I am in the middle of one of the most fascinating books I have read in a long time! It’s by Jeremy Brown called “New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewi...moreI am in the middle of one of the most fascinating books I have read in a long time! It’s by Jeremy Brown called “New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought.”
It’s intriguing to see major Jewish figures interacting with major scientific figures. Rabbi David Gans an astronomer 1541 – 1613 studied under Rabbi Moses Isserles (The Rema of Shulchen Aruch fame, also an astronomer). Rabbi Gans also studied with Rabbi Judah Loew (The Mahral from Prague). He was also close with the Keli Yakar and Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller (Rav Heller also wrote an astronomy book) – both of who wrote approbations on Rabbi Gan’s astronomy books.
Rabbi Gans studied and discussed astronomy with renowned astronomers Johannes Kepler (who discovered that the planets make elliptical orbits not perfect circles as thought until then) and Tycho Brahe, both following in the footsteps of Nicholas Copernicus. Copernicus shattered the astronomical paradigm from a Geocentric solar system with all planets rotating around a stationary Earth to a Heliocentric one where all the planets, including earth, revolve around the Sun.
This book is filled with delightful gems. For example that the Rema wrote that after Alexander the Great captured Jerusalem, he placed Aristotle in charge of Solomon’s library from which Aristotle “stole the wisdom of Solomon.”
Or that the Remas’ book Torat Ha’olah showed how Talmudic statements could be reinterpreted so as not to conflict with the natural world while The Mahrals’ book B’er Hagolah described the limits of science and the superiority of Talmudic views about the natural world.
Or that Satmar Chasidim were prepared, for the day of Birchas Ha’Chama (the once in 28 year blessing on the Sun) to rent a plane to fly above the clouds, should it be an overcast day. Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum ruled that this was not necessary.
It notes many other gems from the simple way that Aristotle figured out that the Earth was a sphere, to many of the disagreements in the Talmud pertaining to astronomy and the facts about the Earth. All this and I am only up to page 71 out of about 300!
(I haven’t yet gotten to the extensive part about Galileo or the part where a Jewish Scholar wrote that Copernicus was “the Son of Satan.”)
I can’t wait to read the rest of this book. As much as I complain about how expensive some books are (this one costs $59!) every once in a while they are well worth it!
I am now up to about page 180 and am still loving every page! Fascinating to see all the major Jewish figures (R' Emden, R'Eyebshitz, Chasam Sofer, etc) respond to this issue and learn about many new leading Jewish figures that I have not heard of. There are mini bio's on each of them and I find it fascinating how they all struggled with this issue. One of my favorite books!!!(less)