Is the Temple Menorah Hidden in the Vatican? Ancient Legend Says ‘Yes’

“And he said unto me: ‘What seest thou?’ And I said: ‘I have seen and behold a candlestick all of gold with a bowl upon the top of it and its seven lamps thereon.’” Zechariah 4:2 (The Israel Bible™)

An ancient legend which holds that the Temple menorah is hidden away in the depths of the Vatican is coming to light again with the announcement of an upcoming exhibit jointly hosted by the Papal seat and Rome’s ancient Jewish community. Intended to showcase the growing Jewish-Vatican relationship, the theme of the exhibit actually brings this sore subject to the forefront, raising suspicions that despite a long tradition of Vatican protests, the rumors persist for good reason.

Arnold Nesselrath, a Vatican Museums official, announced the theme of the upcoming exhibit on Monday, noting that the connection between the Vatican and the menorah is graphically illustrated in an image frescoed on a wall of the Vatican’s Borgia Apartment. The apartment was built for Pope Alessandro VI, whose papacy began in 1492, the same year Spanish Jews were given the choice of forced conversion to Catholicism or expulsion.



Model of the Temple menorah

Organizers said in the statement that the exhibit “recounts the multi-millennia, incredible and suffered history of the menorah.” The story of the menorah’s suffering began in 70 CE, when the Temple was destroyed and the menorah, standing over 5 feet tall and made from over 130 pounds of solid gold, was taken into exile in Rome by the Emperor Titus.

This event is illustrated in the famous Arch of Titus Menorah Relief, which depicts Roman soldiers carrying the menorah away after the destruction of the temple. Jewish sources also contain many first-hand accounts reporting the Menorah being seen in Rome soon after the destruction of the Temple.

Josephus Flavius, a first-century Roman-Jewish scholar of priestly descent, reported that the Temple artifacts were indeed taken to Rome and placed in Vespasian’s Temple of Peace, completed in 75 CE.

The historic trail of the menorah seems to have been lost during the 5th century. Historians  conjecture that the artifact was taken by the Vandals who sacked Rome in 455, after which it was melted down and the gold dispersed. But there are no historical accounts from this time relating the event.

Since that time, there have been several unverified sightings of the Menorah in the Vatican, but most are second-hand or anecdotal claims that point fingers without providing actual proof.  In the second half of the 12th century a Spanish Jew known as Benjamin of Tudela made a tour of the known world, traveling as far east as Mesopotamia. He claims in his journal that the Jews of Rome knew that the Temple vessels were hidden in a cave in the Vatican.

These rumors continue until today. The Vatican receives hundreds of letters every year from Jews and non-Jews requesting the vessels be returned to the Jewish People. Though the Vatican responds there is no proof of the Temple vessels being in their possession, requests for their return continue. In a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1996, Shimon Shitrit, then the Israeli Minister of Religious Affairs requested the Vatican’s aid in searching for the Temple vessels as “a goodwill gesture”. Haaretz reported that “a tense silence hovered over the room after Sheetreet’s request was heard.”

Following Shitrit’s bold appeal, Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar made a similar request upon their first visit to the Vatican. This was repeated when then-President Moshe Katsav visited the Vatican. In 2004, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) sent a team to Rome to search the Vatican storerooms for signs of archaeological artifacts. They reported finding nothing unexpected.


And still, the rumors persist. In 2013, just before the newly-elected Pope Francis came to Israel for his first official visit, Rabbi Yonatan Shtencel, a resident of Jerusalem, made a sensation in the media when he wrote a letter to the Vatican requesting that the Pope take the opportunity to return the golden menorah stolen from the Temple. Shtencel turned to the new Pope as a leader with a “willingness to listen to other nations”.“It is time for the holy vessels, stolen at the time of these difficult historical events and taken to Rome as spoils of war and remaining to this day in the hands of the Vatican authorities and under your control, to change status,” Rabbi Shtencel wrote. He stated that by doing so, the many years the Vatican had possessed the vessels would change from theft to a “trusteeship” for the Jewish People.

Archbishop Guiseppe Lazzaratto  responded, saying the Vatican had given the matter “serious attention”. Though he did not admit the Temple vessels were in the Vatican, neither did he deny it. He reaffirmed the growing affinity between the Church and the Jews, noting that withholding the vessels would go against that trend.

“If you can provide me with any evidence that the sacred vessels are indeed kept in the archives or somewhere else in the Vatican, I will be very pleased to forward your request to the Prefect of the same archives and to Pope Francis himself,” he replied.


How Are Sistine Chapel and Jewish Temple Connected? You’ll Be Shocked

“The House which King Shlomo built for Hashem was 60 amot long, 20 amot wide, and 30 amot high.” I Kings 6:1 (The Israel Bible™)

The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, perhaps the most famous Catholic prayer sanctuary in the world,  has a deep, hidden connection to the Jewish faith: it shares features and measurements with King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem as described in the Bible.

Hosting millions of visitors every year, it seems incredible that this very Christian edifice could be modeled after the Jewish Temple. The astounding similarities are revealed in The Sistine Secrets, a fascinating book by Vatican tour guide Roy Doliner and Rabbi Benjamin Blech.


Interior of the Sistine Chapel, showing the North and East walls. (Clayton Tang/Wikimedia Commons)

“The Chapel’s connection to the Jewish Temple is well known by scholars,” Rabbi Blech told Breaking Israel News. “But tourists do not know it and most Vatican guides do not known it or tell about it. The Vatican has a fixed way of telling the story of the Chapel and that is what is given over.”

Located in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel is named for Pope Sixtus IV , who had it built between 1477 and 1480. The Chapel is renowned for the incredible frescos that decorate its interior, including Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment.

Pope Sixtus IV spent vast amounts of the Vatican’s money on reviving the splendors of Rome, rebuilding churches, and founding the Vatican library. But his most famous project of all was the reconstruction of the Palatine Chapel, which he renamed the Sistine Chapel after himself.

The new plan of the Sistine Chapel was more than just a renovation, however; the pope took the opportunity to incorporate Jewish elements of Temple worship as he rebuilt. Several aspects of the Chapel’s new measurements and design matched those of the first Holy Temple completed by King Solomon – exactly.

As detailed in the Book of Kings, the measurements of the Heichal, the inner sanctuary of the Temple, are 40.9 meters (134 ft) long, by 13.4 meters (44 ft) wide and 20.7 meters (68 ft) high. These are the exact dimensions of the Sistine Chapel.

Another feature matching that of the Jewish Temple is the double level construction. The Western half of the Sistine Chapel, containing the altar and the private area for the Pope and his court, is some six inches higher than the Eastern half. This elevated section corresponds to the Jewish Temple’s Kodesh HaKodashim, the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest could enter, only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Measurements of Solomon’s Temple (Wikimedia Commons)

In the Jewish Temple, the Paroket was the curtain separating the rest of the Temple from the Holy of Holies. Correspondingly, the Sistine Chapel features a huge white marble partition grill in a parallel location with seven marble flames on top, mirroring to the seven-branched menorah (which ancient legend suggests is hidden in the Vatican today), or candelabra, that glorified the Jewish sanctuary in Biblical times.

According to Rabbi Blech, the changes were motivated by a sinister desire to co-opt Jewish concepts in order to strengthen the Catholic dogma.

“The motive for basing elements of the Sistine Chapel on Solomon’s Temple is the Replacement Theory which is basic Catholic doctrine,” the rabbi  told Breaking Israel News.

“They believe they are the true descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that after Jesus, God rejected the Jews and chose them.

“As part of this theory, they wanted to replace Jerusalem with Rome and so they ‘sanctified’ Rome by appropriating elements from Jerusalem.”


The Limits of Grief

The Limits of Grief (Re’eh 5777)

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

You are children of the Lord your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead, for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession” (Deut. 14:1-2).

These words have had a considerable history within Judaism. The first inspired the famous statement of Rabbi Akiva: “Beloved is man because he was created in the image [of God]. Beloved are Israel for they are called children of the All-present” (Avot 3:14). The phrase, “Do not cut yourselves”, was imaginatively applied by the sages to divisions within the community (Yevamot 14a). A single town should not have two or more religious courts giving different rulings.

The plain sense of these two verses, though, is about behaviour at a time of bereavement. We are commanded not to engage in excessive rituals of grief. To lose a close member of one’s family is a shattering experience. It is as if something of ourselves had died too. Not to grieve is wrong, inhuman: Judaism does not command Stoic indifference in the face of death. But to give way to wild expressions of sorrow – lacerating one’s flesh, tearing out one’s hair – is also wrong. It is, the Torah suggests, not fitting to a holy people; it is the kind of behaviour associated with idolatrous cults. How so, and why so?

Elsewhere in Tanakh we are given a glimpse of the kind of behaviour the Torah has in mind. It occurs in the course of the encounter between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah had challenged them to a test: Let us each make a sacrifice and see which of us can bring down fire from heaven. The Baal prophets accept the challenge:

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. (I Kings 18:26-28)

This was, of course, not a mourning ritual, but it gives us a graphic sense of the rite of self-laceration. Emil Durkheim provides us with a description of mourning customs among the aborigines of Australia. When a death is announced, men and women begin to run around wildly, howling and weeping, cutting themselves with knives and pointed sticks.

Despite the apparent frenzy, there is a precise set of rules governing this behaviour, depending on whether the mourner is a man or woman, and on his or her kinship relationship with the deceased. “Among the Warramunga, those who slashed their thighs were the maternal grandfather, maternal uncle and wife’s brother of the deceased. Others are required to cut their whiskers and hair and then cover their scalps with pipe clay.” Women lacerate their heads and then apply red-hot sticks to the wounds in order to aggravate them.[1]

(A similar ritual is performed by some Shia Muslims on Ashura, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the prophet’s grandson, at Karbala. People flagellate themselves with chains or cut themselves with knives until the blood flows. Some Shia authorities strongly oppose this practice.)

The Torah sees such behaviour as incompatible with kedushah, holiness. What is particularly interesting is to note the two-stage process in which the law is set out. It appears first in Vayikra/Leviticus Chapter 21.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: A priest may not defile himself for any of his people who die, except for a close relative . . . They may not shave their heads or shave the edges of their beards or cut their bodies. They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God.” (Lev. 21:1-6)

There it applies specifically to cohanim, priests, on account of their holiness. In Deuteronomy the law is extended to all Israel (the difference between the two books lies in their original audiences: Leviticus is mainly a set of instructions to the priests, Deuteronomy is Moses’ addresses to the whole people). The application to ordinary Israelites of laws of sanctity that apply to priests is part of the democratisation of holiness that is central to the Torah idea of “a kingdom of priests”. The question remains, however: what has restraint in mourning to do with being “children of the Lord your God”, a holy and chosen people?

[1] Ibn Ezra says that just as a father may cause a child pain for his or her long-term good, so God sometimes brings us pain – here, bereavement – which we must accept in trust without an excessive show of grief.

[2] Ramban suggests that it is our belief in the immortality of the soul that is why we should not grieve overmuch. Even so, he adds, we are right to mourn within the parameters set by Jewish law since, even if death is only a parting, every parting is painful.

[3] R. Ovadiah Sforno and Chizkuni say that because we are “children of God” we are never completely orphaned. We may lose our earthly parents but never our ultimate Father; hence there is a limit to grief.

[4] Rabbenu Meyuchas suggests that royalty does not defile itself by undergoing disfiguring injuries (nivul). Thus Israel – children of the supreme King – may not do so either.

Whichever of these explanations speaks most strongly to us, the principle is clear. Here is how Maimonides sets out the law: “Whoever does not mourn the dead in the manner enjoined by the rabbis is cruel [achzari – perhaps a better translation would be, ‘lacking in sensitivity’)” (Hilkhot Avel 13:12). At the same time, however, “One should not indulge in excessive grief over one’s dead, for it is said, ‘Weep not for the dead, nor bemoan him’ [Jer. 22:10], that is to say, weep not too much, for that is the way of the world, and he who frets over the way of the world is a fool” (ibid. 13:11).

Halakhah, Jewish law, strives to create a balance between too much and too little grief. Hence the various stages of bereavement: aninut (the period between the death and burial), shiva (the week of mourning), sheloshim (thirty days in the case of other relatives) and shanah (a year, in the case of parents). Judaism ordains a precisely calibrated sequence of grief, from the initial, numbing moment of loss itself, to the funeral and the return home, to the period of being comforted by friends and members of the community, to a more extended time during which one does not engage in activities associated with joy.

The more we learn about the psychology of bereavement and the stages through which we must pass before loss is healed, so the wisdom of Judaism’s ancient laws and customs has become ever more clear. As it is with individuals, so it is with the people as a whole. Jews have suffered more than most from persecution and tragedy. We have never forgotten these moments. We remember them on our fast days – especially on Tisha B’Av with its literature of lament, the kinot. Yet, with a power of recovery that at times has been almost miraculous, it has never allowed itself to be defeated by grief. One rabbinic passage[2] epitomises the dominant voice within Judaism:

After the Second Temple was destroyed, ascetics multiplied in Israel. They did not eat meat or drink wine . . . Rabbi Joshua told them: “Not to mourn at all is impossible, for it has been decreed. But to mourn too much is also impossible.”

In this anti-traditional age, with its hostility to ritual and its preference for the public display of private emotion (what Philip Rieff, in the 1960s, called “the triumph of the therapeutic”), the idea that grief has its laws and limits sounds strange. Yet almost anyone who has had the misfortune to be bereaved can testify to the profound healing brought about by observance of the laws of avelut (mourning).

Torah and tradition knew how to honour both the dead and the living, sustaining the delicate balance between grief and consolation, the loss of life that gives us pain, and the re-affirmation of life that gives us hope.

[1] Emil Durkheim, Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, translated by Karen Fields, Free Press, 1995, pp. 392-406.

[2] Tosefta Sotah 15:10-15; see also Baba Batra 60b.

As taken from, on August 14, 2017.

El duelo según el judaísmo: cuerpo y alma

Ree(Deuteronomio 11:26-16:17)

El duelo según el judaísmo: cuerpo y alma

La parashá de esta semana describe ciertos aspectos del duelo que eran practicados por diferentes naciones en esos tiempos. Algunos hacían cortes en sus cuerpos, mientras que otros se arrancaban pelo entre sus ojos. La Torá prohíbe esas acciones, diciendo: “Ustedes son los hijos de Dios, no se harán cortes y no pondrán navaja entre sus ojos por los muertos” (1).

De la misma manera, en Kedoshim, la Torá nos dice: “No harán ningún corte en su carne por los muertos y no se harán ninguna marca en ustedes, Yo soy Hashem” (2).

Estas mitzvot nos enseñan que está mal hacerse un corte en el cuerpo en señal de duelo. En contraste, hay un mandamiento positivo de desgarrar la ropa cuando muere de un pariente cercano (acción conocida como kriá). El Shulján Aruj (3) declara: “Alguien cuyo pariente ha muerto (si es un pariente por el que tiene requerido hacer duelo), debe rasgar [su prenda] por él” (4). Es sorprendente cómo acciones tan similares de desgarrar son tan diferentes para la ley judía, al punto que cortarse la piel está prohibido, y rasgar la ropa es una obligación (5).

Para entender la diferencia entre cortarse el cuerpo y rasgar la ropa, es necesario analizar el primer evento en la Torá donde la ropa tiene una función: el pecado de Adam. La Torá nos dice que, antes del pecado, Adam y Eva no usaban ropas, y no se avergonzaban (6). Sin embargo, después de comer del árbol, advirtieron que estaban desnudos y vistieron ropas para cubrir su vergüenza (7).

¿Qué cambió como resultado del pecado? Sabemos que el hombre está compuesto por dos partes opuestas: cuerpo y alma. Pareciera que siempre se entendió que es inapropiado que la esencia del hombre esté expuesta y, por lo tanto, se necesitaba una cobertura, o ropa. Antes del pecado, Adam se identificaba principalmente con su alma, mientras que su cuerpo tenía la función de ser su “ropa”. En consecuencia, no era necesario una prenda para cubrirse, porque el cuerpo lo hacía. Sin embargo, después del pecado, el hombre comenzó a identificarse principalmente con su cuerpo (8). Una vez que consideró a su cuerpo como el aspecto principal de su ser, sintió vergüenza de tenerlo descubierto y necesitó cubrirse.

Con este entendimiento de la relación entre cuerpo y alma, podemos ahora entender mejor el significado de rasgar la ropa o cortarse el cuerpo. Desde el pecado de Adam, el hombre se identifica principalmente con el cuerpo (9). Entonces, cuando una persona muere, podría creerse equivocadamente que todo su ser se ha perdido para siempre. Sin embargo, esto es un serio error; sólo perdió su cuerpo, pero su alma continúa existiendo. Es por eso que, en el momento de pena, a la persona se le exige desgarrar su prenda, para recordarle que la esencia de su ser querido no ha desaparecido (10). Sólo se perdió su cuerpo, la “ropa” de su alma, pero el alma sigue intacta. Esto explica por qué está prohibido cortarse la carne, ya que hacerlo indica la creencia de que esta persona dejó de existir por completo (11).

Las directivas de la Torá respecto al duelo no sólo nos enseñan la actitud apropiada hacia la muerte, sino también la manera en que debe entenderse la vida. Respecto a la muerte, aprendemos que no es el final de la existencia de la persona. Reconocemos que el ser querido ha pasado a un plano más elevado de existencia. Hacer cortes en el cuerpo simboliza la creencia de que el muerto dejó de existir por completo, por lo que es una acción absolutamente inapropiada.

Respecto a la vida, estas enseñanzas le recuerdan a la persona que no debería perder de vista que su alma es la fuente principal de su esencia, y que su cuerpo es un utensilio temporario cuya función es facilitar el bienestar del alma. En consecuencia, si bien uno debe satisfacer sus necesidades físicas básicas, no debería verlo como un fin en sí mismo, sino como un medio para fortalecerse y tener salud para embarcarse en su misión espiritual. Hacerlo es muy difícil, dado el estado del hombre después del pecado de Adam. Sin embargo, cuanto más uno fortalezca su reconocimiento de la primacía del alma, más podrá poner en práctica esta enseñanza.


(1) Reé, 14:1.

(2) Vaikrá, 19:28.

(3) El Shulján Aruj es una de las obras más importantes de ley judía. Fue escrito por Rav Iosef Caro en el siglo XV.

(4) Yoré Deá, 340:1.

(5) Para profundizar en estas diferentes mitzvot y lo relacionado al tema, ver Torá Temimá, Vaikrá 10:6. Ver también Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch al HaTorá, Vaikrá 19:28.En este artículo, se adoptará un enfoque diferente (aunque no contradictorio).

(6) Bereshit, 2:25.

(7) Bereshit, 3:7.

(8) Así es como nos identificamos hasta la actualidad. Rav Moty Berger señala que una persona no dice “mi cuerpo no se siente bien”, sino “yo no me siento bien”, implicando que se identifica con el cuerpo y demostrando que, naturalmente, consideramos que nuestro cuerpo es nuestra esencia.

(9) De más está decir que su avodá en la vida es identificarse con su alma lo más posible. Sin embargo, es imposible negar la primacía de su cuerpo en este mundo.

(10) Debería notarse que existen otras ocasiones donde hay una obligación de kriá, como cuando uno ve el área del Jurbán Beit HaMikdash. La explicación para kriábrindada en este artículo no aplica a esa instancia.

(11) Ver Rabeinu Bejaye, Devarim 14:11.

Según tomado de, el lunes, 14 de agosto de 2017.

¿Dios puede crear una piedra que Él no puede levantar?

¿Dios puede crear una piedra que Él no puede levantar?

Un enfoque judío sobre el clásico dilema filosófico.

por Rav Gabriel Mandel

Esta es la conocida ‘paradoja de la omnipotencia’la cual se remonta al siglo XII (1). Genera un dilema en cuanto a qué tanto una respuesta positiva como una negativa parecieran probar que Dios no es omnipotente. O bien puede crear una roca que no pueda levantar, en cuyo caso sería limitado en fortaleza, o bien no puede crear una roca como esa, en cuyo caso estaría limitado porque hay algo que Él no puede hacer.

Dios es lógico

Para abordar el problema con la respuesta afirmativa (que Dios sí puede crear tal roca), piensa en la siguiente pregunta: ¿Puede Dios hacer un triángulo con forma de círculo? ¡Por supuesto que no! Si definimos un triángulo como un objeto formado por la intersección de tres líneas, es ilógico preguntar si Dios puede hacer uno esférico. Si Dios crea un objeto redondo, entonces —de acuerdo a nuestra definición de un triángulo— el objeto ya no es un triángulo.

Así como un triángulo nunca puede ser un círculo, es imposible decir que Dios —un ser ilimitado— podría crear una roca demasiado pesada para que Él la levante. Como Dios es infinitamente fuerte, siempre podrá levantar una roca, por más grande o pesada que sea.

Cuando el judaísmo dice que Dios es ‘omnipotente’, no significa que pueda hacer lo que sea. Significa que Dios tiene el poder para hacer todo lo que sea lógicamente posible. Parte de la perfección suprema de Dios es que toda acción que realiza es resultado de una lógica pura y sin alteración. Dios es incapaz de hacer algo ilógico, y la lógica dicta que un ser con fortaleza infinita jamás podría hacer una roca demasiado pesada como para levantarla.

Pasando ahora a la respuesta negativa (que Dios no puede crear una roca demasiado pesada para levantarla), ¿no implicaría esto que hay algo que Dios no puede hacer y, consecuentemente, que no es todopoderoso?

Si lo pensamos, la pregunta podría ser expresada de una forma más general: ¿Puede Dios, un ser infinito, hacerse finito? Porque (2) si Dios está completamente más allá de las limitaciones, debería ser capaz de ir en contra de Su naturaleza para volverse un ser con limitaciones. Si Dios es incapaz de limitarse, entonces, ¿es realmente Dios ilimitado y todopoderoso, como el judaísmo afirma que es?

¿Puede Dios morir?

Para apreciar que la incapacidad de Dios para limitarse a sí mismo no es realmente una limitación, debemos entender que hay muchas cosas que Dios no puede hacer, y ninguna de ellas implica que tenga una limitación. Por ejemplo, Dios no puede sentirse cansado, olvidar cosas, aburrirse e incluso morir. Esos términos sólo aplican a nosotros. Dado que somos limitados, experimentamos las limitaciones del cansancio, el olvido, el aburrimiento y la muerte.

Otra acción que Dios no puede hacer es una copia de sí mismo. Dos seres infinitos no pueden coexistir, porque ambos serían parte de una sola realidad infinita. Un infinito más un infinito da como resultado un infinito. Dios tampoco puede cambiar su naturaleza. Ser infinito implica ser inmutable, sin tener la posibilidad de cambiar.

Como vemos, hay muchas cosas que Dios no puede hacer, muchas limitaciones que no puede imponerse a sí mismo. Pero esto se debe a que esas limitaciones en realidad no son limitaciones, sino el resultado directo de ser ilimitado.

En otras palabras, la resolución de la paradoja de la omnipotencia es que la incapacidad de Dios para hacerse finito no es una carencia ni un defecto en Él. Esta limitación no atestigua Su imperfección, sino que, por el contrario, es la máxima expresión de su perfección.

La grandeza de un ser infinito e ilimitado es que nunca puede perder su naturaleza ilimitada. Dios nunca puede ir en contra de la lógica para hacer un triángulo redondo, gastar demasiada energía y cansarse, ni dejar de lado su memoria perfecta para olvidar cosas. Dios nunca puede pasar a estar limitado por características físicas. Ver esta incapacidad como una limitación que refleja debilidad en Dios es un error. En realidad, es lo opuesto. Lo que hace a Dios tan infinitamente poderoso es que no puede hacer las cosas que hacemos los mortales (3). Es sólo por causa de nuestra finitud —nuestra debilidad y restricciones naturales— que tenemos limitaciones como enfermedades, depresión, mortalidad o incluso la incapacidad de levantar una roca pesada. Para Dios, sin embargo, Su naturaleza todopoderosa no permite dichas debilidades.

Extraído de Judaism Unraveled, un libro que explora abiertamente y en profundidad preguntas desafiantes sobre el judaísmo.


(1) El filósofo italiano Thomas Aquinas y el filósofo musulmán Averroes, quienes vivieron en el siglo XIII, son dos de los muchos filósofos que se preguntaron sobre la paradoja de la omnipotencia. Ver Edward R. Wierenga, The Nature of God: An Inquiry into Divine Attributes, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989).

(2) La lógica, como es usada en nuestra respuesta, no debería ser confundida con la naturaleza. De acuerdo al judaísmo, si bien Dios no puede ir en contra de la lógica, sí puede ir en contra de las leyes naturales para realizar un milagro, alterando temporariamente el sistema de leyes naturales que Él mismo creó. Un ejemplo de esto es la partición del Mar de los Juncos, cuando el pueblo judío abandonó Egipto.

La lógica y la naturaleza son muy diferentes. La idea de que uno más uno es dos, es lógica, que un árbol crezca de una semilla, es naturaleza. Dios no puede hacer que uno más uno sea tres. Sin embargo, Dios sí puede hacer un árbol sin una semilla. Cuando hablamos sobre las capacidades y limitaciones de un ser infinito, por definición, las preguntas están basadas en lo que es lógico o ilógico, y no en lo que está de acuerdo o en contra de las leyes de la naturaleza, dado que la naturaleza es una realidad finita creada por Dios.

(3) Ver Números 23:19, donde declara: “Dios no es un hombre, que deba mentir, tampoco hijo del hombre, que deba arrepentirse”, y Talmud Yerushalmi, Taanit 2a.

Segun tomado de, el lunes, 14 de agosto de 2017.

Creation: A Convergence of Torah and Science

Creation: A Convergence of Torah and Science

Once unthinkable, the accounts of creation by Torah and science are converging.

by Prof. Nathan Aviezer

Where did the universe come from? A person of faith would probably answer that the universe was created out of nothing, as stated in the first verse of the Torah. Such an answer was long considered a scientific impossibility, because it contradicted the law of the conservation of matter and energy. According to this law of science, which was established in the middle of the nineteenth century, matter and energy can be changed from one form to another, but something cannot come from nothing. Therefore, scientists viewed the universe as eternal, thus neatly avoiding questions regarding its origin. The Torah assertion that the universe was created, presumably from nothing, became an area of conflict between Torah and science. That is how matters stood for many years.

This situation has now completely changed. The twentieth century witnessed an unprecedented explosion of scientific knowledge, which was nowhere more dramatic than in cosmology, the discipline that deals with the origin and development of the universe. Astronomers had been studying the heavenly bodies for thousands of years, but their studies dealt exclusively with charting the paths of the stars, planets, and comets, and determining their composition, spectrum, and other properties. The origin of the heavenly bodies remained a complete mystery.

Today, an overwhelming body of scientific evidence supports the “big bang” theory of cosmology.

Important advances in cosmology during the past few decades have, for the first time, permitted scientists to construct a coherent history of the origin of the universe.

Today, an overwhelming body of scientific evidence supports the “big bang” theory of cosmology.1 There are four major pieces of evidence: (1) the discovery in 1965 of the remnant of the initial ball of light, (2) the hydrogen-to-helium ratio in the universe, (3) the Hubble expansion of the galaxies, and (4) the perfect black-body spectrum of the microwave background radiation measured by the COBE space satellite in 1990.

Only the big bang theory can account for all these observations, and therefore this theory is now accepted by all mainstream cosmologists.

The most surprising assertion of the big bang theory is that the universe was literally created from nothing. It is instructive here to quote the world’s leading authorities:

It seems certain that there was a definite time of creation.”Professor Paul Dirac, Nobel laureate from the University of Cambridge

The instant of creation remains unexplained.”3 Professor Alan Guth, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The creation lies outside the scope of the known laws of physics.”Professor Stephen Hawking, University of Cambridge

The big bang is the modern version of creation.”5Professor Joseph Silk, University of California

Today, it is not possible to carry on a meaningful discussion of cosmology without the creation of the universe assuming a central role. Professor Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist at Columbia University, wrote in 1999: “The modern theory of cosmic origins asserts that the universe erupted from an enormously energetic event, which spewed forth all space and all matter.”6

When cosmologists use the term “creation,” to what are they referring? Precisely what object was created? Scientists have discovered that the universe began with the sudden appearance of an enormous ball of light, commonly called the “primeval light-ball.” This “explosion of light” was dubbed the “big bang” by British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. The remnant of the initial ball of light was detected in 1965 by two American physicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, who were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery.

“The laws of nature came into existence together with the Big Bang, as did space and time.”

People sometimes ask what existed before the big bang, the event that marked the creation of the universe. Professor John Wheeler of Princeton University explains that the very concept of time did not exist before the creation. “There was no ‘before’ prior to the Big Bang. The laws of nature came into existence together with the Big Bang, as did space and time.”7 Wheeler emphasizes that scientists view space and time as the “stage” upon which events take place. If there is no physical world – if the universe does not exist – then neither time nor space can exist. “Time” and “space” are not independent entities; these concepts have meaning only after the creation of the physical universe.

This property of time and space can be illustrated by analogy to the concept of color. “Red” or “black” are not characteristics that are independent of any physical object. Only if macroscopic objects exist, such as grass, rocks, or houses, can one speak of these objects as being red or black. If nothing but atoms and molecules existed, then there would be no meaning to “red” or “black,” or to the entire concept of colour. There is no such thing as a red molecule. In the same way, there were no concepts of time and space before the universe came into being.

Creation and the Torah

In addition to confirming the creation of the universe, the discovery of the initial primeval light by Penzias and Wilson also answers another long-standing puzzle regarding the Torah account of creation. It is written in the Torah on the First Day of Creation: Andthere was light(Genesis 1:3). But at that time, there existed neither stars, nor sun, nor moon, nor people, nor any other known source of light. Therefore, how can one understand this “light”?

Scientists have now discovered that therewas lightat the very beginning of time: the primeval light-ball whose appearance heralded the origin of the universe. The creation of light did not occur within the existing universe. Rather, the creation of light was the creation of the universe. In other words, the Torah does not record two separate creations on the first day – the creation of the universe and the creation of light – but only one.

We now turn to the question of the time scale. How much time was required for all the cosmological events that took place at the creation of the universe? How many millions of years had to elapse before the universe was complete and assumed its present form?

All the cosmological events involved in the creation of the universe occurred within a very few minutes.

The remarkable answer is that all the cosmological events involved in the creation of the universe occurred within a very few minutes. This fact is emphasized by the dramatic title that Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg chose for his famous book on modern cosmology: The First Three Minutes.

Nowadays, cosmological events – events that alter the structure of the universe – require millions of years to occur. How could such events have occurred within just a few moments? The answer is that during the period of creation, the temperature of the universe was extremely high. Just as food cooks much more rapidly in a pressure cooker than over a low flame, in the same way, events occurred with amazing rapidity in the blazing universe at the origins of time. Professor Greene explains: “The newly borne universe evolved with phenomenal haste. Tiny fractions of a second were cosmic epochs during which the features of the universe were first imprinted. During the first three minutes after the big bang, as the simmering universe cooled, the nuclei emerged.”8

Thus, the formation of the first atomic nuclei – the basic building blocks of every material – was completed within three minutes after the instant of creation.


The comprehensive agreement between Torah and science described above does not prove that the Torah is of divine origin, nor does it prove that God exists. However, as we begin the twenty-first century, the person of faith is not forced to choose between accepting the latest scientific discoveries or accepting the Torah account of creation. All leading cosmologists now discuss the creation of the universe, while the Torah discusses the Creator of the universe. It is not unreasonable to assume that science and the Torah are both referring to one and the same subject. It is a pleasure for a person of faith to be living in this day and age!

The current harmony between science and faith was not always the case. Only a few decades ago, the outstanding Torah scholar Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik expressed the then-existing dichotomy between science and faith in a classic essay entitled “The Lonely Man of Faith.”9 Using the word “lonely” to describe the feelings of the man of faith who lives in a scientific world, Rav Soloveitchik wrote:

Being people of faith in our contemporary world is a lonely experience. We are loyal to visionary expectations which find little support in present-day reality… Religious faith is condescendingly regarded as a subjective palliative, but is given little credence as a repository of truth.”10

Now, only half a century later, in one scientific discipline after another, the words of the scientist can hardly be distinguished from the words of “the man of faith.” Professor Stephen J. Gould of Harvard University tells us that “human intelligence is the result of a staggeringly improbable series of events, utterly unpredictable, and quite unrepeatable.”11 The term “luck” is now commonly used by evolutionary biologists like Professor David Raup, past president of the American Paleontological Union, to “explain” the existence of human beings.12 Archaeologists express their amazement at the “radical and sudden changes, with no premonitory signs”13 that mark the appearance of civilization, and they speak of a sudden “quantum leap in mental abilities”14 that appears in the archaeological record of human cultural behaviour. Scientists in a wide variety of disciplines discuss the “anthropic principle,” which states that the universe looks as if it had been specifically designed to permit the existence and promote the welfare of human beings.15The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy expresses this idea in the following poetic words: “In truth, we are the children of the Universe.”16

The scientific discoveries recorded above are exactly what one would expect if the Torah account of the origin of the universe was correct. Therefore, such harmony between Torah and science constitutes an important argument in support of our religious belief. Modern science has become a significant element in strengthening our ancient faith.

Reprinted from Jewish Life magazine. Download the free Jewish Life app on iOS and Android


1. See N. Aviezer, 1990, In the Beginning (Ktav Publishing House: New York).
2. P. A. M. Dirac, 1972, Commentarii, vol. 2, no. 11, p. 15.
3. A. H. Guth, May 1984, Scientific American, p. 102.
4. S. W. Hawking, 1973, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (Cambridge University Press), p. 364
5. J. Silk, 1989, The Big Bang (W. H. Freeman: New York), p. xi.
6. B. Greene, 1999, The Elegant Universe (Jonathan Cape: London), pp. 345-346.
7. J. A. Wheeler, 1998, Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (W. W. Norton: New York), p. 350.
8. Greene, pp. 347, 350.
9. J. B. Soloveitchik, Spring 1965, Tradition, pp. 5-67.
10. See the adaptation of the 1965 Soloveitchik essay (especially p. 8) by A. R. Besdin, 1989, Man of Faith in the Modern World (Ktav: New York), pp. 36-37.
11. S. J. Gould, 1989, Wonderful Life (W. W. Norton: New York), p. 14.
12. D. M. Raup, 1991, Extinctions: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? (Oxford University Press).
13. N. Eldredge, 1985, Time Frames (Simon and Schuster: New York), p. 87.
14. N. Eldredge and I. Tattersall, 1982, The Myths of Human Evolution (Columbia University Press: New York), p. 154.
15. G. Gale, December 1981, “Anthropic Principle,” Scientific American, pp. 114-122.
16. S. Mitton, editor-in-chief, 1987, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy (Jonathan Cape: London), p. 125.

As taken from,  on August 11, 2017.

Why Civilisations Fail

What is the real challenge of maintaining a free society? In parshat Eikev, Moses springs his great surprise. Here are his words:

Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery… You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”… If you ever forget the Lord your God… I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. (Deut. 8:11-19)

What Moses was saying to the new generation was this: You thought that the forty years of wandering in the wilderness were the real challenge, and that once you conquer and settle the land, your problems will be over. The truth is that it is then that the real challenge will begin. It will be precisely when all your physical needs are met – when you have land and sovereignty and rich harvests and safe homes ­– that your spiritual trial will commence.

The real challenge is not poverty but affluence, not insecurity but security, not slavery but freedom. Moses, for the first time in history, was hinting at a law of history. Many centuries later it was articulated by the great 14th century Islamic thinker, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), by the Italian political philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), and most recently by the Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. Moses was giving an account of the decline and fall of civilisations.

Ibn Khaldun argued similarly, that when a civilisation becomes great, its elites get used to luxury and comfort, and the people as a whole lose what he called their asabiyah, their social solidarity. The people then become prey to a conquering enemy, less civilised than they are but more cohesive and driven.

Vico described a similar cycle:

“People first sense what is necessary, then consider what is useful, next attend to comfort, later delight in pleasures, soon grow dissolute in luxury, and finally go mad squandering their estates.”

Bertrand Russell put it powerfully in the introduction to his History of Western Philosophy. Russell thought that the two great peaks of civilisation were reached in ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy. But he was honest enough to see that the very features that made them great contained the seeds of their own demise:

What had happened in the great age of Greece happened again in Renaissance Italy: traditional moral restraints disappeared, because they were seen to be associated with superstition; the liberation from fetters made individuals energetic and creative, producing a rare fluorescence of genius; but the anarchy and treachery which inevitably resulted from the decay of morals made Italians collectively impotent, and they fell, like the Greeks, under the domination of nations less civilised than themselves but not so destitute of social cohesion.

 Niall Ferguson, in his book Civilisationthe West and the Rest (2011) argued that the West rose to dominance because of what he calls its six “killer applications”: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the Protestant work ethic. Today however it is losing belief in itself and is in danger of being overtaken by others.

All of this was said for the first time by Moses, and it forms a central argument of the book of Devarim. If you assume – he tells the next generation – that you yourselves won the land and the freedom you enjoy, you will grow complacent and self-satisfied. That is the beginning of the end of any civilisation. In an earlier chapter Moses uses the graphic word venoshantem, “you will grow old” (Deut. 4:25), meaning that you will no longer have the moral and mental energy to make the sacrifices necessary for the defence of freedom.

Inequalities will grow. The rich will become self-indulgent. The poor will feel excluded. There will be social divisions, resentments and injustices. Society will no longer cohere. People will not feel bound to one another by a bond of collective responsibility. Individualism will prevail. Trust will decline. Social capital will wane.

This has happened, sooner or later, to all civilisations, however great. To the Israelites – a small people surrounded by large empires – it would be disastrous. As Moses makes clear towards the end of the book, in the long account of the curses that would overcome the people if they lost their spiritual bearings, Israel would find itself defeated and devastated.

Only against this background can we understand the momentous project the book of Devarim is proposing: the creation of a society capable of defeating the normal laws of the growth-and-decline of civilisations. This is an astonishing idea.

How is it to be done? By each person bearing and sharing responsibility for the society as a whole. By each knowing the history of his or her people. By each individual studying and understanding the laws that govern all. By teaching their children so that they too become literate and articulate in their identity.

Rule 1: Never forget where you came from.

Next, you sustain freedom by establishing courts, the rule of law and the implementation of justice. By caring for the poor. By ensuring that everyone has the basic requirements of dignity. By including the lonely in the people’s celebrations. By remembering the covenant daily, weekly, annually in ritual, and renewing it at a national assembly every seven years. By making sure there are always prophets to remind the people of their destiny and expose the corruptions of power.

Rule 2: Never drift from your foundational principles and ideals.

Above all it is achieved by recognising a power greater than ourselves. This is Moses’ most insistent point. Societies start growing old when they lose faith in the transcendent. They then lose faith in an objective moral order and end by losing faith in themselves.

Rule 3: A society is as strong as its faith.

Only faith in God can lead us to honour the needs of others as well as ourselves. Only faith in God can motivate us to act for the benefit of a future we will not live to see. Only faith in God can stop us from wrongdoing when we believe that no other human will ever find out. Only faith in God can give us the humility that alone has the power to defeat the arrogance of success and the self-belief that leads, as Paul Kennedy argued in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), to military overstretch and national defeat.

Towards the end of his book Civilisation, Niall Ferguson quotes a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, part of a team tasked with the challenge of discovering why it was that Europe, having lagged behind China until the 17th century, overtook it, rising to prominence and dominance.

At first, he said, we thought it was your guns. You had better weapons than we did. Then we delved deeper and thought it was your political system. Then we searched deeper still, and concluded that it was your economic system. But for the past 20 years we have realised that it was in fact your religion. It was the (Judeo-Christian) foundation of social and cultural life in Europe that made possible the emergence first of capitalism, then of democratic politics.

Only faith can save a society from decline and fall. That was one of Moses’ greatest insights, and it has never ceased to be true.

As taken from, on August 9, 2017.