Rabbi Mois Navon
What is the main focus of your activities today?
Writing Doctoral Thesis in Jewish Philosophy at BIU
How long have you been doing that?
What are some of the successful related programs or projects that you have done this year and in past years?
Lecturing about the Start-Up Nation, Autonomous vehicles and Tikun Olam – see flyer here: http://www.divreinavon.com/lecturing/InnovationAVpurpose_Flyer.pdf and reviews here: http://divreinavon.com/lecturing/KudosOnTalksAndTours.pdf
How did you get to where you are today?
Always focusing on the goal to fulfill my role in the divine purpose of creation
What is your “testimony”?
My faith journey began when I was about seven years old and I learned that people die. I asked my self what the point of life is if we are only here for a limited time. What perplexed me most here was the thought that in death one knows not that he ever existed. I didn’t get a response to this existential quandary until my second year in college when I started a student internship at NASA’s JPL. There I worked for a religious Jew who spent long lunches with me explaining the religious worldview: there is a Creator, you have a soul, there is purpose: tikun hanefesh, tikkun olam. Over the next two years of this internship, I began to adopt religious practices and read religious texts. As I (and my then girlfriend, now wife) grew in the belief that we are indeed here for a reason and that the Jewish people have a unique role in the process of fixing the world, we decided that the place to fulfill this mission is the land of Israel. The move was not simple, but one ever punctuated by things a religious person could see as “signs” of being in the right direction.
As an engineer by profession, I spent my free time studying religious texts – primarily on my own at lunch or at home in the evening. At one point my wife saw an ad for part-time rabbinical studies program near my work in Jerusalem – it said: “for people with a strong background in Talmudic studies.” I didn’t have that, but I did have a strong will for Talmudic studies. For the next six years, I attended two times a week after work and spent every night translating Talmud, Tur, Shulhan Aruch, and commentaries into English notes so that I could review for the tests. In the end I attained rabbinical ordination and have been practicing as a rabbi as well as an engineer ever since.
Living at the intersection of these two fields, I teach a great deal on topics that have to do with Torah and Science. Of late, I attained a Masters in Jewish Philosophy and have started on a PhD thesis – which too is at the intersection of Philosophy and Technology – entitled: “What is the moral status of AI?” Many philosophers and technologists today opine that there is no difference between a high functioning robot and person; we are, they say, simply “meat machines.” My thesis seeks to show the uniqueness of humans as well as our moral obligations to humans, animals and robots.
In addition to these pursuits, I lecture on a great many topics, not only on science and technology, but philosophy and purpose. These lectures have gained quite a following with people from all over the world. It is here that I engage with Christians from all over the world who have appreciated my message of Torah UMadda – that is, of realizing the divine in the very achievements of human endeavor.
What do you think God is doing with regard to Jewish-Christian relations?
He is opening up the eyes of both Jews and Christians to the power of sharing our knowledge and passion to fulfill the divine goal of creation.