web analytics
December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



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 N.J. 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
Moshe Kachlon (L) and Avigdor Liberman (R)
Liberman’s Secret Plan to be Crowned Prime Minister
Latest Indepth Stories
The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

More Articles from Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic

Rosh Hashanah has an obvious connection to God’s Kingship. We constantly refer to Him during the Asseres Yemei Teshuvah as Melech/King. The nusach of the tefillah, referring to Rosh Hashanah as “a remembrance of the first day” (of Creation), implies a certain dimension of divine kingship operating at the time of Creation and replicated every […]

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.

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?

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: