The superficially convincing argument for doubt and skepticism advanced in some other places is reducible to a syllogism: A) believe only what one can be rationally prove, B) one cannot rationally prove G-d, C) [rachmana litzlan]. My agenda is not to bash anyone who finds their derech to avodas Hashem in a way that differs from mine, including rationalism. But for those who absorb the dialy dish of doubt served elsewhere and reflect on the questions of faith raised by what is portrayed as the only 'intelligent' approach to Judaism, I think it is fair to offer some analysis of the assumptions and shortcomings of that rationalist school. If rationalism cannot lead one to G-d, that should not be accepted as a critique of belief, but as a critique of rationalism.
To recap yesterday's points: (1) rationalism chains religious observance to external causes and reduces it to instrumentalism; (2) rationalism by definition can derive from religion no inspiration or insight not already inherent in man’s own limited intellect.
R’ Soloveitchik goes a step further and denies rationalism even as a basis for elucidating mishpatim: “Stealing and corruption are the accepted mores in many spheres of life; adultery and general promiscuity find support in respectable circles; and even murder, medical and germ experiments have been conducted with governmental complicity. The logos has shown itself in our time to be incapable of supporting the most basic of moral inhibitions.” (Reflection of the Rav, p.105)
Contrast the daily deliberations of the skeptics over whether it is ‘rational’ to believe in G-d with R’ Soloveitchik’s poetic citation of Kierkegaard: "Does the loving bride in the embrace of her beloved ask for proof that he is alive and real? Must the prayerful soul clinging in passionate love and ecstasy to her Beloved demonstrate that He exists?"
The rationalist insists on knowing the “Why” and “How” – for proof, for understanding before committment. The Kierkegaardian answers - Is the love of the bride and her beloved reducible to a finite set of logical reason that we can map with an equation? The Rambam in fact formulates the mitzvah of love of G-d as comparable to the love of man for his beloved wife (Tshuvah 10:3). R' Soloveitchik observes, “To be a loyal Jew is heroic, and heroes commit themselves without intellectual reservations. Only one who lacks the courage of commitment will belabor the “Why”. (ibid, p. 103)
R’ Soloveitchik elsewhere (cited in Reflections of the Rav vol 2) writes that the white of the tzitzit represents that which man can clarify using reason and understanding, while the blue techeilet reminds of the kisai hakavod, the mystery of reality which stands outside our grasp. R’ Nachman similarly explains (L.M. 64) that the concept of ‘chalal panuy’ of tzimtzum teaches us that doubt is part of the existential reality – the proportion of what we know to what remains shrouded in mystery is elastic, but we can never completely remove that boundary that stands between our own limited knowledge and a full understanding of G-d and the universe.
Judaism is an existential reality, not a mathematical formula reducible to a logical set of equations. To search for truth using rational tools alone or to make rational discovery a precondition to belief is to limit the religious experience to constraints which by definition it does not conform to.
“Bichlal asur lanu limdod devarim halalu b’havanah enoshit she’rak man she’haish mavin emet hu v’lo zulat, kmo hashotim v’apikorsim r”l” – it is prohibited to measure [the truthfulness of] these things with human understanding, assuming only what man comprehends and nothing else is true, like the fools and heretics say. (R' Kalonymus Kalman, "the Piececzna", M'vo HaShearim).
Or as Hamlet put it - “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”