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Renaissance Man

In 16th century Italy, there was an explosion of literary, artistic and scientific creativity, known to history as the Renaissance. The focal point of this creative burst was the home of the Medicis in Florence, a banking family who sponsored creative thinkers across a wide range of disciplines.  Artists, sculptors, poets and scientists frequently met in their home to share ideas, and the fusion of concepts from across disciplines resulted in a unique flourishing of the human mind and  spirit.

Popular writer Frans Johansson has coined the term "Medici Effect" for when different disciplines and cultures intersect and spark new insights. Today more than ever, due to the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge, we need to develop an interdisciplinary approach to innovation. Scientists or physicians have enough difficulty keeping abreast of developments in their own field, let alone in another discipline. Many choose to specialize or sub-specialize, and their increasingly narrow focus makes it harder for them to see the big picture and to communicate their findings to professionals outside of their field.

As our scientific knowledge broadens and deepens, it becomes clear that the basic underpinnings of science are the same for every discipline, beyond the artificial categories created by people. We need interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary education, so we can grasp the big picture and apply the insights of other fields to our own.

What we really need is a throwback to the "Renaissance man" of the past, who was a master of a number of different disciplines: Da Vinci, for example, was a brilliant painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, and writer.

Famous medieval Jewish figures such as Rashi, Rambam (Maimonides), Ramban, and Rashba were all scholars par excellence with broad mastery of Torah as well as secular disciplines. Their ability to interpret scriptures and Talmud and render halachic decisions in an incisive, clear manner derived from their grasp of the underlying unity of all disciplines.

The true Torah scholar understands that G-d Who wrote the Torah created the universe, and the world itself is a reflection of His wisdom. There can be no contradiction between Torah and science, because they are both reflections of the same Intelligence.

A unique blend of Torah and secular knowledge can be found in the teachings of Chassidut, especially in the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, King Moshiach. Chassidut teaches us how to perceive the underlying unity in creation and understand the connections between global events. The pieces of a giant puzzle that was enacted at creation are now coming together in a harmonious picture.

The placement of the final puzzle piece is dependent on our actions – a single positive thought, kind word, good deed, is enough to complete the picture and bring about the final, long-awaited Redemption.

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Rabbi Rachmiel Liberman, Executive Director

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