web analytics
December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
Sections
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.



In The Absence Of Proof

book-great-partnership

For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, Jewish thinkers have tried to prove God’s existence and the veracity of the Torah. That endeavor is no longer in vogue. Indeed, many educated Jews today believe the attempt an exercise in futility.

If they are right, what are we left with? Why should a Jew observe the Torah if he can’t prove that it came from God – or that there even is a God?

In The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks – Great Britain’s distinguished chief rabbi – suggests an answer.

First, Rabbi Sacks reminds his readers that “[a]lmost none of the truths by which we live are provable.” Can we prove the existence of colors to the satisfaction of a cynical blind man? Can we prove the existence of true love? Can we prove that living a meaningful life is superior to watching television all day? Can we prove that contributing to society is better than indulging oneself? The answer to all these questions is “No.” We can’t even prove that the world exists or, if it does, that it didn’t “come into existence five minutes ago, together with false memories and evidence.”

Rabbi Sack’s point is not that one cannot make good arguments for these propositions. Indeed, towards the end of The Great Partnership, Rabbi Sacks presents several traditional “proofs” for God’s existence. One of my favorite is the revised cosmological argument. It turns out that “the entire physical universe, from the largest galaxies to the smallest particles, is governed by six mathematical constants…. Had the value of any of these constants been different by a small, almost infinitestimal degree, there would have been no universe capable of giving rise to life.” In other words, it “all seems too precise for it to have happened by mere chance.”

A traditional response to this argument is to posit the existence of myriads of other universes, which would make the existence of one universe with perfect mathematical constants completely unremarkable. But is positing the existence of myriads of other universes more sensible than positing the existence of a Creator?

In other words, the argument is a decent one, but it remains an argument, not a proof. Other arguments – based on history or science – are likewise not proofs in the mathematical sense of the word. They are perhaps “intimations” of God’s hand, as Rabbi Sacks puts it, but not irrefutable evidence.

Why, then, live a Torah life? Because, as Rabbi Sacks argues in this book, no other life is more beautiful, more noble, more godly. In other words, Rabbi Sacks seems to be saying, if Judaism (or religion in general) can inspire such nobility and “goodkeit” in man – and Rabbi Sacks attempts to convince his readers that it does – is it really necessary that the cosmological argument for God’s existence be irrefutable?

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch adopted a similar strategy in the 19th century. One will rarely find arguments for God’s existence or the veracity of the Torah in his writings. But after reading the Nineteen Letters or Choreb or many of his essays, it almost – strangely – doesn’t matter. The effect of his language and ideas is such that one wants to jump on board. If that’s Judaism, sign me up! Who, but a fool, would discard such a brilliant diamond?

The Great Partnership is ostensibly about science and religion. Rabbi Sacks indulges this topic a bit, arguing that “they are different intellectual enterprises.” Science, he says, “is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation. Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean.” He also makes the intriguing (disturbing?) suggestion that the Torah – unlike science – does not aim for logical rigor per se. (This, he argues, may be why Hebrew lacks vowels and is written from right to left, requiring us to use our holistic right brain as opposed to our more analytical left brain.) Finally, Rabbi Sacks affixes an appendix to the book with passages from such personalities as the Rambam, Tiferes Yisrael, and Rav Kook that tackle topics like the age of the universe and evolution.

However, The Great Partnership is really about the godly life versus the ungodly, the meaningful life versus the meaningless, the purposeful life versus the purposeless. The choice is before us. No mathematical proof will set us on the true path. But books like Rabbi Sacks’ make it eminently easier to choose wisely.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


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.

No Responses to “In The Absence Of Proof”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Haredi men cast their votes for the 19th Knesset in Bnei Brak, January 22 2013.
New Poll: Shows Netanyahu Will Lead Next Gov’t with Haredim
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

When someone with a fixed mindset has a negative interaction with a friend or loved one, he or she immediately projects that rejection onto him or herself saying: “I’m unlovable.”

Respler-121914

How many potential shidduchim are not coming about because we, the mothers, are not allowing them to go through?

Kupfer-121914

Is the Torah offering nechama by subtly hinting that death brings reunion with loved ones who preceded you?

She approached Holofernes and, with a sword concealed under her robe, severed his head.

Here are examples of games that need to be played by more than one person and an added bonus: they’re all Shabbos-friendly.

The incident was completely unforeseeable. The only term to describe the set of circumstances surrounding it is “freak occurrence.”

The first Chabad Center in Broward County, Chabad of South Broward, now runs nearly fifty programs and agencies. T

The NHS was also honored to have Bob Diener as keynote speaker.

Written with flowing language and engaging style, Attar weaves a spell that combines mystery, humor, adventure and Kabbalah in the most magical place in the world, the Old City of erusalem.

There are those who highlight the diversity of these different teachings, seeing each rebbe as teaching a separate path.

Rav Dynovisz will be speaking in Hebrew on Wednesday, January 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, senior chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, saw a small room in the hospital that was dark and dismal but could be used for Sabbath guests.

“The secret to a good donut is using quality ingredients and the ability to be patient and give them time to proof.”

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Joseph Berger 
(Photo: James Estrin)

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

Rav Dov Katz

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

You can’t say “Jewish French,” “Jewish British,” “Jewish Italian.” They are “French Jews,” “British Jews,” and “Italian Jews” – because they’re seen as Jews first and residents or citizens of their countries second.

Another thing they have been covering up is the nature of the building that was attacked. To this day people refer to it as a consulate or an embassy, but it wasn’t.

The reality is that civility is less important than clarity, and right now only very few people on the Left are interested in having a civil conversation about the merits of particular policy solutions.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/in-the-absence-of-proof/2013/06/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: