- Jewish Laws and Thoughts
- Jewish Thought
Translated by Hillel Fendel
Question: I grew up in a religious home, and ever since I remember myself, I have always had a relationship with G-d. During high school, I became even "stronger" in my faith, and later began studying in Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. That year, on Yom Kippur, I suddenly found myself doubting the existence of G-d. It's now been five years since then, and I feel like a little boy lost in the big world. I tried at first to ignore my doubts, continuing my yeshiva studies as usual.
But after a long while I realized that my problems would probably never get resolved if I didn't confront them directly. I started reading books about faith, proofs, and the like, and I spoke to many rabbis. But nothing really changed; I continued to ask myself, who said this is all true?? I saw that for every proposed proof, there are those who say the opposite.
I would really like to be a believing Jew who observes all the commandments, but I know it has to start with true faith. I am very connected to Judaism, and it is still my entire life; I cannot see myself living a secular life. But I don't know what to do anymore! How much longer can I go on this way?
Answer: I imagine I can't add anything to what you've already studied regarding proofs of faith in G-d and the like. You've heard all the various proofs, and so it looks like what remains for you to do now is "personal work." That's because the power of emuna [ed. often mistranslated as faith, but is actually a form of knowledge (like experiential, logical, sensational, etc.)] is one that is far above and beyond our intellect. As you noted, proofs can always be argued; what seems like a proof to one person, seems the opposite to another.
It's true that using our brain power, we can reach conclusions that are very reasonable, and likely even true. Emuna is something logical that can certainly not be rejected by a thinking mind – but neither can it be proven categorically. This is why we have a special "Israelite/Jewish" trait that is called the "trait of emuna." Our Sages say that we are "believers, children of believers." Emuna is a force that G-d implanted within each of us, by which we can identify that to which we are connected and that which is foreign to us. This inner force enables us to feel what is part of our lives, and what is foreign and fake – that which is "not us." Belief in the Creator of the world must come from within, from a source that is higher than our intellect. Proofs and the like are simply an "aid," atop which we build our emuna.
Our emuna is a natural part of us ever since childhood. But as we grow older, we have to further develop it, and not allow it to remain in its simplistic structure. The emuna of a mature adult is not the same as that of a child. Part of the difference lies in the extent to which the emuna is also rooted in logic and proofs – but there is much more. The essential difference between mature emuna and that of a child is in its depth and overall conception. As we grow older, our emuna becomes the most basic and general prism through which we view and experience life.
In generations in which emuna is relatively rare, it is very difficult to further develop emuna from its innate and simplistic nature. We meet up with countless things that could contradict the way in which we picture our faith. But on the other hand, we who live in this Generation of Redemption, strongly have on what to lean and on what to base our emuna, based on what we see before our eyes. Just the very thought of the amazing wonders involved in the Jewish People's return to its land is enough to arouse our instinctual realization of G-d's providence and His involvement in history. Reading the Mishna where it describes (at the end of Tractate Sotah) what is happening now, though it was written 2,000 years ago, arouses our astonishment at the depth of knowledge that our Sages had.
Your chief work, then, is to restore to yourself the "picture of faith" that you once had – and to realize that it is "you." Questions are natural, but they do not negate your very essence!
However, since your soul seeks "proofs," here is list of items or concepts in brief that I found among my writings that might help you:
• The Torah is totally unique in terms of the multiple meanings that can be garnered from the specific order of the letters.
• The Torah wrote of many events even before they happened. See, for example, Parashat Haazinu, cited in the last Mishna of Sotah, regarding the events of the pre-Redemption "footsteps of Messiah."
• Laws that were stated and based on scientific facts that were unknown at the time (such as the laws of fish scales)
• Miracles that took place in public, attested to by many
• The totally unique history of the People of Israel attests to our special strength – and to Divine Providence
• Christianity and Islam are based on Judaism. The basic Christian creed that G-d's promises to the Jews had become invalid was negated when the State of Israel was established in 1948.
• Even science agrees that the concept of Creation is very logical.
• The testimony of people who have experienced near-death events
• The life stories of great Torah scholars and righteous people prove the exceptional nature of the Jewish way of life, in terms of their pristine character traits, ability to effect miracles, and more.
• The Jewish People is unmatched in its abilities. The proportion of Jewish Nobel Prize winners far outweighs its proportion in the general population.
• The huge magnitude of Creation, as well as how tiny are its elements (cells, quarks, etc.)
• The infinite layers of Torah show that it was given by an entity of infinite nature.
• See also the Maharal of Prague's work Tiferet Yisrael in which he writes that man is a unique creation that can be rendered significant only if he has goals and a destiny beyond those of animals.
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