingness that was present, and boxes appeared, stacked higher than Einstein could measure the height of and stretching out to the horizon and beyond, a horizon that shifted and changed even as Einstein saw it. And once again Einstein was filled with fear and puzzlement.

And G-d ordered: “Go ahead, Einstein, take a peek.” But Einstein was rooted in place unable to move.

And Einstein timidly asked: “What is this that You have created, Lord?”

And G-d answered: “Some clarification of the E=mc2 problem.”

And Einstein was persuaded to look into the boxes nearest him, and he saw stacks and stacks of computer printouts, in 4 point type, single-spaced, and his heart grew heavy within him. “But Lord, it would take me all of eternity and beyond just to read all of this, never mind synthesize and understand it.”

And the Lord indicated the myriad of boxes and answered gently: “This is only the first paragraph of the re-write, Einstein.”

And Einstein heard the Lord’s words, and he was humbled and fell down prostrate, sobbing.

And the G-d of Mercy looked down upon the man and saw that he was humbled before Him. And G-d’s heart opened towards that which He had created. Like a Father towards a wayward son whom He still loves, the Lord spoke once more. “If you will open your ears and your mind and your heart, I will teach you what you need to know, Albert.”

And Einstein ceased his crying, sat up, and raised his face in recognition of He who was above all things. And there grew within him hope, that virtue that saves man even when his intellect leads him into folly. “If You please, G-d, I would like to learn.”

And G-d heard the man’s answer and was satisfied. And the boxes were once again nothing and in their place there appeared graven tablets, infused with the fire of Heaven. “We begin, Einstein, with Book One, Chapter One, Line One.”

And the Lord called out: “In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and the earth—when the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters—G-d said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

And Einstein took out a pad and pencil from his pocket and copied down all that he was told, word for word. And he was content and satisfied. And God looked down at His Creation and He saw that it was good.

1 comment:

G said...

"Einstein didn't believe in God or that there was a God,"

I love this one, because the truth is not quite so clear cut.