Bit of bible may have helped

Even an Einstein cannot invent his own values.

bible jewish 88 (photo credit: )
bible jewish 88
(photo credit: )
It's always a revelation when a world-renowned intellectual attacks religion as silly and juvenile to discover that his or her own personal life might have greatly benefited from a commitment to the "infantile" biblical values they so casually dismiss. Such was the case recently when the news broke that Albert Einstein's letter on God, in which he described the Bible as "pretty childish," sold for more than $400,000. If history has taught us one thing about intelligent people, it is that even the most brilliant need help when it comes to formulating and living with proper values. Paul Johnson's 1990 book, Intellectuals, demonstrates just how warped the values of some intellectuals - such as Rousseau, Marx, and Tolstoy - could be. The principal purposes of the Bible are to impart values of right and wrong, to teach us of the infinite sanctity of human life, and to lend human existence spiritual purpose. This is something counterintuitive and often lost on intellectuals, who can sometimes be such know-it-alls that they reject time-honored wisdom in favor of their own machinations. Such, unfortunately, was the case with Einstein, whose criticism of the Bible presupposes that he had such wonderful personal values that he did not need to receive them from a childish book. Sadly, although he may have been the smartest man of the 20th century, his values were severely lacking. Walter Isaacson's masterful biography Einstein recounts dirty laundry from the scientist's personal life. While his unfaithfulness to his wife Mileva - and how he essentially left her to marry his cousin, Elsa - have long been public knowledge, readers will be shocked to discover that Einstein was a man whose personal failings were often justified by very questionable values. When, in 1917, his son Eduard got sick with lung inflammation, Einstein wrote to his best friend Michelle Besso, "My little boy's condition depresses me greatly. It is impossible that he will become a fully developed person. Who knows if it wouldn't be better for him if he could depart before coming to know life properly." As if this statement weren't shocking enough, he ruminated to another friend about employing on Eduard "the Spartan method," - leaving sickly children out on a mountain to die. One cowers in disbelief to witness a once-in-a-millennium intellect deliberating whether to discard his own child and allow him to be slowly devoured by the elements. If Einstein had instead looked to the values of the Bible, he would have discovered that every human life, whether healthy or diseased, beautiful or disfigured, is of infinite value and sanctity. Indeed, the Bible attacks the ancient pagan practice of child sacrifice, in which children were seen as naught but the means by which to appease the angry gods, as an "abomination to the Eternal, which He hateth." [Deuteronomy 12:30-31] Of course, Einstein, for long periods of his life, was essentially a dead-beat dad. His son Hans Albert felt so neglected by Einstein, who when teaching in Berlin during WWI visited only every few months, that in November, 1917, the boy took to writing his father nasty letters telling him not to visit. Einstein, seemingly insensitive to the wounds harbored by a neglected eleven-year old, followed the advice and stayed away. "The unkind tone of your letter dismays me very much. I see that my visit would bring you little joy. Therefore, I think it is wrong to sit in a train for two hours and 20 minutes," the duration of the train ride between Berlin and Zurich, where the boy lived with his mother. After getting his future wife Mileva pregnant, it seems Einstein had the baby, Lieserl, given up for adoption without ever having met her, a fact that did not come to light until approximately 30 years after his death. PERSONAL LIFE aside, an even greater indictment of Einstein is the misguided ethic inherent in his famous pacifism, which he championed through most of his life - until Hitler rose to power. It then became clear to him that something had to be done to combat the beast. At that point Einstein not only dismissed his previous pacifism but actually wrote the famous letter to President Roosevelt of August 1939, encouraging him to beat the Germans in the race to build an atomic weapon. Of course, the Bible, that silly book which Einstein dismissed as childish, makes it mandatory upon all to fight evil and protect the innocent and oppressed, even if that means going to war on their behalf. To be a pacifist when victims are slaughtered is to become passively complicit with evil. Now none of this means, of course, that Einstein wasn't a good person. On the contrary, the world Jewish community is tremendously in debt to Einstein for his life-long support of the Zionist cause. What it does mean is that even Einstein would have to concede that his morals were in need of serious realignment. You can be the smartest man alive but that does not mean that you will not do incredibly silly things based on seriously misguided ideas. Which is why the Jews, however smart or learned, have always turned to the Bible as the source of their morality. Even Albert Einstein would have been wise to remember the words of King David: "Never rely solely on your own understanding." The writer is the author of many books, including Judaism For Everyone.