Tuesday, April 01, 2008

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There is Only One Infinite

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A tourist was standing in the Old City square turning his map around and around. He was trying to figure out where he was. He looked frustrated. The Torah tells us that it is a mitzvah to return a lost item. Then how much more so must it be a mitzvah to return a lost person.

I asked if he needed directions. At first he did not want to admit that he was lost, but then he decided to take advantage of my offer. After showing him where he was, I asked him what he did. I like to ask people about their specialties. Perhaps I can glean some important information. He gave me his card. He was a PhD, professor of mathematics at Harvard. Pretty impressive. As often happens around here, we got onto the subject of G-d.

“What is G-d?” he asked. Not openly denying, but obviously putting it back on me to prove that G-d exists.

“G-d is infinite,” I replied.

“But there are many infinites,” he shot back.

“No there isn’t. There is only one infinite,” I said, in a tone that let him know that I thought that his comment was silly.

He looked at me as if, perhaps, I might be a religious scholar, but certainly no genius when it came to science. He put on his professor’s voice and said, “For instance, numbers are infinite. “

“Numbers are not infinite,” I objected.

“Of course they are,” he insisted. “They go on forever.” Now it was his turn to let me know that he thought that my statement was silly.

I said, “Numbers are not infinite because they only go in two directions. Up and down. The infinite has to go in all directions.”

He was shocked. He had never thought about it that way.

In order for something to be truly infinite, it has to be everywhere. It has to go in every direction at all times, and, in fact, it even has to be all that ever was, is, or will be. And only G-d does that.

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2 comments:

Alice said...

I would also add to this that it has always bothered me that in mathematics (about which I know very little) a point is defined as being indivisible. If one can conceive of it as being divided in half, it can be, in my opinion. In other words, why can't something be infinitely small?

It seems so arbitrary to me. Then again the scientific method is all about establishing a body of definitions and seeing how productive, if you will, that body of definitions can be. If the definition of a point needed to change to see what effect it would have on the system, it would.

Anonymous said...

"In other words, why can't something be infinitely small?"

because sooner or later you en up with nothing to divide :-)


Reb, i thought the harvard teacher
would end up talking about -infinite ,+infinite ,imaginary numbers ... and all those things they invent to make something easy to appear as difficult to common human beings.

i think you convinced him.

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