The meeting of Kabbalah and science

A discussion with Eduard Shyfrin, PhD.

Eduard Shyfrin: I realized that I had to answer certain questions for myself about life and death and God (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eduard Shyfrin: I realized that I had to answer certain questions for myself about life and death and God
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 ‘I am a typical Soviet Jew with an education and a secular upbringing. I started searching, and I decided to find the answers myself.” 
Eduard Shyfrin, the son of a metallurgy professor who was a member of the Communist Party, grew up in the Soviet Ukraine, and was himself a party member for six years. An outstanding physics student, Shyfrin earned a PhD in metallurgy in 1991. He became a successful businessman, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, became active in the reborn Russian Jewish community; he sponsored the building of the Jewish educational center in Kiev. Nevertheless, he says, “I was still far away from Judaism.” 
In 2002, as a result of a difficult business situation and health issues, he decided to make a change in his personal lifestyle. 
“I was not the person that I was before. I realized that I had to answer certain questions for myself about life and death and God. After speaking with Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, chief rabbi of Kiev and the Ukraine, Shyfrin decided to become observant, and began studying the Torah. He has continued his religious studies with Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar.
“I came from a scientific background,” says Shyfrin. “I wanted to believe in God, but it seemed to me that what Torah says and what science says are completely different. I couldn’t believe in God without reconciling these two.” 
Shyfrin began an intense study of Jewish mysticism and concluded that the ideas of Kabbalah are echoed in modern science, specifically in quantum mechanics. 
“I realized then that if I want to bring Kabbalah and science together, I must think about the common language of the two.” 
SHYFRIN’S EXPOSITION of his thoughts is contained in From Infinity to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics, which was published in January 2019. 
The book first introduces the reader to basic principles of Jewish mysticism such as the 10 sefirot; the Divine Attributes of God; the description of God as Ein Sof; absolute perfection; and the idea of Ohr Ein Sof, the unending Divine light. It then discusses basic principles of quantum physics and compares many of the concepts of Kabbalah to those of quantum physics, including the theory of information as discussed in Kabbalah and quantum physics. In Kabbalistic belief, Shyfrin writes, God created the world with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and with the 10 Sefirot, which today would be termed as “information code.” Information, he posits, is the basis of all reality, a concept that has gained popularity in modern science. 
Additional chapters in the book discuss creation; Kabbalah and philosophy; and the Torah and mathematics. Shyfrin is equally well-versed in Jewish mysticism and physics, and names like Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrodinger frequently appear alongside Kabbalistic luminaries such as Isaac Luria, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, and the Baal Shem Tov. 
In Shyfrin’s view, the relationship between religion and science is more important than ever. In ancient times, science had little impact on daily lives. Today, however, science has become accessible to the public and influences every part of our lives. Shyfrin believes that a synthesis of mysticism and science is beneficial.
‘FROM INFINITY to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah Within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics.’‘FROM INFINITY to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah Within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics.’
“Kabbalah is the deepest available description of whole reality,” he says. “Science is a way of learning a small part of this reality.” 
In Shyfrin’s view, there is no contradiction between Torah and science. 
“Torah and science have been given to us by God. There cannot not be any contradiction. If it seems that there is a contradiction, either we are wrong or our knowledge is incomplete.”
From Infinity to Man is available in both print and digital versions and has been praised by readers who have enjoyed learning about the connections and intersecting ideas of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.
SOME 10 months after releasing his first book, Shyfrin released a second book, intended for a far different audience. Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind was published in October 2019, and introduces children to quantum physics and classic morality through a journey to another universe. Shyfrin confesses that writing the children’s book was far more challenging than writing a complex book such as From Infinity to Man. 
SHYFRIN’S BOOK for children, ‘Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind.’SHYFRIN’S BOOK for children, ‘Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind.’
“I had never written fiction before,” he says. “It was extremely difficult.” 
The book is based on stories that he has told his grandchildren, and follows the adventures of young Aaron and Stella, siblings who are transported to the Land of the Mind, a fantasy kingdom based on mathematical principles and quantum physics. The plot parallels numerous stories found in the Bible and is intended for children ages 12 and up. 
Throughout the book, Travels with Sushi introduces children to positive values, such as hope and courage, and helps them deal with fear, indifference and pride. In Shyfrin’s view, the best way to teach children morals and good character traits is by wrapping them in an exciting story. 
“We don’t know what our children will become,” he says. “Our duty is to give them some direction in life – to give them a wider view of life, to introduce them to ideas of God, of science and knowledge, of good moral qualities, and then they will be better equipped to find their way in life.” 
The book has been reviewed in a wide variety of publications, including the Financial Times, and National Geographic for Kids.
Eduard Shyfrin’s fertile and creative mind cannot rest, and he is planning to write two more books. The first will be a sequel to his book on Kabbalah and science, and a second children’s book is in the works. 
As the world begins to come out of the corona crisis, Eduard Shyfrin views the challenges caused by the pandemic as an opportunity for constructive thought. 
“Today, we are overwhelmed with the flow of information. Sometimes we don’t have time to think properly. God gave us some quiet time in isolation, and we have to use it properly to think about our lives and the environment to think about what we are doing in life.”
Eduard Shyfrin has come a long way from star physics pupil to successful businessman, to student of Judaism and mysticism, yet the most important religious influence in his life, he says, are his ancestors. 
“Jewish people have suffered for millennia in exile. They could have avoided that just by converting, but they didn’t do that. That is why we are here today. I don’t need to be better than my ancestors, but I don’t want to be any worse.”
To purchase Eduard Shyfrin’s book ‘From Infinity to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah Within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics’ please click here.   

To purchase Eduard Shyfrin’s book ‘Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind’ please click here.
This article is part of a collaboration for the Kabbalat Shabbat Project with Eduard Shyfrin.