4 out of 4 stars
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Science and religion have long been at odds in many areas, not the least of which are the age of the universe and the evolution of life. Scientists point to fossil discoveries, carbon dating, and Hubble telescope images to support their position. Religious individuals and groups, meanwhile, turn to the Biblical account of Creation and the numerous commentaries written over the millennia as the basis of their beliefs. And people who are both religious and members of the scientific community endeavor to find common ground for their disparate views.
Enter Daniel Friedmann, an engineering physicist and observant Jew. The goal of his book, The Biblical Clock (the fourth volume in the Inspired Studies series) is an ambitious one: to demonstrate that reconciliation between calculations of the universe’s age stemming from both Biblical and scientific sources is possible. He divides his work into three sections: Part One—Beginnings and Timelines; Part Two—Endings; and Part Three—Beyond the Timelines.
In Parts One and Two, the author takes the reader on a journey through history, during which we meet a diverse set of characters. Among them are:
• Isaac Ben Samuel, a fourteenth-century follower of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) who, like other Kabbalists, focused much of his attention on the mysteries of the world’s existence, especially Creation.
• Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, a renowned physicist who, at the age of 31, received rabbinic ordination; he combined his interest in physics with his knowledge of Biblical texts and Kabbalah and came to the conclusion that there is no conflict between science and religion.
• Sir Isaac Newton, whose interest in science extended beyond his discovery of gravity; a student of Hebrew language, Biblical sources, and mysticism, he harbored theories about the future as well as the past—especially concerning the End of Days and rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
• Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, world-renowned rebbe of the Lubavitcher Chassidim, trained as an engineer at prestigious European universities; he expressed the ability of the Creator to bring into existence ready-made fossils in the same way that He could create complete organisms, a man, and such entities as diamonds without an evolutionary process.
Friedmann intersperses his accounts of the lives and legacies of these diverse historical figures with his own elucidations of their experiences and belief systems. He traces the origins of Kabbalah to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Mystical teachings, along with laws and lessons for living, were imparted to the Jews at that time and passed down from generation to generation.
Part Three is a fascinating look at the future. Here, the author describes a scenario for the introduction of the End of Days—the long-awaited era of world peace and fulfillment of our destiny.
Daniel Friedmann’s thought-provoking work is a fascinating companion to its three predecessors. Like the earlier works, The Broken Gift, The Genesis Code, and Roadmap to the End of Days (the latter volume being the subject of another of my reviews), The Biblical Clock is a comprehensive discussion of world history through the lens of religious Judaism. Yet, the author’s intended audience is not limited to members of the Jewish people. He devotes pages to philosophers, scientists, and religious thinkers from a variety of backgrounds and diverse parts of the globe. Friedmann’s comparisons of theories of the age of the universe and our planet and its inhabitants will appeal to readers of every stripe.
In addition, his discussion of the role all people play in tikun olam (Hebrew for rectification of the world) demonstrates that we are all valuable members of the human family with our own unique purpose. Along with this purpose comes the responsibility to make this planet a place where reverence for the Creator, respect for the property and rights of others, and justice prevail. And not only humanity benefits: readers who are devoted to the avoidance of cruelty to furry, feathery, and scaly inhabitants of Earth will be pleased to learn of our Creator-given duty to treat animals with kindness and compassion.
Friedmann’s treatise is well-researched, as evidenced by detailed sources for the material contained in each chapter. These sources are as diverse as chabad.org (a Jewish-themed yet comprehensive site replete with thoughtful essays, biographical articles, and useful information), nasa.gov, and Scientific American. (This reviewer has only one concern about the author’s choice of sources. During my decades of work as a school librarian, as the Internet became an increasingly popular and beneficial source of information, we in the library profession learned to be wary of Wikipedia as a valid source. As anyone can submit articles to the site, there is a lack of oversight into its quality and authenticity. Information professionals and educators often do not accept Wikipedia as an acceptable source in their students’ research. The same may be said of YouTube.)
Five appendices ranging on topics covered in The Biblical Clock provide a valuable summary to the volume. There is, as well, a useful glossary.
Daniel Friedmann’s latest addition to his series is written in an engaging style and is free of grammatical and punctuation errors. In a refreshing bit of honesty, the author acknowledges that some of his ideas about the future may not come about exactly as he presents them. The Biblical Clock will be of interest to readers who enjoyed the previous volumes in the series as well as serious-minded individuals with an interest in science and the responsibility we share for our planet and its inhabitants. For this reason, I give The Biblical Clock 4 out of 4 stars.
The Biblical Clock
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