The shemitot and the age of the universe

a lecture delivered on the 28th of Shevat, 5771 – Feb. 2, 2011 in Kfar Chabad

There are three videos for this class, which can be viewed by accessing the archived version of this page here

One of the apparent contradictions between Judaism and science throughout the ages has been the age of the universe. In modern times, science, following the data gathered by astronomers and cosmologists has taken the stance of the universe being about 13.7 billion years old. Adopting an apologetic stance, some even Orthodox thinkers have made various attempts to find grounds for a much older universe in Torah based on the notion of shemitot, first appearing in the book titled Sefer Hatemunah.

In this three part lecture Harav Ginsburgh discusses the status of the shemitot in Kabbalah, why it was discounted by the Ramak and the Arizal, the two greatest Kabbalistic authorities in history, and what the correct understanding of certain passages in the Zohar regarding this topic is. He then goes on to discuss how the Rashash's student, the Torat Chacham was surprised to find what he thought was a contradiction to the rebuttal of the shemitot in the Rashash's writings. The apparent contradiction is then resolved by the commentary of Kerem Shlomo, the last great Sephardic Kabbalist Rabbi Suliman Eliyahu (father of the late chief Rabbi, Chacham Mordechai Eliyahu. The Kerem Shlomo's commentary opens us to a far more intricate and complex view of our existence and its meaning in the "larger scheme of things."

Finally, in the third part of this lecture, Harav Ginsburgh discusses the point of view of Chassidut and specifically the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the age of the universe and addresses the question of whether there existed earlier physical realities on Earth, realities that some have corresponded to the discussion of 974 generations prior to Adam, etc.

You might also be interested in reading this summary of a lecture given on the topic

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