KABBALAH EMBRACES THE LIFE SCIENCES"And its Leaf for a Remedy"
Photosynthesis in Science and Kabbalah
An Editorial Note:
We read in Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers) 3:17: "Anyone whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, to what can he be compared? To a tree whose branches are numerous but whose roots are few, and the wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down; as is stated: And he shall be like a lonely tree in arid land and shall not see when good comes; he shall dwell on parched soil in the wilderness, on salt-land, not inhabitable (Jeremiah 17:6)." But anyone whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, to what can he be compared? To a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous, so that even if all the winds in the world were to come and blow against him, they could not move him from his place; as it stated: And he shall be like a tree planted by water, toward the stream spreading its roots, and it shall not feel when the heat comes, and its foliage shall be verdant; in the year of drought it shall not worry, nor shall it cease from yielding fruit (Jeremiah 17:8)".
Examples based on plants abound in the Torah. Man is likened to "a tree in the field", and in King David's Psalms, a Tzadik, a Righteous person, is likened to a "date palm" and a "cedar of Lebanon". Photosynthetic organisms are unique among living creatures in their ability to convert light energy into food. In Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy, light is an essential symbol for Divine emanation. Photosynthetic organisms such as plants are therefore unique in their ability to relate and absorb the Divine energy embodied in light directly, without any intermediaries. In contrast, humans depend on light-derived food that has first been assimilated by a plant.
The Torah Science Foundation is pleased to present "And its Leaf for a Remedy: Photosynthesis in Science and Kabbalah" to our web site visitors. This groundbreaking article explores the interface between photosynthesis, one of the most extensively studied processes on Earth, and basic principles of Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy. The article provides an example of the use numerical relations between key scientific and kabbalistic concepts as a powerful research tool to unravel correspondences between Torah and science. It also explores the wondrous parallels between the kabbalistic concept of the union of the Higher waters and lower waters, and the dynamics of photosynthesis and water movement in plants.
An exciting new discovery in plant photobiology describes how the activation of stomatal movements in plant leaves by blue light is reversed by green light (Plant and Cell Physiology 41, 171-176, 2000). Because blue and green photons are both abundant in solar radiation, this finding implies that stomata in leaves are continually oscillating between active and inactive states as they absorb blue and green photons. As described in "And its leaf as a remedy", the blue color corresponds to the sefirah of Lovingkindness, and the green color corresponds to the sefirah of Beauty. This means that, in terms of Divine energy, stomata are continuously oscillating between Lovingkindness and Beauty. The Torah Science Foundation hopes that the rigorous investigation of these Torah-science parallels will help us understand that "ultimately, all of creation is interrelated, [and] in every particle the universe is encoded" as noted in the Torah science methods article.
What can one profit from attempting to harmonize Torah-the Divine intelligence that transcends human intellect-with the findings of science? A detailed answer to that question demands a study of its own. Let us here identify two central points that will be developed through the course of this paper.
The first concerns the contribution which science can make to the study of Torah. By virtue of its dealing with genuine and observable reality (as based upon empirical experience), science describes mechanisms and objects that are grasped naturally by the human senses (and consequently are clearly understood by the mind). When we attempt to explain some aspect of Torah-especially the delicate and difficult concepts articulated in Torat hanefesh (literally, 'the Torah of the soul', i.e. Kabbalah)-we are forced to rely upon analogies to help us concretize the matter. If a correspondence exists between a Torah concept and a process or conclusion arrived at by science, then we have a very powerful instrument of explication at our disposal. An abundance of such correspondences, even in regard to a single Torah concept, makes it all the easier to demonstrate that concept.
Indeed, it is incumbent upon us-as taught by the holy Ba'al Shem Tov
-to extract some kind of meaningful spiritual lesson from everything we encounter and experience, including the scientific knowledge revealed to us. Every quality that we discover in the world helps us clarify some corresponding quality in our own soul, making it possible to learn from nature the ways by which man can rectify himself.
The second point relates to the enhancing effect that the Divine wisdom of the Torah has upon the pursuit of scientific study (see "The wisdom on King Solomon"). This is mainly due to the fact that all reality (and especially the reality of nature) is predicated upon the wisdom of Torah, for "the Holy One, blessed is He, looked into the Torah and then created the world." (See Zohar II, 161a). The ultimate paradigm for the world is man himself, as stated by Kohelet (Ecclesiastes 3:11): "…also has He set the world in their heart", rendering man a microcosm. G-d devised, in creating man, the human ability to understand the entire natural realm through the use of those concepts and archetypes embedded in his own conscious and super-conscious being.
This paper will focus more directly on the first point mentioned above. Nevertheless, it is our hope that the identification of some of the correspondences that exist between scientific models and those of the Torah (please see "Torah science methods" in this web site) will inspire scientists to explore the possibility of using the Torah to forge new directions in their scientific work. As these explorations open new horizons, the enriching of contemporary scientific models with those found in the Torah will hopefully expand research horizons, and help scientists to construct more multi-dimensional and complex theories, capable of explaining a wider range of phenomena.
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