Thursday, March 16, 2006

For Love of Physics

R. Yisrael Meir Lau writes about the following episode when he was about 17 or 18 (pp. 155-156):

A number of times, I accompanied the rabbi [R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach] back to his home from yeshiva, after his lecture. Sometimes we walked in silence and sometimes we spoke. In one of the conversations, he told me that R. Fogelman, my uncle from Kiryat Motzkin, visited him. "He is a precious man. He loves you like a son and wants you to take the Bagrut [high school graduation] examinations to ease your future. In the best of his estimation, this will help you arrange your life. He knows that in our yeshiva we only learn Torah studies and not secular studies. However, I responded to his request based on your unique circumstances and in order to satisfy him. He is a great Torah scholar, and if this is his judgment, then at night -- after the regular yeshiva sessions -- you can study on your own for the Bagrut examinations. You have abilities -- so go and study."

A number of days after that, R. Shlomo Zalman asked what I thought about my studies. I answered him that I cannot approach [the material for] the Bagrut because I did not even study in ninth grade. I first have to take the earlier examinations in order to be prepared for the Bagrut examinations. The rabbi was interested in which subjects are tested, and I told him about physics and chemistry, biology and geography, and I explained to him that I am not good in the sciences and prefer the humanities. He opened his mouth in surprise and asked how it is possible not to love physics. Is this not the science that deals with the creation of the world, which is the greatness of the Creator and the greatness of the creation?

He continued and said excitedly: I take the bus, line 5, with students who are traveling to the university in Terra Sancta. If I have luck, they clear for me a space... I listen to them speaking on the way and exchanging idea in advance of a lecture or test. If I hear something about physics, electricity, water, climate, I listen carefully so that I might absorb something, any interesting new idea. Remember what it says in Isaiah, ch. 40: "Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things." How is it possible that you do not love physics?

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