Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Having Faith in Hashem
To dedicate this lesson

Pure Faith, Intellectual Faith

The relationship between the simplicity of faith and intellectual analysis


Rabbi Mishael Dahan, ztvk”l

Kislev 8 5782
Translated by Hillel Fendel

The foundation and ultimate objective of all is the pure faith in He, may His Name be blessed, Who created everything, both hidden and revealed. And as is known, there are two kinds of emunaemuna that stems from investigation and analysis, and emuna based on that which was handed down through the generations.

Emuna based on analysis is good for one whose faith overrides his research. It is appropriate for one who simply wishes to strengthen his or her faith and buttress it with intellectual proofs, and has no fear that it will actually weaken it even a bit.

But one who wishes to have only investigative proof is actually not a believer, but rather a researcher. But in truth, research into this matter is fairly dangerous - for not everyone can dive into these deep waters, delve into the depths of investigation and research, and then rise up from it healthy in soul and even possibly in body. This is because of the profundity of the matter and the mediocrity of our intellect. This is especially true for one whose faith is slightly weak to begin with. On the other hand, emuna that is received as a matter of acceptance is something that needs no special training; it guides the typical Jew along calm waters and soaks him with wondrous tranquility and supreme inner serenity.

One who believes strongly and absolutely that there is a Leader to this world, and that all causes and effects, as well as everything that happens openly or secretly, are from the blessed G-d – he is one who naturally can stand up, like a solid rock, to the upheavals, reversals, hardships and ravages of time. In this way he is many times stronger than the unbeliever, who as soon as he encounters an unexpected hardship or difficult major life change, immediately and suddenly finds his life to be valueless, and is liable to become a wild animal as a result, acting out most vilely and destructively.

This forum is not the place to prove in a cut and dried manner the existence of the blessed G-d, His absolute oneness, His limitless and unequivocal power and abilities, and His Divine providence over everything He created. One who would like to learn such proofs can turn to books of true investigation, "replete with luster and radiating brightness" [from the Sabbath morning prayer], and he will certainly find satisfaction.

But we can mention here several simple things from the holy words of our Sages, "through whom the spirit of G-d spoke, with His word upon their tongue" [a common phrase in traditional literature, referring to the teachings of the Rabbis]. One who delves into them will find tranquility for his stormy and unstable soul:

1. It is well-known that the testimony of two kosher witnesses – and certainly more than two! – is accepted everywhere as true, and judicial rulings are handed down based on it.

2.  If there is something that you are not positive about, but someone is totally certain about the opposite, you should think that perhaps he might be right.

3. It is as clear as the sun that man did not create himself, but that he was created by something outside him.

Let us explain these three points in brief.

1. The awesome and exalted stand at Mt. Sinai, at which Israel received the Torah from on high, was affirmed by no fewer than 600,000 adult males. They saw this holy and splendorous vision with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears G-d's voice, "mighty in holiness." For if not, how could such a large public event and its subsequent intergenerational transmission be faked, as the Kuzari states? Could they all have merely thought they saw this great event, or been willing to lie about it to their offspring?

2. One who does not believe in G-d knows that he has no proof to this effect. Rather, he has simply been taken up by the current of the times, and/or fallen prey to the convenience of not having any obligatory framework. As the Gemara says in Aramaic, avda b'hefkera niche leh, which means that a slave is happy to live without rules. And even if the unbeliever's conscience pricks him once in a while, he strives to quiet it by creating artificial content to fill the void that is empty of true content. He also seeks to ensure that his conscience has neither the time nor the concentration to truly weigh all the evidence and the value of his various actions. Instead, he spends his time fulfilling his physical urges, whether just or unjust, thus silencing his conscience and ensuring that it not bother him.

For the believer, everything is different. He has no pangs of conscience; it is clear to him that he is walking the straight and true path. The latter is therefore certain, while the skeptic is not. Should not the skeptic consider carefully that perhaps the believer, and not he himself, is right? From the standpoint of the afterworld, as well: It is clear that the believer will not suffer if he turns out to be wrong, whereas if the non-believer turns out to be wrong, he actually will suffer for having stubbornly clung to his arbitrary feeling that he need not recognize the Creator. In short, even the non-believer must admit that he would be well advised to take into strong account the possibility that the believer is correct.

3. No one can deny that man did not create himself. Going back to Adam and Eve, there is no stretch of the imagination that could deny that they were created, just as we all were. Thus there must be a Creator.

If you carefully consider everything we have said, which is but "a little retaining much more," you have no choice but to return to your roots and source, and to believe with complete faith in the G-d of Israel and in the eternal spring of the holy Torah, from which your fathers and fathers' fathers drew from the day they became "one nation in the Land" and up to this very day.

And this is the depth of what the Sages taught (Tr. Makkot 24a) regarding the words of the Prophet Habakkuk (2,4): "The righteous will live by his faith." The Sages taught that the Prophet actually named the one principle on which all of the Torah's commandments stand – namely, faith in G-d. 
(From the work Mussar Melachim, published by the author's family. To order it, call: +972-50-524-4664.)

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