Let My People Know

"Breakthroughs happen when a scientist begins to think about the impossible"


The way in which the Jewish scholar advances is not only analytical, but also synthetic, in that he is always trying to create new structures all the time. 

Consequently, the way in which Judaism relates to non-practical ideas is very different from that of Chinese culture. 

Confucian wisdom was always very practical, and also strongly connected with science and technology. 

In this sense, it has had very strong influence on Western culture. 

In the Talmud, however – of which Pirkei Avot is about the 1/5000 part – there are pages and pages of discussion of subjects of no practical value whatsoever.

In the long run, this attitude has a tremendous advantage. 

Because the ability to advance – philosophically, scientifically and technologically – lies in the possibility to think about impractical, undoable things. 

Indeed, the history of scientific developments, shows that breakthroughs happen when a scientist begins to think about the impossible.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "Pirkei Avot and Chinese Culture: A Comparative Survey" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz