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Isaac Newton, the 17th century British renaissance man is best known as the man who revealed to the world the principles of gravity. He created the field of mathematics known as calculus, and is considered the father of modern physics. He epitomizes the modern, rational thinker, his mind unfettered by superstition or religious catechism. Without his groundbreaking discoveries in optics and the laws of motion and inertia and the conservation of energy, there would have been no Einstein, and no modern physics. Our world today would be completely different. Few people are aware, however, that Newton had another passion, one that consumed more of his time and intellectual creativity than all his work in the natural sciences: Newton was convinced that the Hebrew scriptures contained within them a code that, if cracked, could reveal knowledge otherwise lost to mankind. To this end he poured over the prophecies in Hebrew, and extensively consulted the exegesis and commentaries of Maimonides (Rambam), the Talmud, the Zohar, other lesser known tracts such as the Seder Olam Rabati, and other ancient and contemporary Jewish sources in order to discover the hidden knowledge that he sought. Newton wrote extensively concerning the end of days, (which he concluded would arrive no earlier than 2060), and, unsurprisingly, the third Holy Temple, as described in the book of Yechezkel, (Ezekiel).

A number of these manuscripts were purchased in 1936 by a Jewish scholar, and have been resting in the national library of Israel in Jerusalem since 1969. They are currently on public exhibit for the first time. To see beautiful fascimilies of these extraordinary documents, you can visit the The Jewish National and University Library website.

Some of the documents contain Hebrew written in Newton's hand, including phrases borrowed from the Siddur - the daily prayer book. Newton also made intricate sketches of the Holy Temple, seeking to determine the precise dimensions and location of the Holy Temple, apparently convinced that its basic layout represented a microcosm of the very same universe that he was so occupied in trying to understand.

According to Yemima Ben-Menahem, a curator of the exhibit, "He believed there was wisdom in the world that got lost. He thought it was coded, and that by studying things like the dimensions of the temple, he could decode it."

"These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see G-d's actions in the world."

Whatever Newton did or did not discover in his lifetime preoccupation with the Hebrew scriptures, it is nevertheless a tantalizing fact that the man perhaps more responsible than any other for the scientific revolution that has transformed our world, was determined to reveal the intrinsic connection between G-d's created universe, and the House of G-d, on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.

 

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