At the Center of the Universe
Essays on Western Intellectual Space
by Mordecai Plaut
This site includes essays on Jewish and general topics by Mordecai Plaut, and information about the book.



New Book in Hebrew and English.
6 Constant Mitzvos
At The Center of the Universe
A new concept in children's literature! Basic concepts presented in simple, non-condescending terms that a child can grow into as he or she grows up. Start your child off with an understanding of the basic concepts of Judaism in a way that will never be outgrown.



Notes on an Outmoded World View - It is (mechanically) true to say that the earth goes around the sun and also to say that the sun goes around the earth. It is all relative. But really, the sun goes around the earth. (From the book)

Two Educational Systems - a discussion and comparison of Western education and Torah education as alternatives for developing a full person.

Reason and Random If the world is fundamentally random, it is not reasonable. It may not be unreasonable to suggest that the world is a result of random processes, but it is deeply hostile to reason itself. (From the book)

A Timely Note  Based on an analysis of the essentials of a measurement system, in particular a measurement system for time, this essay argues that the days mentioned in Genesis cannot be the same as our days. They must be measures on a different basis. It shows how the error of scientists is "reasonable," and does not really support any attacks on the Bible.(From the book)

The Scientist as Poet; the Baal Mesorah as Scientist Science, at its best, is poetic fiction - mythmaking. Torah is truth. (From the book)

Why the Rambam Would Not Recommend the Study of Modern Science A discussion of the differences between modern science and what was called science in the Rambam's day with a lot of attention to why modern science does not bring to love of G-d. (01/05)

What's Wrong with "The Passion"? It's not the Antisemitism; it's the Blood The real problem of Mel Gibson's movie is the blood and violence, not its attitude to the Jews. (03/04)

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Demographic Studies / Challenges of the Modern World / Comments on Current Issues / Philosophical Ideas / Torah Topics / History of Ideas

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Demographic Studies
Challenges of the Modern World (11/04)
  • [1] Recognizing the Challenges of the Modern World to Torah Life A general introduction
    • to the series explaining the special nature of the challenges we face in our times.
  • [2] Keeping Too Busy This has always been one of the tools of the yetzer hora, but nowadays
    • he is unusually successful.
  • [3] They Put Their Hands on our Wealth By corrupting our own approach to our wealth
    • Greek/Western culture distracts us from the important things in life.
  • [4] Violence is Embraced It has become so acceptable — violence is considered entertainment nowadays — that
    • people forget that violence is as bad for adults as it is for children.
  • [5] Cold Science and Warm Reality People think that the universe is a cold and heartless place, but that is
    • because they are living in the model world of science rather than in the real world of the soul.
  • [6] Building Torah FoundationsThe basic vision of what life is about, . . . is absent in the centers of modern
    • Western civilization. Even the basic thinking of the non-Torah society around us is strongly at odds to the basic truths of human existence.
  • [7] Tikkun Ho'olom This is a popular concept — and it should be. But it is not what many people think.
    • [8] Looking for the Best One way in which Jews are using the wealth of modern life is in working to make
      • all aspects of modern observance as smooth as possible. People are not looking for "chumras" — as the accusation is often made — but merely striving for the best in religious observance, as in other aspects of life.
    • [9] Moral Corruption Leads to Social Ruin It is usually assumed, and argued, that moral corruption is a
      • private affair when it takes place among consenting adults, and it does not affect the public good — specifically commerce and industry — in any way. This is not true.
    Comments on Current Issues
    Philosophical Ideas
    • How to Succeed in Knowing without Really Seeing Tradition is a logically valid way
      • of knowing things. Much stronger than empirical evidence, it has the power of mathematical induction. (From the book)
    • Ontological Relativity: Another Essay - An essay about radical translation and
      • how we understand each other. (4/03)
    • "And How is the Way to Love of Him?" Would Rambam (Maimonides) suggest
      • modern science as the way to love G-d? No. Modern science brings to faith (maybe); only science such as Rambam quotes could bring to love of G-d.
    • Reason and Random If the world is fundamentally random,
      • it is not reasonable. It may not be unreasonable to suggest that the world is a result of random processes, but it is deeply hostile to reason itself.
    • Notes on an Outmoded World View   It is (mechanically) true to say that the earth goes
      • around the sun and also to say that the sun goes around the earth. It is all relative. But really, the sun goes around the earth. 
    Torah Topics
    History of Ideas





    Is economic gain a universal drive? Is it reasonable to say that the world is the result of chance occurrences? Does the earth go around the sun? Can the world be only 5,763 years old? Can G-d's existence be demonstrated? Does humanism understate the value of humanity?

    These are some of the topics discussed in the book, "At the Center of the Universe." See a review below.

    Order the book

    At The Center of the Universe
    Foreword By (Haskomo):
    Rabbi Yakov Weinberg zt"l, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivas Ner Israel
    Also endorsed by Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt"l, mashgiach, Ohr Somayach Yeshiva Rabbi Moshe Eisemann zt"l, rosh yeshivas Vineland Yeshiva

    Click here to order the book


    At the Center of the Universe

    Contents

    Introduction: Where are We?

    Notes on an Outmoded World View (The entire essay is online.)

    The Rise of the Science of Economics and the Idea of Gain (The entire essay is online.)

    How to Succeed in Knowing without Really Seeing (The entire essay is online.)

    Reason and Random  (The entire essay is online.)

    A Timely Note  (The entire essay is online.)

    A Look into Proofs of G'd (The entire essay is online. New! July, 2011)

    A Look into Proofs of G'd - PDF version New! July, 2011)

    A Sound Mind (The entire essay is online. New! June, 2011)

    The Scientist as Poet; the Baal Mesorah as Scientist (The entire essay is online.)




    From The Jewish Observer

    October, 1985

    Reviewed by Rabbi Joseph Elias,
    Dean, Rika Breuer Teacher's Seminary, New York, N Y.

    This is a remarkable book, both from the viewpoint of contents and presentation. Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel, in his introduction deservedly calls it "a breath of fresh air," and the thoughtful reader will indeed find that it effectively disposes of a great many cobwebs in the popular mind.

    In our modern age, because of man's achievements in exploring and making over his world, he has fallen prey to an extraordinary arrogance - a conceit that the ideas developed by the secular liberal movements of the last few centuries are not only sufficient for man but that they are the only ones that can claim rationality and deserve our respect. In truth, this attitude characterizes in large measure the popularizers, the media, the followers and the disciples. Philosophers themselves know the limits to which human reason can penetrate; scientists are aware of the limits of the scientific method; and psychologists encounter the pitiful victims of a worldview which leaves man adrift and alienated. But the popular mind still pays strident homage to ideas whose validity is highly questionable.

    The last decades have seen the publication of writings that, in contrast, present our Torah value system and the concepts that should guide us and mold our lifestyle. However, Rabbi Plaut's book is unique in that it takes direct issue with a number of the most cherished beliefs of our age - and does so in a manner that must command the respect of his antagonists. He examines the popular notions according to the strictest standards of scientific and philosophical method - and, lo and behold, arrives at conclusions that instill a healthy note of skepticism about those notions and, at the same time, renewed appreciation of our approach to these fundamental issues.

    The author deals with some themes which are commonly recognized as fundamental - such as the age of the earth, or proofs of the existence of G-d - as well as with questions that we would not readily encounter. What are the philosophical and psychological consequences of the adoption of the Copernican system? Can order be the result of chaos, according to scientific logic? Can the Mesorah's teachings be shown philosophically to be authentic knowledge? The author's ideas are brilliantly presented, the analysis is always lucid, and the writing elegant. The book is not easy reading, but whatever difficulties it presents are inherent in the subject-matter and not the presentation - which is both clear and persuasive.

    This reviewer must admit, though, that he was not persuaded by the author that the Thirteen Principles of the Rambam were meant to be "the blueprint for a sound mind" and do not possess an "exclusive essentiality" - the Rambam's concluding words in his presentation of the Thirteen Principles in the Perush Hamishnayos would appear to indicate differently (pp. 139-147).

    All in all, this is a volume that breaks new ground in applying searching philosophical examination to fundamental questions of human existence, and arriving at results that will make the reader see traditional Jewish teachings in a new light. It is to be hoped that it will find the wide circulation that it deserves, particularly among those involved in the intellectual ferment of our time.

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