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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cursing Copernicus

 . . . the wicked Copernicus, may the name of the wicked rot . . .
The Sun, the Moon, the planets, the stars, and all heavenly objects orbit the Earth every twenty-four hours.
It must be publicly stated that books on astronomy are by far the worst of all scientific books, since they are full of heresy, hatred of God (God save us!), hatred of Judaism, hatred of truth, nonsense and madness, such that it is a great mystery how these 'wise men' and their books are so much more foolish and full of venomous blasphemy than all their other scientific writings.
-- R. Yosef Zalman Bloch, Be-Emunah Shelemah (Monsey, 2012), cited by Marc B. Shapiro on Seforim Blog (note 12). My translation.

So this is what we have come to.  Not only the Big Bang, but Copernicus, Galileo, and heliocentrism itself are the enemies of Judaism (and of truth).  Daas Torah rules that the Earth is stationary.  "And yet, it stands!"

We should resist the urge to engage such nonsense on its own terms.  Do we really need to prove, from a "Torah persepctive," that the Earth goes around the Sun?  Must we compile lists of gedolei Yisrael who endorsed Copernicus to counter what are, to be generous, the twisted ravings of a grotesquely misguided piety?  Does the truth require a hekhsher?

In my view, obscurantism of this kind shares nothing with the core principles and values of Judaism.  Instead, R. Bloch's position is more in line with seventeenth-century Roman Catholic objections to Galileo (Galileo's observations proved Copernicus right).  Thus, Robert Cardinal Bellarmine's 1615 letter to Paolo Foscarini, who had dared to say that Galileo's conclusions did not oppose Scripture (the full text is here):

But to want to affirm that the Sun really is fixed in the center of the heavens and only revolves around itself without traveling from East to West, and that the Earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves with great speed around the Sun, is a very dangerous thing, not only by irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians, but also by injuring our holy faith and rendering the Holy Scriptures false.

1 comment:

  1. “The holy Zohar is not merely a book for the pious... It also contains many matters of natural science... It is known that the Zohar appeared in the world a hundred [sic] years before the discovery of the portion of the earth [which includes] America... yet there is found in it the science of geography just as later discovered by the two scientists, Columbus and Copernicus. That is that the earth is round like a ball, that it is inhabited on all sides and that it possesses two types of motion, one motion spherical... like a wheel on its axle and the other motion elliptical around the sun. Everyone who understands will be able to see that almost the same things were hinted at [in the Zohar] as were discovered by the scientist Copernicus about three hundred years after the Zohar appeared in the world” (Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg, Nifla’ot ha-Zohar, p.145-46).

    “In the book of Rav Hamnuna Sava it is explained further that all the inhabited world revolves like a ball, some below and some above. All those creatures differ in their appearance, due to the difference of the atmosphere in everyplace, and they remain in existence like human beings. Consequently, there is a place in the inhabited world where day shines for some, while for others it is dark – for these it is day, while for those it is night. And there is a place where it is entirely day, and night exists for only a brief time… This mystery has been transmitted to the masters of wisdom and not to markers of boundaries, for it is a deep mystery of Torah” (Zohar 3:10a).