Some "out there" have concocted the following philosophy of Judasim: mitzvos and Torah are meaningful in so far as they lead us to a greater good - a means to an end. Mystical tikkunim are irrelevant; social and ethical norma are all that we should be interested in, and unless you understand it, don't believe it. Of course, not every mitvah will fit neatly into a rationalist box, but they argue that halacha wholistically creates a society that is more moral and ethical than would be possible without it. Is such a world view meaningful? Has it been espoused by talmidei chachamim who came after the Rambam (or even by the Rambam himself)? Should it be our approach to avodas Hashem?
R' Soloveitchik, "Halakhic Mind", pp. 92-93:
"The reluctance on the part of the Jewish homo religiousus to accept Maimonidian rationalistic ideas is not ascribable to any agnostic tendencies, but to the incontrovertible fact that such explanations neither edify nor inspire the religious consciousness. They are essentially, if not entirely, valueless for the religious interests we have most at heart…
In rationalizing the commandments genetically, Maimonides developed a religious instrumentalism. For example, should we posit the question: why did G-d forbid perjury? The intellectualistic philosopher would promptly reply, "because it is contrary to the norm of truth." Thus he would explain a religious norm by an ethical precept, making religion the handmaid of ethics. ...If the Sabbath is to be seen only against the background of mundane social justice and similar ideals, the intrinsic quality of the Sabbath is transformed into something alien. It serves merely as a means to the realization of a “higher” end. Maimonides’ efforts foreshadowed failure from the very outset of his “how” approach. "
Noam Elimelech, P' Pinchas:
"A person who serves G-d based on his own intuitiuon and understanding is constrained and cannot escape the limits of his own mind, his own nature, and his own understanding..."
Worship based only on what one rationally accepts is nothing more than self-worship. Because the human "I" recognizes a value as important, it ascribes that value to G-d and makes it a point of religious conviction. Defined as such, religion can never transcend human limitations, it can never cause man to aspire to levels of greatness beyond what he can see, and it is always the handmaiden to a subjective morality that fluctuates with the human perception of what is good and just. Far more meaningful is a religion which offers man a transcendent objective truth and challenges man to escape his own limitations of mind in discovering it. As discussed yesterday, intuition or ruach hakodesh can inspire a worldview not reducable to a positivistic list of equations or reasons, but is an nonetheless reveals a true vision of reality. Tzadikim and talmidei chachamim are those whose lives are infused with such perspective, but the Piecezna writes (Mavo She'arim ch 2) that each and every Jew can rise to such heights - such is the goal of avodah.
Two contrasting world views: the skeptical-rationslist, and the view of the "olam haTorah". Much more to be said on this topic, but enough for now...
(I am sorry for taking so much time away from lomdus to spend on these themes, but there are many voices offering "competing" perspectives and far fewer voices explaining basic hashkafa. If even one person gains some perspective and mareh mekomos , it's worth it.)