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Section:  Avodah   Category: Innocent Observations
Sorry Copernicus, Anyone With A Siddur Knows You Are Wrong

I don't care much for science because most of it is in the hands of scientists.  The old saying of statistics don't lie but liars use statistics can be said replacing statistics with science.  There are some very logical reasons for the amount of fudgery in scientific research.  Firstly we know far less about things than we don't know, leaving the bulk of many "discoveries" to guesswork and estimation.  The bigger problem is that to "win" in science you need to catch the big fish.  In science you cannot be hailed a genius if most of your work ends in Tzarich Iyun, like Rebbi Akiva Eiger.  It's no coincidence that so many breakthrough theories are proven wrong over time, as soon as new discoveries and better instruments reveal some of the guesswork to be wrong.

Despite my apathy, last week I was davening and suddenly I thought of Nicholas Copernicus out of all people.  He was the one if you remember who turned the world on its head, especially the religious world, by declaring that the universe revolves around the sun and not the earth like Ptolemy had "proven" fourteen centuries before.  So it was out with Ptolemy (and Chazal) and in with Copernicus.  The problem with all these theories is that motion is relative so who is to say which body is moving and which body is standing still.  Sure certain things in Copernicus's model make certain planetary motions easier to understand,  but as long as you have a mathematical equation explaining your theory, which Ptolemy does, it becomes as much a philosophical question as a scientific one.

Then after telescopes made us realize that there is so much more out there than the solar systen and stars are not tiny blips of light, they are worlds and systems unto themselves.  Science once thought they knew more or less the scope of the universe but they now know that they have no idea even with a scientific calculator.  How can you possibly decide that you know where the center is before figuring out where the beginning and end are.  It would be like asking an ant that crawls around Shul where the center of the planet earth is.  Is it the Gabbai's seat or is it the Rov's? 

So why does a science neophyte like me think of these things in middle of davening?  Being unemployed with a hyperactive mind makes the scheming section of the brain work twice as fast as normal.  So there I was in middle of Shmoneh Esrei standing in front of the King of All Kings who determines your daily bread, dreaming of how I, the "master of my fate", was going to make some money.  Then I had a misleading Copernican moment of light.  I realized that davening was a test from Hashem.  I will never be successful in my venture if it is concocted in middle of Shmoneh Esrei, instead of pleading for sustenance during my audience with the Minister of the Universal Treasury.  I decided that from then on, I must stop my business planning during davening, and only then would I finally come up with a brainstorm that will actually work.  

Later on that day I said to myself, "Fool!  It is Ptolemy that agrees with Chazal, not Copernicus."  The sun gives light and warmth that sustains mankind on earth.  Life does not revolve its source of income.  The sun, the source of income is an accessory to the great planet of earth, where life is lived.

Similarly, davening is not meant as a test that if we pass we can be successful and earn a living.  Quite the contrary. The gemara in Brachos (6b) chooses its words carefully, when calling Tefila, "Devarim HaOmdim B'Rumo Shel Olam" a matter that stands at the pinnacle of the world.  Tefila is the center while our sustenance revolves around it.  

After showing His strong arm in taking Bnei Yisroel, Hashem traps them at the Yam Suf with no avenue of escape from the pursuing Mitzri army.  Why?  "Hashmi'ini Es Koleich Ki Koleich Areiv", let Me hear your voice in tefila because your voice is sweet. Our tefilos are not meant to solve our problems, our problems are meant to get some real heartfelt tefila out of us.

Our existence is eternal, not just the seventy years that we spend on earth but we know that the bulk of our eternal existence only starts when the short game of life ends.  We can't possibly with our eyes see the future worlds and galaxies beyond our view, but we know they are there.  From our vantage point on earth the sun is huge and parnassa is key.  But we know the truth, parnassa is but a blip on the screen compared to your return on investment from a single tefila that stands at the pinnacle of our eternal world.  That's why Hashem gives us three chances every single day.  

Say what you want about intergalactic movement, it is not going to help me one way or the other and the debate will rage on.  But even without Emunas Chachomim when it comes to Tefila it is clear that Ptolemy's model is dead on, and no scientist would dare to argue.

RELATED ARTICLES:Copernicus  observation  parnasa  Ptolemy  science  tefila

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Visitor Comments: 1

MG, 2009-08-19 04:31:10
I would like to add that this is a huge machlokes achronim. Rav Yaakov Emden held in fact that copernicus was correct - Rav Yonsason eyebushitz held that he was wrong, and others held that it could go either way, but it's not a big deal since there's no nafka minah al pi halacha. Rav Yisreol Belsky shlit"a told me the history of the whole debate, and when I asked him if there's a tzad that the sun goes around the earth, he replied in the negative, without saying a definite 'no'.

This is an old machlokes - scientists may be arrogant in their theories, but there is legitimate grounds for one to believe the sun at the center of the solar system.

Thank you,
Matis Glenn

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