Friday Candle Lighting: 5:39 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:34 PM
No Fit for Counterfeit
“And Hashem said to her (to Rivka about Esav and Yaakov), ‘Two regimes are in your womb…’” (25:23)
Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton forms the foundation of classical mechanics. In it, Newton expounds his laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. The Principia is considered one of the most important works in the history of science. But Newton was not only a scientist. He was also responsible for supervising the minting of money and amassed a considerable fortune himself. D. T. Whiteside, who became the twentieth century’s preeminent scholar and shepherd of Newton’s mathematical work, could not help but remark: “Only too few have ever possessed the intellectual genius and surpassing capacity to stamp their image upon the thought of their age and that of centuries to follow. Watching over the minting of a nation’s coin, catching a few counterfeiters, increasing an already respectably-sized personal fortune, being a political figure, even dictating to one’s fellow scientists — it should all seem a crass and empty ambition once you have written a Principia.” (“Isaac Newton” by James Gleick)
Being a great scientist, it seems, does not necessarily make you a great person.
Almost certainly not coincidentally, there is another well-known work with the title Principia Mathematica. In 1910, Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell published a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics also titled Principia Mathematica. Russell’s contributions to logic, epistemology, and the philosophy of mathematics established him as one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th century.
Sadly, it seems that as a person he fared no better than Newton. During his tenure as a professor at Cambridge University in England, Russell was once giving a lecture in a large amphitheater. In the middle of his discourse, a young lady raised her hand to ask a question. Russel indicated that he would take the question and she began, “Doctor Russell, you are one of the preeminent philosophers of your day. I would like to ask you, please, how you manage to equate this with the fact that you are having an illicit affair with one of your students?” Russell looked at the young lady and without missing a beat replied, “Madam, as I am a mathematician, do you also expect me to be a triangle?”
In Judaism, you have to be a triangle.
“And Hashem said to her, ‘Two regimes are in your womb…’”
Nothing in Judaism is more despised and nothing creates a greater desecration of Hashem’s name than a Torah scholar who is corrupt. The regime of Esav allows and indulges in the foibles of the bright and the witty, but the regime of Torah allows no counterfeiting whatsoever.