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{Reposted from the Emes Ve-Emunah website)

A fascinating question was asked on a Facebook forum to which I belong.


Prior to the Holocaust, many Jews had succumbed to the influences of the enlightenment. They became skeptics and stopped being observant. For purposes of his post – the why and the how of that time is irrelevant.

Since the Holocaust there has been a massive resurgence of Orthodoxy. Again – the why and how is irrelevant. The facts are there for everyone to see and analyze.

Recently there has been a rise in the number of people going OTD in all segments of Orthodoxy. Once again raising the possibility that what happened in pre-war Europe will happen here. It is not a significant number yet. (Although even one Jew losing his faith is a terrible loss.) But that doesn’t mean it can’t one day in the not too distant future become an uncontrollable crisis. I don’t think it will. More about that later.

The reason this phenomenon is happening at all is because of the ease by which we can get information on any subject  these days. Those among us who are observant but have unanswered questions dealing with faith – such as contradictions seen between science and Torah or the arguments made by biblical scholarship – don’t have to go very far to find stratifying answers that they could not find in traditional sources. Sources that include parents, teachers and rabbis.

(As an aside, I believe that the inability to answer these questions is a major flaw in how we educate our children. It is true that the literal explosion of Orthodoxy since the Holocaust is due in large part to the creation of a religious school system through at least high school. But what was missing in that education is the ability of parents, teachers, and rabbis to satisfactorily address the questions – answered better satisfaction by the ease of access to outside information.)

The question therefore becomes whether the answers these non traditional sources have to these questions will increasingly become more acceptable. Answers that tend to negate much of what our religious education had taught us. For example challenging some of the Torah narrative with scientific observations to the contrary.

Will the increased access to these observations and logical conclusions offered that contradict the Torah’s validity eventually catch on with enough people to create a crisis of faith? Too great in number to ignore? That most of us were not properly prepared by our teachers to meet those challenges mean we are doomed?

First, I believe that these challenges will not stop and that there will be more of us that will lose our faith. But I don’t believe that Orthodoxy is doomed. We are not all going to have some kind of epiphany and reject our beliefs. Even if those questions and challenges remain unanswered.

That is because very nature of belief is not dependent on reason alone. Belief by definition is something that cannot be proven. If it could it would cease to be belief and become an observable scientific fact. Which is an impossibility when dealing with spiritual matters. And God is the ultimate Spiritual Being.

This does not mean that all reason is to be rejected in favor of pure belief. Which Judaism refers to as Emunah Peshuta. Not ‘blind belief’ – a pejorative if I ever heard one. But pure belief. Pure belief is fine for some. But for me, belief is based on many factors. Many of which are rational but not all. Rationality cannot answer every question. That is when other factors come into play. Such as education, history, intuition and other intangibles. All of which add up to my being a believing Jew.

Those of us who feel that explaining existence must be based on some sort of logical rational construct only, will be disappointed in any case. Logic itself can only go so far in explaining that. Ultimately it cannot really explain existence with complete certainty any more than pure belief can.

Although a bit of an oversimplification, I believe this is how the subject should be approached from the very start of our educational lives. At least from that point when questions may first arise and discussion of them would be productive. If properly communicated, then when the almost inevitable contact with information challenging our beliefs, we will – as a people – be better prepared to find answers that will not disabuse us of our faith.

Just my quick thoughts on the subject.

Warning! This blog presumes belief in God and in His Torah. As always any attempt to debate these beliefs  is out of bounds and will be deleted when detected.


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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at [email protected].