Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's so bad about knowledge? Dvar Torah, Parshas Bereishis

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." - Isaac Asimov
From the archives of my father Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum Z"L
Copyright 2007

It seems rather strange that right in the middle of the Garden of Eden there stood a tree named The Tree of Knowledge from which man was forbidden to eat. I've always wondered what the tree of knowledge was all about and why did G-d warn Man not to partake from this tree. Wasn’t man given a brain in order to use it to explore the magnificent world G-d created? What can be so bad with a tree that imparts man with knowledge so that he can understand the secrets of creation?  What could be wrong with man being more knowledgeable and learning some of the secrets which G-d embedded in His marvelous universe? Can there be anything wrong with being too knowledgeable?

Obviously, knowledge is a great blessing when it is used properly but can be very dangerous and even a curse when misused. One can use the atom to supply energy to the entire world or one can use it to bomb the world to smithereens. Manipulating the DNA can perhaps bring great cures but can also cause much injury. X-rays can cure but can also cause great harm. Electromagnetic radiation was a marvelous discovery that changed the world, yet we still don’t know much about the possible harmful effects it can cause on the human cell. Rockets can be used to take us to the moon and they also can be used to kill and maim. Misusing knowledge can lead to injury and even death. 

Perhaps the tree is an allusion to today’s Internet that is the most powerful communications system ever devised by man. It can enlighten the world with its great source of knowledge or destroy the world when used incorrectly. It can spread the light of Torah in a way never before possible and it can spread evil talk and outright slander to every corner of the world instantaneously. It’s rather incredible that even the news has begun to rely on the information found on anonymous blog sites for their information despite the knowledge that a blog can be an unidentified person’s imagination or a way to spread malicious slander. It represents the greatest danger to all of society and to Jews in particular since it contains a mixture of truths, half-truths, outright falsehoods, and slander of the worst nature. Billions of people can instantaneously be affected by it and the lives of people can be shattered and destroyed by its untraceable nature and unretractable damage. 

We are also told that the original light which G-d created during creation was far more powerful than the present one and with it one can see from one end of the universe to the other. However, the potential for man to misuse this great light was so great, that G-d had to hide it for the righteous people in the future. Only when man will be worthy and learn how to use it properly will the great light once again be made available to him. May moshiach come in our time.


  1. So nice to read something from your father OB"M. Thanks

  2. Have a look at the Moreh Hanevuchim in book 1 chapter 2

  3. Thanks for the mention. I see a similar concept there. Here is the link.


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