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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Naphtali Lewy1   [26 March – 24 April 1876]2

אֶל הָאָדון הַשָׂר אֲַשֶׁר עֹמֵד לְנֵס עַמִים

חוֹקֵר־הַדוֹר הֵילֵל בֶן שָׁחַר

!כַרְלֶס דאַרווין יחיה

מִמִזְרַח שֶׁמֶשׁ וּמִמַעֲרָבָה יֵדְעוּ כָּל הַגוֹיִם מֵאֵת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשׁר יָצְאָה מֵאִתְךָ לְאוֹר עַמִים, וּלְאֻמִִים יִשְׁמְעוּ וַיאֹמְרוּ אֱמֶת. לאֹ כֵן חֵלֶק עַמִי יַעֲקֹב חֶבֶל נַחֲלָתִִי. עַם זוּ עַם־עוֹלָם אַשֶׁר הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת יזְכְּרוּ וְקַדְמֹנִיוֹת יִתבּוֹנָנוּ לאֹ יָדְעוּ וְלאֹ יָבִינוּ כִּי בְתּוֹרָתְךָ הֵאַֹזְתָּ אֵת תּוֹרָתָם וּמֵאֹפֶל וּמֵחֹשֶׁךְ עֵינֵי עִבְרִים תִּרְאֶינָה. לָכֵן קַמְתִּי אֲנִי וְכָתַבְתִּי סֵפֶר תֹּלְדוֹת אָדָם לְהורוֹת אֵת בְּנֵי עַמִי זֶרַע יַעֲקֹב אֶת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשׁר נָתַתָּ לְנַחֲלָה לְכֹל עַמֵי הָאָרֶץ. וְהוֹסַפְתִּי לְהַפְלִיא אֶת הָֽֽֽֽעָם הַזֶה הַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא לִקְרוֹא בַתּוֹרַה מֹשֶה רַבֵּינוּ מְפוֹרָשׁ וְשׂוּם שֶׂכֶל אֵת אֲשֶׁר הוֹרֵתָ בַּתּוֹרוֹתֶיךָ. וְיֵדַע עַמִי כִּי שִׁטָתְךָ לאֹ שָׁטָה מִתַּחַת תּוֹרַת אֵל, אֶת שִׁמְךָ יַקְדִישׁוּ וְאֶת אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יַעֲרִיצוּ

חָזוּת הַכֹּל תִּרְאֶה שׂר־הֶחֳכְמָה, בַּסֵפֶר הַזֶה הַהוֹלֵךְ לְפָנַי, וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר דַעֳתְךָ הָרְחָבַה תִמְצָה לַמִשְׁפָט בּוֹא כָתְבָהּ עַל לוּחַ וְעַל־סֵפֶר חֻקָּהּ וְהַרְשֵׁינִי לִקְרוֹא מְלַאֲכְתִּי עַל שִׁמְךָ הַנַעֲרָץ וְהַנִקְדָשׁ לְעַבְדְךָ נַפְתָלִי הַלֵּוִי פֹּה עִיר ראַדאָם בַמְדִינַת פּוֹלִין

פֹּה עִיר ראַדאָם בַמְדִינַת פּוֹלִין בֵַּחֹדֶשׁ ניסן ת״ר״לו״ לפ״ק

[Contemporary translation]3

To the Lord, the Prince, who ‘stands for an ensign of the people’ (Isaiah 11.10), the Investigator of the generation, the ‘bright son of the morning’ (Isaiah 14.12) Charles Darwin, may he live long!

‘From the rising of the sun & from the west’ (Isaiah 45.6) all the nations know concerning the Torah* (Theorie) which has ‘proceeded from thee for a light of the people’ (Isaiah 51.4), and the nations ‘hear and say, It is truth’ (Isaiah 43.9). But with ‘the portion of any people’ (Jer. 10.16) Jacob, ‘the lot of my inheritance’ (Deut. 32.9) it is not so. This nation, ‘the ancient people’ (Is. 44.7), which ‘remembers the former things and considers the things of old’ (Is. 43.18), ‘Knows not neither doth it understand’ (Psalm 82.5), that by thy Torah (instruction or theory) thou hast thrown light upon their Torah (the Law), and that the eyes of the Hebrews†‘can now see out of obscurity and out of darkness’ (Is. 29.18). Therefore ‘I arose’ (Judges 5.7) and wrote this book, Toledoth Adam (‘the generations of man’, Gen. 5.1), to teach the children of my people, the seed of Jacob, the Torah (instruction) which thou hast given for an inheritance to all the nations of the earth.

And I have ‘proceeded to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder’ (Is. 29.14), enabling them now to read in the Torah of Moses our Teacher ‘plainly and giving the sense’ (Nep. 8.8) that which thou hast given in thy Torahs (works of instruction). And when my people perceive that thy view has by no means ‘gone astray’ (Num. 5.12.19 &c.) from the Torah of God, they will hold thy name in the highest reverence and will at the same time glorify the God of Israel (Is. 29.23).

The vision of all this (Is. 29.11) thou shalt see, O Prince of Wisdom, in this book ‘which goeth before me’ (Gen. 32.21); and whatever thy large understanding finds to criticise in it, come ‘write it in a table and note it in a book’ (Is. 30.8); and allow me to name my work with thy name, which is glorified and greatly revered by | Thy servant | Naphtali Hallevi (i.e. the Levite).

Dated here in the city of Radom in the province of Poland in the month of Nisan in the year 636 according to the lesser computation (i.e. A.M. (5)636 = A.D. 1876).

*lit. instruction. The Torah is the Pentateuch, strictly speaking, the source of all knowledge.

†one letter in this word changed would make the word ‘blind’ which is what Isaiah uses in the passage alluded to.

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I. A contemporary translation found with the letter is included above.
The date range is established by the month and year given in Hebrew in the letter.
The contemporary translation was made by a rabbi consulted by the librarian of Cambridge University Library, Henry Bradshaw; see letter to Henry Bradshaw, 12 April [1876].

Bibliography

Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

Dodson, Edward O. 2000. Toldot Adam: a little-known chapter in the history of Darwinism. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 52: 47–54.

Kohn, David. 1996. The aesthetic construction of Darwin’s theory. In The elusive synthesis: aesthetics and science, edited by A. I. Tauber. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Lewy, Naphtali. 1874. Toldot adam. Ha-Shahar 6: 3–60.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.

Translation

From Naphtali Lewy1   [26 March – 24 April 1876]2

Researcher of the generation. Morning star of the dawn. Charles Darwin, long shall he live!3

From East & West all the peoples will know that the Torah (theory) that went out from you is a light unto the nations, and the nations will hear and declare it true. Not so for a part of my people, Jacob, which is my inheritance of sorrow. This people, an eternal people, which remembers first things and considers advanced things cautiously, did not know and did not understand that in your theory you have illuminated their Torah and from out of blackness and darkness blind eyes will see. Therefore, I arose and wrote a book on the generations of Adam [Toldot Adam] to teach the children of my people, the seed of Jacob, the theory [Torah] that you gave as the inheritance to all the peoples of the Earth.4 And I added, to amaze this people, the wonder of wonders of reading in the Torah of Moses, our Teacher, explicitly and sensibly, what you taught in your theory. And my people will know that your system does not go astray from God’s Torah, they will sanctify your name and they will venerate the God of Israel.

This whole vision you will see, Prince of wisdom, in this book, that goes forth from me, and whatever your wide knowledge will pass judgment on, come write on the tablet and on the book of your law, and permit me to name my work in your venerated and sanctified name by your servant Naphtali Halevi. 5

Here in the city of Radom, in the state of Poland

In the month of Nissan in the year 636 according to the minor reckoning

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original Hebrew, see pp. 83–5.
The date range is established by the month and year given in Hebrew in the letter.
The letter is written in the Hebrew literary style Melitza, in which the author’s message is conveyed through proof texts: passages from the Bible used to prove doctrines (Chambers). For more on the context of the letter, see Colp and Kohn 1996.
Lewy’s Hebrew essay Toldot Adam (Lewy 1874) argued that CD’s theory of evolution was compatible with Jewish theology and that its origins were contained in the Old Testament. The argument of the essay is described in detail in Colp and Kohn 1996, pp. 1721–4, and Dodson 2000.
CD replied to Lewy in April (see letter from Naphtali Lewy, 14 May 1878 (Calendar no. 11059)), but the reply has not been found. There is no evidence that CD had Toldot Adam (Lewy 1874) translated, but in his autobiography CD wrote: ‘Even an essay in Hebrew has appeared on it, showing that the theory is contained in the Old Testament!’ (‘Recollections’, p. 412). For CD’s other responses to the letter, see Colp and Kohn 1996, pp. 1718–20.

Bibliography

Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

Dodson, Edward O. 2000. Toldot Adam: a little-known chapter in the history of Darwinism. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 52: 47–54.

Kohn, David. 1996. The aesthetic construction of Darwin’s theory. In The elusive synthesis: aesthetics and science, edited by A. I. Tauber. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Lewy, Naphtali. 1874. Toldot adam. Ha-Shahar 6: 3–60.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.

Summary

NL has written an essay Toldot adam (Lewy 1874, privately printed in book form as Lewy [1875]) to convince his people of the truth of CD’s theory.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10430
From
Naphtali Lewy (Halevi)
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Radom, Poland
Source of text
DAR 201: 20
Physical description
1p (Hebrew)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10430,” accessed on 20 September 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10430.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24

letter