(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 13:11:41 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Berchat Ha Torah

David Barnett asks in Bais-Medrash Volume 2 Number 10
<  <  This is an old issue I have wondered about for quite some time. I am
giving a class in berchat ha torah and the question came up.  According to
Rambam who equates maase bereshit and maasse mercava with science
(astronomy) and metaphysics respectively, and thus part of gufe ha torah,
is it permissable, or perhaps obligatory to recite the beracha, la'asok
be'divre torah before studying such subjects? Citations would be
appreciated.>  >

I in fact wrote  a whole article on this very subject (reprints are
available from me **IF** you email me an address for ordinary mail). The
article is "Towards a Definition of Torah" in Volume 3/4 of Proceedings of
the Association of the Orginazation of Jewish Scientists. Here are some
concepts from the article

(a) In the article I show that science per say is NOT Torah UNLESS it is
CONNECTED to Torah (In the article I give 5 ways of connecting Science to
Torah with numerous examples). As a simple example (from my article)
Tosafoth on Succah 8 gives a geometric proof that the square root of 2 is
not 7/5. This geometric proof is not Torah; but it BECOMES Torah when
connected with various halachik problems in Succah.

(b) Although there **does** seem to be language in the Rambam's commentary
on the Mishnah that maase bereshit and maasse mercava is astronomy and
metaphysics and although the Kesef Mishnah on Foundations of Torah 4:13
clearly thinks this is what the Rambam meant, nevertheless, the Rambam
CLEARLY STATES in Foundations of Torah 4:13 that Maase bereshit and maasse
mercava is IDENTIFIED with the five commandments listed in the first 4
chapters of Yesoday Hatorah which are to love G-d, Fear G-d etc and deal
with the study of eg the characteristics of angels etc.

The following comes from another article of mine: (c)The lubavitch
translation of the Rambam explains that <  Maasey brayshit and maasey mercava
deal with spiritual matters such as the status of angels. However the
Rambam **expressed** these spiritual matters using metaphors from Greek
metaphysics. In other words the subject **content** is the mystical
relationship of G-d and angels while the language **style** is that of
Greek metaphysics.>

So in conclusion, you don't say the blessings on Torah on learning
astronomy UNLESS they are connected with Torah texts in a very specific way.

Russell Jay Hendel; phd Asa
Moderator Rashi Is Simple, http://www.shamash.org/rashi/