The Torah Science Foundation is pleased to present “The Wisdom of King Solomon” to our web site visitors. This article provides us with far-reaching insight on an integral relationship between Torah and science. For some, the realms of Torah and science should be kept safely separated. For others, the Torah is a complete source of wisdom and knowledge that makes science dispensable. For others, science provides an increasingly complete explanation of the universe that does not require the involvement of divine forces.
The unique viewpoint of “The Wisdom of King Solomon” is that not only Torah and science are meant to interact, but they are meant to interact in a precise and specific fashion. Central to this viewpoint is the concept that science is the most recent and advanced expression of “Chochmat Ha’umot“, the wisdom of the nations. So defined, the relationship between Torah and the sciences constitutes the latest instance of the relationship between the Torah and the wisdom of the nations.
We are also taught in “The Wisdom of King Solomon” that the world was created in a state of goodness and perfection. Both the Jewish people, with the help of the Torah, and the nations with the help of their wisdom, strive to restore the perfection of the world.
The remarkable conceptual breakthrough of “The Wisdom of King Solomon” is the precise description of the process whereby the interaction between the Torah and the sciences contributes to the process of rectification of the world. The sciences embody sparks of holiness and truth that reveal the wonders of creation. Scientific knowledge is meant to be refined by the wisdom of the Torah, and the essence of such rectification is the injection of pure faith into the wisdom of the sciences. Thus, the Torah fertilizes the wisdom of the sciences with the power of faith and belief. And thus fertilized, scientific knowledge becomes a key instrument in the revelation of new secrets of the Torah.
Contemporary developments in physics and cosmology, in which scientists are asking questions about the origin of the universe that
wereconsidered completely out of bounds of the scientific discourse not long ago, provides us with a most plausible scenario for a fertilizationof the sciences by Torah wisdom.
The implications of the integral relationship between the Torah and science described in “The wisdom of King Solomon” are exhilarating. Our visitors can find some specific details about a rigorous methodology for Torah-science interactions in our feature on Torah science methods. Enjoy.
THE WISDOM OF KING SOLOMON
Every true Jewish leader possesses a clear vision and plan of how to restore the world in its entirety to its original state of goodness and perfection (and, indeed, of how to elevate the world to a state of Divine consciousness never experienced before). This is the goal of all mankind, as we proclaim in the Aleinu prayer: “to rectify the world under the kingdom of the Almighty.”
Of all Biblical archetypes, it was King Solomon who demonstrated this consciousness most. He knew how to deal properly with the nations of the world (many of whom came to Jerusalem to see him and visit the holy Temple that he built) and to elevate their wisdom and their intrinsic cultural senses of beauty and aesthetics.
This consciousness will manifest itself consummately in the person of the Messiah, as the Rambam writes: “He will rectify the whole world…to serve G-d together. As it is written, ‘At that time, I will bring all nations to speak with one tongue, all to call upon G-d and serve Him together.’”
The Rectification of the World by Means of the Seven Noahide Commandments
The Torah’s means of rectifying the seventy nations of the world is the seven Noahide commandments. The Rambam writes that G-d commanded Moses to teach all of the people of the world to accept these commandments. Any non-Jew who accepts them and is careful to perform them properly, the Rambam writes, attains the status of a “righteous gentile” and thereby merits a place in the World to Come. This is true, of course, only when he keeps these commandments because he was so commanded by G-d in the Torah. Thus, the true rectification of the nations occurs only when they surrender in truth—just as the Jewish people—to the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven as revealed in the Torah.
This rectification, like all processes of spiritual growth, must occur in the order of “submission, separation, and sweetening,” as taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov. First, the nations must submit themselves to the Jewish people, the custodians and teachers of the Torah, since the Torah is the sole and ultimate source of their obligation to fulfill the seven commandments given to them. True submission—whether of man to G-d or man to fellow man—is the soul’s way of giving of thanks for the gift of true enlightenment. Despite the Torah’s explicit focus on the Jewish nation, there is indeed much in the Torah that can enlighten and influence the nations of the world on their level. (This is similar to our sages’ teaching that G-d suspended Mt. Sinai over the Jewish people in order to coerce them to accept the Torah. In Hassidut we are taught that the “mountain” was in fact G-d’s infinite love; G-d coerced the Jewish people to accept His Torah by overwhelming them with His love.)
After this submission, the nations must acknowledge the separation, i.e., the difference between them and the Jewish people.
Only after the separation can come the sweetening, the completion, the transformation of the nations mentioned before: “I will bring all nations…to call upon G-d and serve Him together.” According to our sages, there are seventy archetypal non-Jewish nations. All non-Jews, past, present, and future, belong to one or another of these seventy nations.
As is taught in Hassidut, the seventy nations are a reflection of the seven Divine emotional and behavioral attributes (midot), from chesed to malchut. This is the source of their spiritual nourishment. These seven attributes are manifest in man’s body as his torso and limbs. In contrast, the Jewish people are a reflection of the three higher Divine intellectual attributes, chochmah, binah, and da’at. The name of the Jewish nation, Israel, is in Hebrew a permutation of the words for “a head for Me” (li rosh).
The seven Noahide commandments correspond to the seven Divine attributes that are the source of the seventy nations. By accepting the seven Noahide commandments, the nations draw Divine intellect into the emotions and thereby rectify them. As a result, the nations feel the Divine goodness associated with the commandments they perform.
The Rectification of the Wisdom of the Nations
Aside from the non-Jews’ acceptance of the seven Noahide commandments, the rectification of the world further depends upon the refinement of the wisdom of the nations. Again, we take our clue from King Solomon: “G-d gave wisdom to Solomon…. And the wisdom of Solomon increased, and he became wiser than any other person, and his fame spread among all the nations. He taught three thousand parables, and he was able to speak to the trees, to the animals, to the birds, to the insects, and to the fish. And all the nations came to hear Solomon’s wisdom” (1 Kings 5:9-14).
Our sages teach us that the nations indeed possess human wisdom, but they do not possess the Divine wisdom of the Torah (Eichah Rabbah 2:13). Their wisdom therefore needs to be refined and elevated by the Torah, which was given exclusively to the Jewish people. After the wisdom of the nations undergoes this true “conversion,” the Torah can incorporate it into the pure faith of Israel. This is the mystical meaning of the statement “believe in the wisdom of the nations,” taking the word “believe in…” (ta’amin) to mean “incorporate [the wisdom of the nations] under the wings of faith.”
We can do this the same way King Solomon did, through the strength and holiness inherent in the wisdom of Torah. As it is written, “King Solomon possessed the wisdom of G-d, which enabled him to execute justice.” He was able to apply the Torah’s wisdom to the wisdom of nature and the wisdom of material reality. As it is written, “Solomon’s wisdom flourished” and multiplied, as it is said, “G-d gives [the] wisdom [to apply the Torah to worldly wisdom] only to somebody who already possesses [the] wisdom [of the Torah],” and, similarly, “G-d gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the wise.”
As is taught in Hassidut, the wisdom of the nations contains “sparks” of holiness and truth—sometimes openly, sometimes hidden— that we are called upon to refine and incorporate into the realm of holiness. Moreover, there is an essential connection between the discoveries of the natural sciences and the revelation of the esoteric wisdom of the Torah. As explained in the Zohar and in Hassidut, the outpouring of water from above and below that occurred during Noah’s flood—“all the fountains of the great deep split open and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11)—alludes to the simultaneous and complementary revelation of Divine and worldly wisdom. The natural sciences are revealed to us from below, while the heavens open up to reveal the hidden wisdom of the Torah.
The Rectification of the Arts and Sciences
What applies to the nations’ wisdom applies as well to their arts. It is written, “G-d will beautify Japheth, and he will dwell in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:27, Megilah 9b). Shem, Japheth, and Ham were the sons of Noah. Shem is the progenitor of the Jewish people and Japheth is the progenitor of Yavan (Greece), the cradle of secular civilization.
The true Jewish leader is open-minded enough to recognize the beauty that exists in non-Jewish culture and is not threatened by it. He does not try to accommodate (“bend”) his Jewishness to secular culture, but rather robustly refines it with the strength of the Torah’s wisdom. (As we explained above, Israel is li rosh—the Jew is the head, the seat of wisdom.) He applies the Torah’s wisdom to both music and the visual arts (including architecture). He takes his cue from King Solomon, who built the most magnificent structure on earth, the Holy Temple, collected treasures of art and had a company of singers (Ecclesiastes 2:8).
Presently, the true Jewish expressions of beauty and art are in exile. By virtue of his immersion in the wisdom of the Torah, the Jewish leader knows how to refine the beauty and art that is dispersed throughout the world and to redeem it. This process, like the refinement of secular wisdom, is a process of elevating the sparks of holiness that are scattered throughout creation.
In order to rectify all aspects of secular art and science, it is necessary to harness the power of all aspects of the Torah, the Torah as it is pure and complete. This means that the Jewish leader must be conversant in and imbued with all four facets of the Torah: its literal meaning, its allusive meaning, its homiletic meaning, and its esoteric meaning. Through the rectification of the arts and the sciences, new facets of the Torah are revealed. (Indeed, the numerical value of the Hebrew words for “art” [omanut, 497] and “science” [mada, 114] is equal to that of the word Torah .) The Torah inspires the unification of the two primary domains of human endeavor, art and science, and is thereby blessed in return with the revelation of deeper and deeper dimensions of its own Divine wisdom.
In further depth: yet unrevealed dimensions of wisdom, whether secular or Divine, are referred to in Kabbalah and Hassidut as “darkness.” The Torah inspires the revelation of hitherto unrevealed dimensions of the lower darkness of art and science, which in turn arouses the higher darkness of hitherto unrevealed dimensions of Torah to reveal itself.
As noted above, secular knowledge, the wisdom of the nations, is relatively “body”-oriented, while the Divine knowledge of the Torah, the wisdom of Israel, is “head”-oriented. The higher waters of Torah wisdom are relatively “theoretical,” while the lower waters of secular wisdom are relatively “practical.” The sages teach that it is our task in this world to apply the relatively theoretical knowledge of the Torah to our day-to-day lives in the performance of the Torah’s commandments in action. In the future, however, action itself will arouse knowledge. In extension of this teaching: Now, the higher waters of the Torah inspire the lower waters of secular knowledge to rise from the abyss (the lower darkness); in the future, the lower waters will arouse the higher darkness of the hidden secrets of the Torah to reveal itself. In the idiom of Hassidut, then the body will impregnate the soul (the head) and the Divine Essence itself (the higher darkness) will become Light.
King Solomon and the Messiah.
The involvement with the nations of the world, their wisdom and their art, requires extreme caution. King Solomon’s desire or “passion” (1 Kings 9:1) to rectify worldly art and science—his attraction to the culture and aesthetic of the nations—so overtook that it adversely affected his devoted obedience to the law of the Torah. The Torah permits a king to marry eighteen wives; in attempt to elevate all of the beauty and wisdom unrectifiedof the nations (embodied in the princess of each nation) King Solomon married a thousand wives: “King Solomon loved many foreign women, and he had many wives, that numbered seven hundred, and three hundred concubines (ibid. 11:1-3).
In descending to clarify the arts and wisdom of the nations, one must be careful to assume the role of the influencer and not that of the influenced, for otherwise he may well be drawn down into the yet- clutches of foreign culture. Until malhut is rectified, the yesod (male sexual power) must take the lead and not be led. Only the rectified malhut, the rectified feminine consciousness associated with nature, its beauty and wisdom, is able to channel yesod at its desire. Until then, yesod must know how to control and limit himself, to fine-tune its relation to malhut.
The Messiah, a direct descendant of King David and King Solomon, will rectify in full King Solomon’s passion to elevate the beauty and wisdom inherent in nature and manifest in the nations of the earth. The Messiah will be even wiser than King Solomon, and he will know how to uplift the nations and redeem their sparks of wisdom.