web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Faith and Knowledge

faith leaps

I came across a letter in one of the Jewish magazines in which the reader proposed the need to engage in “kiruv kiruvim” – the kiruvim being our own children falling through the cracks. Not because they are cognitively deficient, she wrote, but because their yeshiva education does not sufficiently address issues of emunah that would help them overcome the various life obstacles they encounter, especially those connected to cultural differences and the various nefarious influences resulting from them.

Here are the views of some of our greatest gedolim bearing on the issue of emunah.

Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzvat Aseh 1) states that the first of the Aseres HaDibros, “Anochi,” constitutes the mitzvah to “believe in God.”

R. Chisdai, in his Ohr Hashem, objects to the Rambam’s opinion on the basis that before accepting the commandments of a Commander, the existence of that Commander has to be established on precedents other than a commandment to believe in his existence; otherwise it is a case of circular reasoning.

Further, he asks, how is it possible to command faith and belief altogether? If you lack emunah, how can you develop it merely because you’re commanded to believe?

The great chacham Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel answers these questions in his work Rosh Amana (chaps. 7 and 11). The crux of his approach is that the Rambam is not speaking about belief in God’s existence as constituting this mitzvah. Rather, it is only after we have already firmly established through various precedents that His existence is beyond question, and are thus convinced that there indeed is a Commander, that we are then commanded to believe in God’s inscrutable, qualitatively all-encompassing infinite dimension. And that is open only to faith and belief rather than intellectual grasp.

This is comparable to Avraham Avinu (Midrash Rabbah 39:1) who became convinced of God’s existence before receiving any prophetic revelation. In the same manner, argues Abarbanel, the recognition of God’s existence is an intellectually based conviction already in place before any mitzvah is given through Revelation.

This can be aligned with the comment attributed to the Shelah HaKadosh on the pasuk we say daily in Az Yashir: “This is my God and I will make a habitation for Him, the God of my father, and I will exalt him.”

“My God” refers to the state of the person having been able to reach recognition of God by dint of his own efforts, including his intellectual efforts, while “the God of my fathers” refers to the fundamentals of emunah inculcated in us through our fathers and tradition. The sequence, says the Shelah, of these two elements, with “my God” stated first, indicates an advantage in this type of recognition: when I manage to make this mine, it will have more lasting value. But if it is based only on my having received my father’s tradition, I may not have fully identified with it and may not be able to ward off the negative onslaughts stemming from the surrounding society.

The first step, then, is to apply the soul-God parallel: In the same way we readily recognize that the body cannot continue to function without a vivifying soul, so too we can readily sense that God is the vivifying “Divine Soul” of this vast “Universe Body,” without which it would cease to function the way it does.

Thus, says Abarbanel, the mitzvah of belief Rambam is speaking about relates to what follows the preparatory step of firm conviction of His existence, and is thus not a case of circular reasoning. That initial conviction, based as it is on our own logical conclusions, is in the category of “this is my God.” Once that is in place, we also have to accept and believe in the transcendence, perfection, and unity of God as a matter of belief, i.e. “the God of my father” – the mitzvah of emunah.

In this manner Abarbanel also answers the second question, concerning how one can command faith (Rosh Amana, Chap. 11). The command part relates to the multilevel stages that precede the eventual development of faith and belief. It relates to our having to inquire, probe and reflect about various factors, such as God’s all-inclusive Unity, in addition to having achieved firm conviction of His existence. We become convinced of His infinite transcendence (beyond the soul-God parallel) in no less a measure than the conviction we already have reached about His existence.

About the Author: Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic is the spiritual leader of Cong. Ahavath Zion of Maplewood, New Jersey. His articles on Jewish philosophy and chassidus have appeared in various publications. Comments from readers can be e-mailed to ylebovic@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Faith and Knowledge”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Gaza
Mashaal Vows Cease-Fire a Step to New ‘Resistance’ War against Israel
Latest Indepth Stories
TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

Israeli-flag

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Israelis in Gaza border communities need to get out; who will help them?

More Articles from Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) American President Barack Obama (C) and Palestinian Arab leader Mahmoud Abbas (R)

Israel’s leaders contemplate all manner of political and security concessions that are bereft of any backbone.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

Israeli leadership doesn’t look to God for help, it gave away Gaza because of political predictions and calculations.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

If you lack emunah, how can you develop it merely because you’re commanded to believe?

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/faith-and-knowledge/2013/12/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: