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Thought for the Day: Different Ways of Stating the Same Thing is Fundamental to Understanding

You probably remember from somewhere during your life in science hearing that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  You probably know that is the explanation of the recoil felt when shooting a gun and that is has something to do with how rocket ships and missiles work.

You may or may not have taken enough science to have heard that momentum is conserved.  It is a reasonably technical detail that turns out to be very important if you want to really understand how physics works.  If you don't and are living a fulfilling life just trusting that physics does work, then you really don't need to think much more about it.

I am reasonably certain that no science teacher (or anyone else, for that matter) said to you, "I have a very, very important principle of physics to tell you: if you do the same experiment in two different places, you'll get the same result!"  To put it in more concrete terms: your car works that same in front of your house and in front of Kol Tuv.  (For you non-Chicagoans, Kol Tuv is one of the most reliable kosher grocery stores in the world; no exaggeration.)  In any case, your reaction is probably much closer to "Duh!" then "WOW!"

In fact, however, these three statements are exactly the same.  Exactly.  If there was the slightest difference between the action and the reaction, then you would need a different kind of computer for home and for school.  If your car worked differently in front of Kol Tuv than your house, then momentum would not be conserved.  The technical details and the global consequences are one in the same.

The gemara (Bava Kama 57-58) relates perfectly reasonable facts:

  1. R' Dosa would declare as hefker anything that had been gleaned from his field.  R' Dosa would do that in case any of the ani'yim accidently picked up something that was not considered "leket"/gleanings.
  2. The tz'nuyim (modest/pious ones) would set aside money to automatically redeem produce taken from their 4th year vineyards (which must be eaten in Yerushalayim).  They did that to save anyone from coming to sin because of them.
Comes along R' Yochanan and tells us that R' Dosa and the tz'nuyim were doing the same thing.  The gemara there spends some time analyzing R' Yochanan's statement and its implications.  Knowing these are the same, in fact, has even broader application than the statements themselves.

The Derech HaShem says that unless you understand not only the topics in an area of research, but also their interrelationships, then you don't understand the topic.  Reality is quite the research topic, don't you think?


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