Scientists do not employ the term “spirituality” solely because it lacks a clear definition, but also because it cannot be detected, measured, proven, or disproven through conventional laboratory equipment.
The primary argument against the existence of anything spiritual is that it has never been detected in a laboratory experiment. However, this argument is deeply flawed. To detect something in a laboratory, we require equipment that is specifically designed for the particular phenomenon we are seeking to identify. For instance, one cannot detect sound with a microscope or light with a microphone. Even when using generally suitable instruments, such as a microphone for sound detection, the equipment must be finely tuned to the specific type of sound. For instance, a microphone designed to pick up audible sounds (20 Hz – 20 KHz) cannot detect ultrasound (>20kHz). To detect certain phenomena, we need equipment tailored to their nature. For example, to detect an electromagnetic field, we require a charged particle, such as an electron, that interacts with the field. In physics terms, this is known as coupling with the field. Attempting to test an electromagnetic field with a neutral particle, like a neutron, is futile, as a neutral particle does not interact with an electromagnetic field.
It is unsurprising, then, that spiritual phenomena have never been experimentally detected in a laboratory setting. Spirituality, by definition, is non-physical. Consequently, no physical laboratory equipment can detect anything spiritual; it is inherently “neutral” to it. Physical elements do not interact with the spiritual, much like a neutron does not couple with an electromagnetic field, or an electron with a strong nuclear field. So, what does interact with spirituality? Only spirituality itself. In other words, only a spiritual entity, whatever its nature, can perceive another spiritual entity or phenomenon.
Fortunately, we possess a spiritual detector within us—our soul. As the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” It requires a soul to perceive another soul. Likewise, it takes a godly soul to “sense” or perceive godliness.
This Torah portion is named Va’era (or Va’eira, that is, “appeared”), derived from the second verse in this section:
I appeared (vayeira) to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob… (Exodus 6:3)
The word va’era is related to re’ah, meaning “vision.” This verse indicates that our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “saw” G‑d. This doesn’t imply that they physically saw G‑d, as G‑d has no physical form. Instead, they sensed G‑d’s presence through their spiritual sensors—their godly souls.
In G‑d’s conversation with Moses, He explains that just as the Patriarchs possessed a godly soul, enabling them to sense G‑d (and conversely, allowing G‑d to reveal Himself to the Patriarchs), their descendants who inherited this godly soul from their forefathers can also perceive godliness.
Yes, we can detect spirituality. We can perceive another soul. We can sense godliness. We possess the right equipment for this—our godly soul, Nefesh Elokit. However, as any scientist would acknowledge, having the “right” equipment is not sufficient; this equipment must be well-maintained, properly tuned, and calibrated. Fortunately, our spiritual detector—the soul—comes with a user manual—the Torah. It instructs us to maintain our soul through the observance of 613 mitzvot—G‑d’s commandments. To keep it finely tuned and calibrated, one must study the Torah extensively and emphasize the spiritual over the physical. Then, perhaps, we can aspire to “see” G‑d as our forefathers once did.