"Pure And Simple Emunah Is Not A Jewish Concept"
Rabbi Joshua Maroof commenting on Should We Learn The Ibn Ezra's Commentary?
I don't want to criticize anyone, but I don't agree with the approach expressed in this blog post. The quotations from Rav Nachman are full of factual errors. Aristotle was not an atheist - he was a monotheist. And the majority of philosophers during Talmudic times were not Aristotelian, they were neo-Platonists, Stoics, etc. Furthermore, the works of Aristotle and the philosophers were never an intrinsic part of Greek culture - they were reserved for the elite. The Greeks killed Socrates, and Aristotle fled Athens for years to avoid a similar fate.
In my opinion, pure and simple emunah is not a Jewish concept. The Torah speaks of "knowing" Hashem, and never asks for faith. The Neviim ask the Jews to return to the Torah based upon knowledge and understanding, not a leap of faith. The whole idea of studying Torah is a process of critical questioning and pondering.
Furthermore, in modern times it is impossible to go through life without encountering challenges to one's emunah. Does Hashem want us to ignore our God-given intellects when we see difficulties with emunah that need to be addressed? I don't think so. If Avraham Avinu had taken that approach, we would still be worshipping stones. And clearly the great Rabbis of past and present who wrote books like "Guide for the Perplexed", "Chovot Halevavot", etc, thought that deeper investigations into the philosophy of Judaism was praiseworthy. Are we superior to them such that we sit in judgment over them?
The Rambam, Ramban, Radaq, Ralbag, Chovot Halevavot, Ibn Ezra, Saadya Gaon, R' Yehudah Halevi, etc., etc., all felt that one of the ultimate goals of study was to achieve deeper understanding of the philosophy of Judaism. None of them advocated blind faith - this idea made its first appearance with the advent of the Chassidic movement. Whom should we believe? I think the answer is obvious.
Rabbi Tal Zwecker responds:
You quote Chovot HaLevavot as a supporter for the approach known today as Chakira (investigation). You are correct that this was the position of the Rambam, Shela, and others.
However, to say the opposite approach is a non-Jewish, Chassidic innovation is hardly true.
If you have a copy of Chovot HaLevavot in Hebrew with the new popular Lev Tov commentary and translation and open it to Gate 1, there Rabbi Lieberman summarizes this old dispute: do we go with Chakira, or do we rely on Emuna Peshuta (simple faith)?
If you look there you will see that advocates of Emuna Peshuta include:
The Rivash, Rav Yitzhak Bar Sheshet, Teshuva 45,
Mishnat Chachamim from Rav Moshe Chagiz, 493-496,
Chesed leAvraham from Rav Avraham Azoulai, Introduction
Shut Responsa Chavat Yair, Siman 210 and 219,
The Vilna Gaon, Yore Dea 179:5 letter 13, Eliyos Eliyahu 12a, Even Shleima 11:4, Siddur Gra, Eshi Yisroel, Orchos Chaim 61,
Noda beYehuda, Rav Yechezkel Landau, Orach Chaim 35,
Rav Yaakov Emden, Migdal Oz Alone Moreh, Otzer Tov 6 ,11, 13,
Sefer HaBrit, Rav Pinchas Eliyahu of Vilna, Derech Emuna, chapters 7, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 32, 33,
Minchas Shmuel student of Rav Chaim Volozhiner, Eitza Tova 7.
Not only are none of these Chassidic sources (he quotes those also but I left them out) some of these are anti-Chassidic, such as the Gra and Noda BeYehuda, who were opponents to Chassidus yet advocate the approach of simple faith against Chakira. Look up the sources or look in the Pitche Lev of Rav Lieberman where these are quoted in their entirety, they advocate a simple faith approach, speak against philosophy and Chakira, and some even advise against learning the first chapter of Chovot HaLevavot.
This approach is an old dispute and Chassidim didn't invent it. It's a valid Jewish derech.
I have a sefer called Otzar Ha'Amiti from Rav Pinchas Sheinberg of Torah Ohr. The first chapter entitled, "Emuna Peshuta" states,
"The Chofetz Chaim once caught his son R' Leib learning Moreh Nevuchim from the Rambam and the Chofetz Chaim took it away. His son complained that the Rambam was a Gadol and that he learned Chakira and that Avraham Avinu also came to believe in Hashem through Chakirah."
The Chofetz Chaim answered, "Whosoever searches for proofs to faith in the works of philosophy it is a sign that his recognition of Hashem is damaged, and that he harbors negative thoughts and doubts. One cannot bring proofs from Rambam and Avraham. For the Rambam composed his book for the "perplexed" ones of his generation, and Avraham lived in an age of idolatry and he needed to come to faith through his own recognition of Hashem. However for us it is clear! Hashem revealed himself before our forefathers on Mt Sinai in a crowd of multitudes and hundreds of thousands of spectators! They all heard His voice speaking to them, why should we begin again with the Alef Beis?"