Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on Torah Study

As mentioned in some of our previous posts, this year's Saturday morning Torah study sessions at Congregation Adas Emuno have been devoted to the thought of the great rabbinical scholar Maimonides.  And this has made for some pretty lively discussion, indeed!  

In fact, one of our congregants and participants in this adult education program, Ludwik Kowalski, has asked us to post his thoughts relating to our most recent session, this past Saturday, December 15th.  Ludwik is a retired physicist and teacher, and here are his "Thoughts to Share":

I am interested in dangerous conflicts between theists and atheists--can they be avoided? If yes then how? My short article on that topic can be found in:

1) The purpose of this year's Torah Study sessions is to read and understand Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (written in the 12th century). Today we started to study his BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE.

2) I had several conceptual difficulties. One of them was the use of essential words by our leader, such as "proof," "science," and "prophet." Should we use such words as Maimonides understood them or should we use them as they are used today by scholars? In my opinion the term "proof," as used today, belongs to logic, not to science. Scientific claims are validated by performing reproducible experiments. Mathematical claims (theorems) are validated by derivations; to derive something means to show that it is logically consistent with what has already been accepted (axioms and already derived theorems).

3) Theological claims are also justified by logical reasoning. Existence of God, and descriptions of God found in the Torah (five books of Moses), are theological axioms--we accept them as such. Later theological claims (such as those found in the Talmud) must be logically derived. Yes, I know that those who are not scholars accept them on the basis of the authority of scholars. But that is a different topic.

4) And I understand that in a workshop devoted to the study of Mishneh Torah, words like science and proof should be understood in the way that the great rabbi Maimonides used them, in the 12th century. But this should be clearly stated, to avoid possible confusion. I am probably not the only one who is often confused by multiple meanings of some words.

And so, we invite others to respond to Ludwik's post, whether you agree with his concerns, or differ or disagree with them.  Readers, whether you have attended this past Torah study session, or any of our other sessions, or none at all, you all are entirely welcome to add your comments to this post. Or if you prefer to send Ludwik a private message, feel free to do so at kowalskiL at

And please feel free to join us as we continue to explore the thought and writing of Maimonides on Saturday mornings at 10 AM. Our Torah study group is free and open to the public, and there is no problem starting in at any point in our ongoing conversation.

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