Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"Pure And Simple Emunah Is Not A Jewish Concept"

Chovos HaLevavos [Zhitomir, 1848]


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?"

64 Comments:

At February 6, 2007 at 7:32:00 AM EST, Anonymous AlexJ-x-Eli said...

1/ "The Torah speaks of "knowing" Hashem, and never asks for faith": you should instead say 'not only ask for faith', but obviously faith is a requirement of 'veahavta et Hashem Elokecha'...

2/(...)"None of them advocated blind faith - this idea made its first appearance with the advent of the Chassidic movement.": The Lubavitcher Rabbi once explained in a siha that the main purpose of hassidut is to bring 'yayina shel Tora', the secrets of Tora and its very deep understandings, from the knowledge of a happy few (at the time of Rashbi and still at the time of the Holy Ari zal) to all the jews. The Rabbi explains also that the Baal Shem Tov brought these levels of Tora to the simply people throught stories and mashalim, and then the Magid from Mezritch gave the intellectual explanations to those sharply minded. From Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady further on, those intellectual explanations of the 'sod' had been given to every jew. Hence, accoding to not less than the Lubavitcher Rabbi, hassidut is davka not only 'pure and simple Emuna' but a mix of very strong Emuna along with very serious efforts to rationalize and to study the Tora at a level of Kabbala...

 
At February 6, 2007 at 8:33:00 AM EST, Anonymous Michoel said...

First of all, Rabbi Zweker says good. Secondly, all the m'koros for the derech of chakira, would likely be horrified by the way in which they are utilized in the intellectual J-Blogosphere. The purpose of chakira is to strengthen emunah so that it becomes tivis and more deep than the amunah tivis of the "emunah p'shuta folks", for example Rabbenu Avigdor Miller zt"l. The modern chakira crowd's goal is not to have terutzim but to have kashes. What Rabbi Maroof is callig "not a Jewish concept" is what most of us call "naaseh v'nishmah" ie the quintessential Jewish concept.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 8:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Michoel said...

And another thing!!! (that was for dramtic flare)

While am by nature and background a Litvak, I have great kavod and interest in Chasidus. I'd like to offer the following thought and those that know more can shoot it down if necessary. Dveikus itself is a kind of chakirah. The experience of living a dveikusdike lifestyle is itself m'galeh amitas HaBoraei v'toraso. Also, when one learns the heligeh seforim that are m'yusad on the Ari and others, one sees the inner emes of the Torah in a way that sometimes bypasses the need for all the chakira. The chakiraniks ask "factual" questions about, for example, the mabul. But when we learn the inner aspects of the Torah a little bit, we begin to appreciate that so much more is going on, with n'shamos, with Hashem's hanhaga, and we stand in awe, realizing the silliness of trying to confine the Boreh Olam to our little kashes. "Ki lo machsh'vosechem machsh'vosai amar H'" (And this is, of course true of the sifrei Hagra and other non-chasidic seforim as well.)

 
At February 6, 2007 at 9:04:00 AM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Clearly, not everyone knows the definitions of key words as Chassidic Tzaddikim have used them. Such people should make at least as great an effort to understand these as they have made to understand philosophical terminology and thought. Then we will see fewer straw men in their depictions of Chassidic thought.

Arguments against philosophy as such don't hinge on details about the relative popularity of philosophical schools (Aristotelian, neo-Platonic...), past or present.

If Aristotle was a theist in some sense, as Rabbi Maroof asserted, he still held that the world was not created. His system did not allow for Divine miracles or supernatural revelation. So his was a stunted theism at best.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 9:22:00 AM EST, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I am honored that you dignified my comment with a blog post.

I will simply note that the sources you cite are almost exclusively drawn from Acharonim. The only Rishon among them is the Rivash, who was extraordinarily well versed in philosophy and secular studies, including the controversial works of Ralbag, and was an outspoken opponent of Kabbala. So he is hardly a good proof for your position.

The suggestion that the Rishonim harbored an interest in philosophy only because of the negative influence of Greek thought in their societies cannot be accepted. The Rambam explicitly states, both in the Mishneh Torah and the Moreh Nevuchim, that the study of philosophy and theology, and the quest for proofs of God, are the very pinnacle of Jewish learning. The vast majority of Rishonim concur in one form or another, as any unprejudiced review of the sources would confirm.

An excellent proof text for this is the Radaq's introduction to Sefer Yehoshua. He comments on the passuk in Tehillim "the beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem." He explains that "fear of Hashem" is knowledge of the entire Torah, Neviim, Talmud, etc. This is a precursor to "wisdom." And what, according to the Radaq, is "wisdom" itself? The study of philosophy! (Incidentally, the Meiri makes several similar points in the introduction to his commentary on the Talmud as well.)

Now, do you think the Radaq would take a Greek idea, impute it to King David and claim it was the entire purpose of Judaism, if he didn't really mean it? Do you mean to imply that the Rishonim twisted the Torah to fit the spirit of the times in which they lived? This sounds far more heretical than the suggestion that "chakira" is meaningful and worthwhile.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 9:24:00 AM EST, Anonymous JM said...

The Shelah ha-Kadosh was also anti-hakirah. Rav Nahman references his ant-hakirah statements in the "masekhet Shevu'ot" portion of the Shelah.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 9:44:00 AM EST, Anonymous Michoel said...

In response to Rabbi Maroof:
1. We don't know that what we call chakira, the Rishonim would also call chakirah.
2. Rambam said many things and it is easy to bring from him, rayos to radically different shitos.
3. The issue is not whether the Rishonim twisted the Torah chas v'shalom. The issue, as the Heligeh Chafetz Chaim writes, is that the rishonim wrote what was necessary for there doros. And we have to live with the hashkafos that are appropriate for our dor.

You are now apparently saying that the view of the Chafetz Chaim (which you previously said was not a Jewish view) is more heretical than saying chakira is worth while. But I am not aware that here ever took the position that chakira is not worthwhile. We are reacting to you rejection of emunah p'shuta.

There were rishonim that were dan in the inyon of H' having a guf. We completely reject that. Sometimes H' runs the briyah in a way that certain truths are clearly to the latter, smaller authorities than they were to the great Rishonim.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 9:57:00 AM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

"There were rishonim that were dan in the inyon of H' having a guf."

I think they they actually held that a Jew holding such a belief was not a heretic. They probably did not share that belief themselves.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 10:35:00 AM EST, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

In response to Michoel,

1. We do know what they considered Chakira, based upon what they wrote about in their sefarim. Otherwise, you'll have to say we don't know what they considered halacha either.

2. You can bring proofs for different things from the same source sometimes. But a repeated emphasis and an obvious theme in the Rambam is the value of chochma in general, including theology and philosophy. You can disagree with him if you wish but you can't deny that there is no place that he or any of the other rationalist Rishonim suggest otherwise.

3. My concern is that an emphasis on emunah peshuta may have worked in Europe in the shtetl, where people saw the unadulterated light of Torah permeating the community and harbored no doubts about its truth, but is failing miserably in modern times, as evidenced by the fact that people are defecting from Orthodoxy in droves. Rational demonstration of the truth of Torah is our only hope in the current milieu.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 10:48:00 AM EST, Anonymous Menatzpach said...

"Rational demonstration of the truth of Torah is our only hope in the current milieu."

How do you give a rational demonstration of something that is superrational?

 
At February 6, 2007 at 10:51:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There appears a lot of confusion in this blog. The controversy can easily be resolved by defining terms.
Emunah peshto does not mean emunoh tefeiloh (credulity, blind faith). The emunoh peshuto is itself based on da'as: atoh horeisso loda'as, veyodato hayom etc., shemah Yisroel etc., etc. etc. The question is: once you KNOW the foundation of truth, do you still keep harping on finding philosophical proof and evidence (whatever that means) for every step you take, or rely on the verified mesorah. The former is not only dangerous but also impossible! The latter is not only intelelctually honest but also the only safe way.
In short, there must be a combination of both, as taught by the Baal Shem Tov himself, and as is found explicitly in the Shelah (see his interpretation of Exodus 15:2, and the whole discussion of it that he offers there).
Moreover,

 
At February 6, 2007 at 11:04:00 AM EST, Anonymous Michoel said...

1. "We do know ... don't know what they considered halacha either."
We know what they considered chakira but what we don't know is whether they would consider OUR chakira to be chakira. And even if they would, we don't know how they would apply their approach to our times. To assume that they would validate a lot of the modern chakiros is pure conjecture. RE Halacha, we have a Shulchan Aruch. Period.

2. Again, Rambam makes many statements that, when taken to there logical conclusions (without any agendas one way or the other) render some modern chakiros worthless or dangerous. If the Rambam states that we have a direct mesora from Adam, to Noach to Avraham, as recorded in the Torah's geneaology than that is what he held. To my limited mind, we cannot take on the apporach of a rishon while disregard what that Rishon accepted as fact.


3. I do not agree that people are defecting from Orthodoxy in "droves" and I also don't agree that those leaving are doing so for intellectual reasons (in %95 of cases) RJM: "Rational demonstration etc" Here we really need to define terms. If the goal of chakirah is to clarify the traditional understanding of the Torah's Truth, than I agree with you to a degree. In fact, most of the chakira on the blogs is doing the exact opposite.

There are many things we can't understand. If people find that frustrating, they need to learn to live with frustration. We don't need to bring the Torah Hakedosha down to them.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 11:26:00 AM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

I've posted on the topic. See link below("Two Forms of Emunah" I and II).

http://mishmar.blogspot.com/2006/12/two-forms-of-emunah-ii.html

 
At February 6, 2007 at 11:34:00 AM EST, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Anonymous, if that is what you mean by emunah, I am with you.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 12:17:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

-------
I will simply note that the sources you cite are almost exclusively drawn from Acharonim. The only Rishon among them is the Rivash, who was extraordinarily well versed in philosophy and secular studies, including the controversial works of Ralbag, and was an outspoken opponent of Kabbala. So he is hardly a good proof for your position.
--------

There are enough rishoynim who grind the way of mechakrim who avoid Kabolo into dust. Look for example on pirush of Rabbi Yitzchok deMin Acco ztz"l (Ramban's talmid) on "Pirkey deRabbi Eliezer". He wrote it as a polemic on the pirush of Rabbi Yehuda Ibn Malca who explained the Medrash according to chakira. Rabbi Yitzchok deMin Acco uses strong language to tell that R' Yhuda Ibn Malca failed to understand the meaning of the Medrash, because he didn't have the true knowledge of Kabolo and Nistar.

Amongst rishoynim there were mekubolim who didn't hold the chakiro to be a contradiction to Kabolo in many cases (for example R' Avrohom Abulafia ztz"l), while others held that Kabolo alone is enough. However all of them agreed, that mechakrim who deny the Kabolo or have ideas that don't fit with it are way out of the emes.

In this discussion above, it wasn't mentioned such classic from early sforim which speak about this issue as "Avoydas haKoydesh" from Rabbi Meir ben Gabay ztz"l. He calles the philosophy (primarily Greek) - shifcho zoro that many mistakingly started to use.

So I see it as a general difference in approach of mekubolim and pure rationalists. (Again note, that there were those mekubolim who found something useful in philosophy when it doesn't contradict the Kabolo - i.e. it's logical and structural approach to wisdom). But it was proved, that "pure rationalists" who deny Kabolo have a totally foreign approach to Yiddishkayt and is taken from Greeks.

The pure rational apporach which scorns the emuno was the base for the apikorsus of maskilim, reformists and other similar koyfrim. Chasidim were fiery against such notions that caused thousands to fall into kfira.

There is an interesting tshuvo from the Ba"ch (Reb Yoel Sirkish ztz"l Baal "Beys Chodosh") in his shayloys utshovoys. Someone asks him, what is the law conserning a doctor in Amsterdam who denies Kabolo and spread his philosophical ideas (they call him metaheyr es hasheretz umetame es hooretz). The Ba"ch says, that one who is koyfer in Kabolo - the words of the Chaza"l is an apikoyres and deserves to be put in niduy.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 1:19:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

"Chasidim were fiery against such notions that caused thousands to fall into kfira."

There argument of chakirah vs. peshuta is an age-old one, as I posted on my blog. The blogosphere is simply rehashing an old issue, as it does at times. I think that this is harmless and makes for interesting discussion, as long as both sides realize that they are not being mechadeish anything at all.

Questions of "should we learn the Ibn Ezra", "should we skip Shaar Hayichud" or "what is emuna" are practically solved in different ways. Like in matters of halacha, one can follow statements of gedolim quoted in seforim, and/or one can ask a sheilah, if one thinks that the question has individual elements or ramifications.

As I wrote on my blog(linked above), the mesorah in the yeshivah/chassidic worlds, at least, is to generally eschew chakirah. There is evidence, for example, based on the testimony of the Chassid Yavetz that chakirah has drawbacks.

One might also argue that the Moreh Nevuchim was written for questions of his age, and while one might guess what he would say today, it has not been updated for issues raised by the haskalah.

Another point is that the issues need not be an either or approach; there can be mixes of both approaches based on the individual, even if the multitudes benefit from peshutah.

As I wrote on my blog, I think that instead of a person with intellectual inclinations feeling that he has no place in the Yeshivah world( I quoted an actual case), instead , such a person should receive personal guidance on his derech according to his nature.

In addition, the question is how bloggers who are already wrestling with various emunah issues should deal with the topic. There have been sharp statements on the chakirah side as well, about the need for a specific type of rationality. So while we should take into account the fiery statements on the peshutah side(eg. see Lev Tov edition to Shar Hayichud; I can also quote strong support for peshutah from recent Gedolim such as R. Shach zt'l), I do not know if simply mentioning these statements will help people in the rational group, who have different natures, backgrounds or both.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 2:02:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

~~~ to me "simple faith" , means doing Torah & Mitzvahs, without major internal debate. One rationalize himself our of most anything,, especially davening zman w/ a minyon.
When Rav Nachman teaches "Simple Faith",, In my mind , i see a pre-sageing the current Nike sneaker ad slogan: "JUST DO IT!"

~~ rahalperin

 
At February 6, 2007 at 2:03:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

I would also add that the rationalist types or Modern Orthodox can also benefit from emunah peshutah/devikus type of activities, and they need it perhaps more than others. There is no rule that one must be a certain type or belong to a certain group to partcipate or make such activities. Whether in practice, such a hybrid approach will yield sufficient benefits is a different question.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 2:13:00 PM EST, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

A Yid,

Still, you must admit that the one Rishon you were able to quote is very obscure, almost unknown. The fact remains that the vast majority of the Gedolei Harishonim were the pure rationalists that you scorn, and that even the Rishonim who were mekubalim were rational, philosophically educated and open to the ideas of the non-mekubalim as well.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 2:30:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

One should also note that there are "dangers" in an an overly-simple approach to avodas Hashem, although they are of a different nature. There are people who go overboard with segulos, ayin hara etc, to the point of being superstitious, and at times, this can lead to a chillul Hashem.

This does not mean that the approach of emunah peshutah(which is a different issue; Rav Wolbe, for example, writes that even within the purview of emunah peshutah a talmid chacham should develop a deeper understanding of fudamentals of Yiddishkeit ), or even the path of emphasizing metaphysical nistaros as part of a derech is flawed. What it means is that a person needs balance; like the Mesilas Yesharim writes in a different context, there is a battle no matter what situation one is in, and one might add, no matter what path one takes in life.

Some might also benefit from asking a sheilas chacham before rushing to adopt the latest "inyan" which one hears about.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 2:38:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

> you must admit that the one Rishon
> you were able to quote is very
> obscure, almost unknown.

Unknown to whom? He was one of the greatest and key mekubolim of that period together with the Ramba"n, Reb Yoysef Gekatilaya ztz"l, Rash"bo, Reb Shem Tov ben Goen (Rashbo's talmid) and others. For those who aren't interested in Kabolo many of them can be obscure but it doesn't at all mean that the "vast majority" were pure rationalists. Chas vechalilo. As I said, there was a period when purely philosohpical approach and that of mekubolim had a major conflict, philosophical apporach losing forever ever, after the wider spread of Kabolo traditions.

For your reference, such giants of Yiddishkayt as Raaved, Rabeynu Yitzchok Sagi Nur, Ramban , Rashbo, Ritvo, Rabeynu Yehuda heChosid, Rabeynu Elozer miVermayza (Rokeach) and many others, were all great mekubolim. So there can be no claime that "the vast majority" were pure rationalists. There was such group that's true. But hadn't more weight comparing to mekubolim group.

As I also said, part of mekubolim find use for chakiro as well, when it was suited for it. Even amongst chasidim - Chabad and Izhbitz for example are very chakiro oriented in a sence. (Don't think they advocate rationalist denial of Kabolol or something the like - quite on the contary, they just consider the dichotomy between the Kabolo and chakiro be less drastic as it might seem). Many of them didn't consider chakiro bad per se, and had a use for it - true, but they weren't pure rationalists at all! And they were very cautions that chakiro wouldn't lead anyone astray to denay the Toyras Emes.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 2:53:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

> One should also note that there are
> "dangers" in an an overly-simple
> approach to avodas Hashem,

Sure, I agree. Look what Pyasetchner Rebe ztz"l Hy"d writes in Bney Machshovo Toyvo (15, 16) about tmimus. He shows very beautifully that tmimus doesn't at all mean stupidity or superficiality. The teachings in Breslov and Koretz about emuno pshuto, tmimus and pshitus etc. don't mean advocating stupidity or ignorance at all!

 
At February 6, 2007 at 3:33:00 PM EST, Anonymous Michoel said...

Reb Yid and Reb Baruch,
Yes, of course their are potential dangers in a "overly" emunah p'shutah approach. However, the the new chakiranicks have abrogated to themselves the responsibility of being dan what the definition of "overly" is. And that is much more dangerous then the emunah p'shutah itself! Al binascha al tishaein. The fact that a smart guy who can learn a bit decides that one or another scientific discover is really a kashe atzumah on our mesora, does not make it a kashe atzumah.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 4:05:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

Michoel: The Rebe ztz"l said it in his colorful style - "It's better to be a fool and to believe in everything, though it might be untrue, rather than being a skeptic and to believe nothing not believing in what is true as well".

While these are two extremes, the extreme of the koyfer and apikoryes is much worse, because it's much harder to fix, comparing to the first one.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 4:12:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all, but many frum scientists I know , question any Gemara that seems to contradict modern science. It doesn't occur to them that they just don't understand the Gemara properly. There are many areas of Gemara dealing with laws of damages or sacrifices that are very difficult to understand, but we don't just say the Gemara is wrong - we work to try to figure it out. So too with Gemara's that seem to contradict modern scientific "facts" - if we try hard, an explanation can be found. Why would anyone want to automatically assume that scientists are correct and the Holy Tannaim and Amoraim are wrong? Besides there are modern day Rabbanim that explain these Gemara's in a way that shows there is no contradiction.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 4:30:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

"The Rebe ztz"l said it in his colorful style - "It's better to be a fool and to believe in everything, though it might be untrue, rather than being a skeptic and to believe nothing not believing in what is true as well".

Which Rebbe said this?

As you say, they are both extremes; I agree that it's probably better to be a fool than a skeptic, but there is no mitzvah to be a fool(in a different context R. Y. Salanter said that the first mitzvah is *not* to be a fool)!

Also, our emunah is based on the fact that it is hard to convince an entire nation of national untruths. Some individuals may settle for being fools, but not an entire nation!

"Why would anyone want to automatically assume that scientists are correct and the Holy Tannaim and Amoraim are wrong? Besides there are modern day Rabbanim that explain these Gemara's in a way that shows there is no contradiction."

The modern day scientists shouldn't jump to assume this. On the other hand, people should realize that not all Rishonim necessarily held of the same approach as all modern day Rabbonim.

While you might say that modern day rabbonim have the right to rule not like those rishonim, those who do "follow" the latter as a possible approach , needn't either feel that they are beyond the pale.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 4:43:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

Baruch Horowitz: Rebe Nachman Breslover zy"o. Surely there is no mitzvo to be a full, and there is a mitzvo of daas Hashem. It was said to show the point, of how bad the pure rationalizm can be.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 4:57:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of this depends on what ones real objective is. If someone is just looking to say "those Rabbis don't know everything" that is definitely wrong. I also think many people have some sort of complex about Rabbis having so much knowledge.
I have heard it said in the name of Reb Nachman of Breslov that the answers to a lot of philosophical questions aren't as good as the questions many times and you are left with more questions.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 6:02:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

"I have heard it said in the name of Reb Nachman of Breslov that the answers to a lot of philosophical questions aren't as good as the questions many times and you are left with more questions."

I agree, and this is a criticim of chakirah.

The question is what degree of rationality is emunah? Do we prove things 100% in a conventional sense like a mathematical proof, and the struggle(bechirah) element is merely not to expose one's self to desires or sources which make belief difficult, or is there room for belief because one can not “prove” something 100% in an conventional manner ?

It would seem that the approach of emunah peshutah, because it avoids philosophical chakirah, ia at least, partially, experientially based, and not purely rational, but rather supra-rational(above reason).

On the other hand, one should distinquish between philsophy, versus understanding things in a straightforward, uncomplicated manner. One should also distinquish between different concepts in emunah , eg. metaphysical concepts versus the basic concept of existence of Hashem.

There are sources which state that some basic beliefs such as belief in G-d, are so rational, that the mitzvah of emunah does not primarily apply to such beliefs(R Shach in Avi Ezri, Mahadurah Kama, Hilchos Teshuva 5:5). Others may not go as far, as far as the mitzvah not applying, but do say that one can understand certain basic beliefs in an uncomplicated manner( Michtavim and Maamarim of R. Shaach Volume 4, pg. 154, Alei Shur, Volume II, Vaadim on Emuna).

However, our approach is not to debate heretics. Is this only because heretics are biased(eg. see Kovetz Mamorim and Michtav Meliyahu), or because we can not fully prove something 100% in a conventional sense(see also carefully the Beis Halevi in Parshos Bo who discusses the question of debating apikorsim ).

It is interesting to note the Rambam in Hilchos Avodah Zarah. He says that “lo kol hadeos yecholos l’hasig hemes al buryev”, and “veino yodea hamidos shyadun bahen ad shyeda haemes al buryav”.

This would imply that the Rambam is saying that there are people who can deal with certain issues in a rigorous manner, however a normal person can not expose himself to such situations and should therefore not engage in those thoughts.

What if a person already is exposed to such topics? The Rambam, might tell people to try harder in avoiding such thoughts or to enege in experiential methods of Yiddishkeit (today, people would be directed to Kiruv seminars as well). Or the Rambam, in his time, would direct people to the Moreh Nevuchim.

In any event, the Rambam in Hilchos AZ would seem to imply that rationality can theoretically fully bring one to clarity in fundamentals of emunah(as distinct from perceiving some metaphysical concepts, as in 5th perek of Hilchos Teshuvah, as well as in the first two perakim of Hilchos Yesodie Hatorah). If so, perhaps there should be those who dedicate themselves to clarifying fundamentals of emunah in an as intellectually rigorous manner as possible.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 9:57:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After 120 years it is better to be called a fool than a heretic.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 11:07:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

"After 120 years it is better to be called a fool than a heretic"

I don't disagree about being *called* a fool. However, it's only better "to be a fool *in the eyes* of humanity", but actual foolishness is not a Jewish virtue.

However, I also don't think that it is so hard to understand why some feel that it is a very uncomplimentary thing to theoretically be called a fool in the name of religion, and is not a real alternative, unless one has no other choice. As mentioned before, R' Nachman zt'l was emphasizing the extreme in a colorful manner.

I am certainly not going to tell perspective Balei Teshuvah, or thinking FFB teens or adults, “Guess what, let’s include a little foolishness in our religion”. To the contrary, I think that one should think very critically within the bounds of Yahadus. I don’t think foolishness should be used as a reason to have people believe in Judaism, nor should any new, bizarre, practice not be subject to continued reason.

We are not a nation of fools. Ki he chomaschem u'binaschem l'enei hamim etc. As the Kuzari says, “ Heaven forbid that there should be anything in the Torah to contradict that which is manifest or proved “. In addition to contradicting the above pasuk, a nation of fools is a direct refutation of the Kuzari principle.

 
At February 6, 2007 at 11:27:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

Baruch Horowitz: Rav Shach though had a cold relation to nistar and proposed refraining from it for the masses. In some circles it caused the opposite effect, from what you quoted from him about emuno. I mean that in some litvishe circles almost purely rational (and superficial to that) approach is preferred, and any pnimius is excluded. This exactly, causes problems with emuno, when even old and honorable established minhogim come under attack as being "unreasonable" (according to their logic).

 
At February 7, 2007 at 1:36:00 AM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

I think that even though there is a difference regarding emphasis on nistaros, for purposes of avoiding chakirah , there is little difference between chasidim and litvish as Rabbi Zwecker mentioned(the truth is that at least at a young age, I doubt modern orthodox emphasise philosophy either).

When I quoted Rav Shach regarding rationality, he is specifically *not* talking about philosophical proofs, but rather about straightforward concepts like like the mashal of a garment or a building not creating itself.

There might, however, be a difference between chassidim and misnagdim. Project Chazon gives presentations in chassidshe yeshivos as well(I believe that their approach is to teach fundamentals such as the Kuzari without explicitly raising issues in a form of a question). One of the presenters said that he finds the students are more receptive in those schools because they already emphasize concepts such as simcha, more than is done by Litvish.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 7:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gudt gezugt.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 11:45:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it simply be that different paths are better suited to different individuals ?

 
At February 7, 2007 at 12:05:00 PM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

It might be interesting to have a series in which Chassidim and "Litvaks" hear lectures from each other.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 12:28:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emunah comes from the root Amen. Truth. Emunah is belief. Belief based on knowledge. It is not a leap of faith.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 2:05:00 PM EST, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...

There is an old joke: When the Moshiach comes and brings peace to the world, the Litvaks will realize that the Chassidim also "know how to learn," and the Chassidim will realize that the Litvaks also believe in G-d!

Bekarov b'yameinu...

 
At February 7, 2007 at 2:44:00 PM EST, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

After 120 years it is better to be called a fool than a heretic.

That is exactly what your average Christian missionary will argue when he is trying to convince you to accept Jesus based on "emunah peshuta" and is discouraging you from "chakira".

And "A Yid", Rashba, Ritva, and Raavad were well versed in philosophy and supporters of rationalism. They were hardly mekubalim by your definition, although they may have studied kabbalistic sources as well.

By the way, I see nothing wrong with Kabbalah, and I don't believe there is a rationalist/kabbalist dichotomy, such that kabbalists are not rational. All of our Hachamim were great intellects, some of whom used kabbala to study the secrets of the Torah and some of whom drew from philosophy. But all of them would have been able to defend their belief systems based on reason and to refute erroneous ideas through logical analysis.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 2:54:00 PM EST, Anonymous Michoel said...

"But all of them would have been able to defend their belief systems based on reason and to refute erroneous ideas through logical analysis."

True. And while that may mean that we also should try, it definitley does not mean that we will be able to. And if the Rishonim encountered issues that they could not answer, they probably did not write seforim about them, with answers that they knew were just silly apologetics. They had sufficient rational basis for our mesora and they went with it.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 3:04:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

> all of them would have been able to
> defend their belief systems based
> on reason and to refute erroneous
> ideas through logical analysis.

Sure, I agree too. I wrote above, that tmimus and pshitus don't mean the superficiality of thought or stupidity. Rather what chasidim were always critical about is crooked intellect, and misuse of the chochmo, which leads to kfiro.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 3:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Rebbe (the Lubavitcher Rebbe) mentioned many times that which the Gemara says in Sanhedrin "All predestined dates (for the redemption) have passed and the matter now depends only on repentance." The Rebbe would cry very much when he said this."

Rebbe was right, but now it is late for everything, because the whole world stands in the front of the Gate, where is no more time to even talk about faith,redemtion, repentance,land,nation,religion, prophet, rabbi, temple and books, but about the G-d ONLY.
These means that there will not be any "cloth" in people, when they go alltogether as aFlock through the Gate of the Creator's Foil.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 3:40:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

"And if the Rishonim encountered issues that they could not answer, they probably did not write seforim about them, with answers that they knew were just silly apologetics."

I always feel that better no answer than a weak one.

But the apologetics works both ways. Without getting into any specifics, this would mean on the one hand, that one recognizes if one is "streching" a Torah source to fit it into a scientific concept.

On the other hand, intellectual honesty should apply to secular sources as well(l'havdil).

I am aware of one case where, according to those who have read it, a sweeping and perhaps incorrect statement was made regarding secular sources.

I think that it is better to remain with a question than to do the latter. If one is oversimplfying an issue or selectively quoting(a no-no, at least supposedly, in the academia), then at least that should be noted as well.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 4:02:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is true that the New Time (Bew Millenium)started.To say we are late to do anything yet maybe true, but to say we are guilty, that is not true.
Is guilty a blind man who can't see the Day coming?
Is guilty a man who sleep for not seeing the Sun coming?

NO.Because only the G-d is the one who wake up the man and give to whim the sight. No one else can.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 4:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"After 120 years it is better to be called a fool than a heretic.

That is exactly what your average Christian missionary will argue when he is trying to convince you to accept Jesus based on "emunah peshuta" and is discouraging you from "chakira". "

The Chofetz Chaim in Shmiras Haloshon quotes a Mishnayos Ediyos 5:6 that says "better to be called a fool one's whole life than to be called a wicked person even one moment before Hashem.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 4:16:00 PM EST, Blogger Robert said...

I strongly believe (and my Rabbi in Silver Spring reinforced this) that both Chakira and Emunah are valid ways to serve Hashem.

I happen to fall in the Emunah camp, however being a survivor of the Amway cult, I know the dangers of having faith in the wrong thing.

Nothing is perfect in this world of ours! When it comes to halacha, we of course, follow the Chachamim. However for other areas, we have to chart our own course -- and consult with our Rabbanim as well.

Hashem doesn not want a monochromatic Jewish people. He wants a variety of Jewish outlooks in all incredible flavours and colours -- as long as they keep the Halacha and are in sync with the Torah. Cheers!

 
At February 7, 2007 at 5:58:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At February 7, 2007 at 7:11:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch Horowitz said...

“The Chofetz Chaim in Shmiras Haloshon quotes a Mishnayos Ediyos 5:6 that says "better to be called a fool one's whole life than to be called a wicked person even one moment before Hashem”

Whether balance one places between experiential and rational elements, there is a rational base in Yiddishkeit. Judaism is not a fool’s paradise, and credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd), is not a Jewish concept, and is, l’havdil, rejected, by at least some teachings which I am aware of in the Catholic Church as well .

The Ramban at the end of his debate makes short shrift of a particular argument that his debater conceded was irrational, but must still be believed.

It is better to be *considered* a fool, but not to actually be one; a person needs to be able to be like Avroham Avinu, and be able to reject the zeitgeist.

Rav Shimon Schwab, before discussing the age of the universe issue, writes to the effect that *if necessary*, a person needs to engage an intellectual mesiras nefesh and be considered an iconoclast, rather than rejecting the Torah, and being wicked in the eyes of Hashem. However he also states that, fortunately, such situations may never actually occur.

Nevertheless,even in such an instance, there is some type of rational basis for a person’s previous commitment. Otherwise, why is he or she wicked in the first place--should a just God consider someone wicked for avoiding foolishness? I trust everyone agrees with this.

 
At February 8, 2007 at 1:29:00 PM EST, Anonymous elye said...

Chazal say, "Pesi yamin kol davar... zu Moshe rabbeinu" (A fool believes everything... this is Moshe our teacher).

You do the math.

 
At February 8, 2007 at 2:12:00 PM EST, Anonymous Baruch horowitz said...

"Chazal say, "Pesi yamin kol davar... zu Moshe rabbeinu..."

Whenever I see comments such as the above, I first ask for the source, as in "osios machkimyos" and "kol hamer davar b'sheim omro", and not Pesi yamin kol davar :)

As I said before, this argument in general is not a new one. I can respond by quoting statements from gedolie harishonim strongly advocating various degrees of rationality, and with the wave of a hand, someone will respond with other sources.

Roberts comments above 4.16 PM, and on Mystical Paths(linked to this post), are most refreshing:

"OK, I am not a philosopher by any means. Nor am I a ba'al bitachon. I definately go for the Emunah/Chassidishe camp, and nevertheless have a lot of respect for the Chakira/Maimonidean Jews.

I talked to my Rabbi about this, and he said that each soul has it's tendency to favour a certain derech. He says that both paths are valid. He also said that we have to follow the Chachamim in Halacha.

Just as each of the 13 sh'vattim were different with different ways of serving Hashem, Judaism is rich and replete with different ways of interpreting the Torah.

Both Chakira and Emunah have their plusses, and their risks. However this world is not 100% safe anyway.

Looks like this is yet another reason to find yourself a Rabbi who will understand your derech and guide you in the way Hashem wants you to go!

Cheers!"

 
At February 8, 2007 at 2:21:00 PM EST, Anonymous Michoel said...

Baruch,
Tolerance for different drachim is a wonderful zach. The question is, who is being intolerant. When people make wild public statements like "It is a scientific fact that the ... never happened" they stabbing at the jugular of klal yisrael.

 
At February 8, 2007 at 2:37:00 PM EST, Anonymous elye said...

Baruch, it's quotd in many seforim, but the origional source can probably found found if you check miforshim on Mishley 14:15 (
"ki pesi yamin lchol davar, v'arum yavin")
I would do it for ya, but I dont have a Mishley handy at work.

 
At February 8, 2007 at 2:40:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See here for Mishlei 14:15

 
At February 8, 2007 at 2:44:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

What is the difference between a "pesi" and a "tam"?

 
At February 8, 2007 at 3:11:00 PM EST, Anonymous elye said...

As far as I know:

Pesi = Gullible or foolish (easy to fool)

Tam = Simple

 
At February 9, 2007 at 12:11:00 AM EST, Anonymous ani said...

"Anonymous, if that is what you mean by emunah, I am with you."

Even the CC in the story referenced above with his son appears to be following the kuzari proof and objecting to more complicated hakira - it would seem from the story hakira into the existence of God and similar.

 
At February 9, 2007 at 4:53:00 AM EST, Blogger Moshe David Tokayer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At February 9, 2007 at 5:04:00 AM EST, Blogger Moshe David Tokayer said...

"Chazal say, "Pesi yamin kol davar... zu Moshe rabbeinu..."

"Whenever I see comments such as the above, I first ask for the source, as in "osios machkimyos" and "kol hamer davar b'sheim omro", and not Pesi yamin kol davar :)"

One of my pet peeves is when people take quotes out of context. Here's the story with this quote:


The wording "Pesi Yaamin lechol davar zu moshe" can be found in the sefer Kometz Mincha chelek 1 os 33. It's based on a Midrash in Shmos Rabba 3:1. The Midrash doesn't actually have this wording although the Midrash is clearly stating that the pasuk refers to Moshe Rabeinu. The point of the Midrash is not that it's a good thing to believe everything you hear. The Midrash brings this pasuk to explain Moshe Rabeinu's first prophesy he experienced at the sneh. The Midrash translates the word pesi as a young person rather than a fool. The Midrash goes on to darshan the pasuk as referring to Moshe Rabeinu in other ways as well.

The Kometz Mincha understands the Midrash as teaching us that even bad midos such as a fool's characteristic of gullibility is good at times. He brings this Midrash to buttress his argument for simple faith (something btw, that is not at all apparent from the Midrash itself.)

 
At February 9, 2007 at 9:48:00 AM EST, Anonymous elye said...

I dont know it is out of context here - that is the exactly what i meant by the comment (unless I misunderstand you).
The quote is brought in MANY seforim regarding emunah ubitachon, and the context is always such, and I never said anything that conflicts with the statement you made. Did I?

 
At February 10, 2007 at 3:47:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the G-d is everything
like Sun which lights everywhere
and we all know and aprove that
than why dont we aprove the fact
that all "sun's rays" are from the same source, all nations, all religions, all people, all creatures. Why do select them and judge so the Universal G-d's creations?

Plato was looking and talking about the Sun.
Aristotle was looking and talking about the rays.
Aren they together as one?

 
At February 11, 2007 at 4:56:00 AM EST, Blogger Moshe David Tokayer said...

Elye,

Let me clarify myself. Reb Tzadok explains that a pesi is someone who believes everything. This is why idol worship is called the height of gullibility (i.e. pesius); for idol worshippers it does not have to make any sense. Our holy Torah, on the other hand, has meaning and makes sense to those who understand.

In other words, emunah peshutah, according to Reb Tzadok, does *not* mean that we must suspend our intellectual faculties to believe things that are absurd.

So how does Reb Tzadok apply emunah peshutah? He brings the Midrash which says that Moshe Rabeinu at the sneh was a pesi. Reb Tzadok explains that if Aristotle had seen the burning bush experience, he would have brought 1,000 reasons to prove that it wasn't God. Moshe Rabeinu, on the other hand, used the characteristic of gullibility to accept that he was witnessing a revelation and having a prophesy.

The point is that even Reb Tzadok who is pro emunah peshutah explains that it is used to bring one closer to God, not to believe the absurd which is a quality of idol worshippers. It is used as an argument to the idol worshippers, "If you believe anything, why not believe the Torah!"

Sorry for not being clearer before.

 
At February 22, 2007 at 12:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>it has not been updated for issues raised by the haskalah.

Sure it was. Moreh Nevukhei Ha-zman by R. Nachman Krochmal was an attempt to do just that.

 
At February 22, 2007 at 3:25:00 PM EST, Anonymous rejewvenator said...

We can argue all day and night, as many Jews great and small have done before, about the value of emuna peshuta versus chakira. At the end of the day though, for many of it is too late to have emunah peshutah. Having already dipped our cups into the waters of philosophy, science, and all the fruits of the modern academy, we need a contemporary guide for our most perplexing question.

I think it's ironic that those of us who engage in chakira are challenged for being more interested in questions than in answers, while those who do not engage in chakira don't find religious value in either questions OR answers!

 
At March 4, 2007 at 4:58:00 AM EST, Blogger joe said...

http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/2770

scroll down to rabbi akiva tatz's video.

 

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