Thursday, July 13, 2006

the limits of rational inquiry as a basis for faith

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.”

108 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:23 PM

    How do we distinguish between this and 'Jesus loves me?'

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  2. I have no idea what you mean. If you mean that other religions find their roots in man's existential search for meaning, so what? Do I have to prove that their competing claim wrong in order to validate my own religious experience?

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  3. Anonymous12:45 PM

    I mean that this

    "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?"

    Can quite easily and equally legitimate anything that one feels is real. If I'm led to Jesus and quite actually think I'm clinging passionately to him, go explain to me that I'm not.

    Isn't this somewhat problematic in this view? To me it seems like "It feels right so I know it is."

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  4. All of this has been posted before, by me on my blog too! However it has also all been debunked.

    > 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.

    Islam too. And Chrsitianity. They are all existential realities!

    > Or as Hamlet put it - “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Sure, like Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism, Christinaity and 12,000 other religions, all equally claiming to be existential reality.

    > 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?

    However the bride actually exists and can be seen. If you told me you loved an invisible women I would have you sent to the hospital.

    Sorry to be skeptical, I really am. But I tried all these argumenys last year, multiple times. They don't work. People make rational decisions based on evidence. Everyone does. You can't not do that, or else you couldn't get out of bed in the morning. Thats the way we work. Is there something 'else' out there? Something noble? Something we can call God? very possibly. I like to think so. I like to hope so. But that's about as far as you can go. Anything after that is pure conjecture. I wish I was wrong.

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  5. Tal Benschar1:22 PM

    The "Daily dish of Doubt"

    Now that is wonderful. Gave me a real chuckle.

    I think the answer is that you need a balance of both. Clearly Hashem gave man a brain and that includes rational faculties to understand, as best we can, Hashem and his Will.

    But part of true wisdom is understanding the limits of human intellect and rationality. R. Aharon Soloveichik has a printed piece (which I heard as a shiur) on the 4 parshiyos prior to Pesach. Be kitzur nimratz, the parshiyos all deal with various aspects of life that a person has to understand before he is ready for cheirus. One of them is chochmah -- wisdom and intellect -- and the relevant parsha is Parah. The Parah adumah is the paradigmatic chok -- something we can never understand but accept because Hashem commanded it. This teaches us the limits of human intellect -- that not everything in life can be understood or understood fully, and we do not reject something because we cannot understand it.

    No matter how great the intellect, there is always something beyond the intellect's grasp. It is the failure to understand this that leads most rationalists astray, IMO

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  6. > the logos has shown itself in our time to be incapable of supporting the most basic of moral inhibitions.”

    And so has religion, for example suicide bombing in the name of Allah. You can't get away from the fact that religious fundamentalism in the name of God has caused many horrors, and we as Jews have been on the receiving end of much of that. So once you start saying we need to move beyond rationalism and go with our hearts, you open up the door to any crazy religion to say anything they want, including death to all Jews. You say, well our religion is the correct one. Oh yeah? Why? You have to be able to have a reasonable answer. I suspect that your answer is either Kuzari style proofs, which have been extensively debunked, or else 'just live it you'll see', which works equally well for every religion. We've been though all this, you can't win.

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  7. > No matter how great the intellect, there is always something beyond the intellect's grasp. It is the failure to understand this that leads most rationalists astray, IMO

    Of course. So faced with something we don't or can't understand, do we:

    a) Make stuff up or believe any old thing
    b) Say "I don't know / can't understand"

    I think you'll find that option (b) is healthier and saner. All this philosophical stuff from RYBS and others is just useless in this regard. Rationality has its limits? Of course! Does that mean we should believe in Mormonism? Of course not! You need to use reason. Possibly you can say that for the fundamenta question of life, the universe and everything, we can imagine, or at least hope for, the possibility of a good God. But thats a heck of a long way from any religion. If you can offer no better proofs for Judaism than you can for Islam, why should I believe it? That's the problem you need to address.

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  8. Bill Selliger1:34 PM

    Godol:

    It's nice to see you debating civily.

    Also, you write: You say, well our religion is the correct one. Oh yeah? Why? You have to be able to have a reasonable answer.

    Why must you be able to answer that? How about, "this is what I believe"? Ultimately, there will have to be a leap of faith - such as the very existence of God. So, why not just bite the bullet earlier in the argument?

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  9. > Ultimately, there will have to be a leap of faith - such as the very existence of God. So, why not just bite the bullet earlier in the argument?

    True, and I used to say that too. However 'leaps of faith' are dangerous things, leading to suicide bombs and similar. What's wrong with the Moslem saying 'I make a leap of faith and all Jews are infidels and must be killed' ? They're wrong and we're right? Of course! But how can the world run this way? It's insane. If you personally want to believe in God, Allah or fairies that's your business. But the moment you affect anyone else at all in any negative way you are stepping on dangerous ground. Of course rationalists have a problem too, since they could come up with a rational moral system which is bad. But which would you rather have? A world where everyone makes decisions based on sound reasoning (to the extent possible), or a world where everyone makes 'leaps of faith' to believe in whatever they want, or whatever they were taught as a child?

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  10. Anonymous1:40 PM

    It looks like know one wants to address my pointed question about Jesus.

    The problem with this is that it does not unequivocably lead to Judaism. It leads wherever one finds oneself, whether Baal, Allah, Jesus or Torah. How can this be the basis of anything? Can God fault one for not feeling the passion in the right way? How can you know what the right way is if all it means is that you feel like you're embracing God sure enough as if you were embracing your spouse?

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  11. > It looks like know one wants to address my pointed question about Jesus.

    It's patently obvious to anyone, even the biggest Chareidim, that when you are born to a strong religious environment, you tend to stay that way. That's why Chareidim invest a lot of energy into that. Same deal for Christians and Islam. It's just human nature. Its also obvious that if you took a frum child at birth, and placed him in a Christian household, he would probably be Christian. And vice versa. E.g. look at adopted babies and that Cardinal Lustiger guy. Yes, occasionally people people convert but the vast majority of people either stick with the belief system they got at birth, or drop it alltogether. It's no wonder that religious people of all persuasions say things like 'I just know it's true! I feel Jesus/Hashem/Allah in my heart'. Unfortunately it's obvious where this 'experience' comes from. Either you can rationally justify why your faith is true, or at least good, or you can't. Hopefully we can.

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  12. Bill Selliger1:48 PM

    Godol, you write:

    If you personally want to believe in God, Allah or fairies that's your business. But the moment you affect anyone else at all in any negative way you are stepping on dangerous ground.

    I don't understand why that affects the way I approach my religion. Who are you being religious for? Yourself - or the rest of the world? We believe that our religion is the correct one. We believe that the true God commanded us to treat our parents with respect, separate t'ruma, as well as kill Amaleik. What does rationalism or a-rationalism have to do with the way I approach and perform those commandments? Either way, I am obligated to perform them, right? And either way, I won't look like a compassionate, thinking person (to the rest of the world) when I do perform one of them?

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  13. > Either way, I am obligated to perform them, right?

    Not if there isn't any basis for your belief. You can't just make up a belief, then act on it! What if the Moslems say 'We believe that Jews are satan's spawn and must all be killed'. Then they should just go do it?! That's crazy. You don't think people need to be able to justify their actions with some kind of reasoning? Your policy leads to chaso, anarchy and mass destruction. Of course non religions can go there too, e.g. Nazis and Communism. But they were also not following their reason, rather they were following fundamentalist ideologies with 'gedolim' at the top who could not be ignored or debated. That kind of structure is inherently dangerous no matter where it exists, in Chareidim or in Nazis (I am NOT making a comparison between Chareidim and Nazis there, please don't misunderstand).

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  14. Anonymous2:02 PM

    I don't get how any of this leads one to Judaism, rather than affirms that the lifestyle we are already living is worth continuing. It's a nice idea, but anyone can reach that conclusion.

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  15. Bill Selliger2:04 PM

    Not if there isn't any basis for your belief. You can't just make up a belief, then act on it!

    Okay, I missed a link. I believe in God, I believe that God gave us the Torah (on Sinai, etc. etc. etc.). The Torah says to perform these actions. So, to me, it's not an arbitrary "made-up" belief; it's based on what I believe is the word of God.

    Again, your arguments are valid, inasmuch as a system of thought and reason can cater to them. Ultimately, though, there has to be a leap of faith. Are you wearing a kippa now? Can I eat in your home? (I think I can.) Why? Because even you have made that leap. I've just made the leap a little earlier.

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  16. > Okay, I missed a link. I believe in God, I believe that God gave us the Torah (on Sinai, etc. etc. etc.).

    I think you are misunderstanding me! All of that needs to be justified. All of it. I agree that if you are going to leap, then you might as well leap earlier. You also might as well believe in fairies. I think you have missed the last few months on my blog.

    > Are you wearing a kippa now? Can I eat in your home?

    No (at work) and yes.

    > Why? Because even you have made that leap.

    No, because I grew up frum and still am. But if you were to ask me can I give an adequate reason for my beliefs I would have to say no, I can't. And neither can you. And furthermore I would not go on abut leaps of faith, except in very mild circumstances.

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  17. Bill Selliger2:24 PM

    But if you were to ask me can I give an adequate reason for my beliefs I would have to say no, I can't.

    So even though you can't justify it, you still do it. To me, that's a leap of faith. You do it because you BELIEVE that even though you can't understand it, it is true. It happens to be that you were taught by your parents to believe, but that doesn't change the fact that you believe. (I am assuming that you keep Shabbos, etc. not just out of respect for your parents - but because you feel that it is the right thing to do. That is belief, my friend.)

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  18. I think in answer to GH, the Rav did not fully accept the idea of the Kierkegaardian leap of faith. See the essay on tzitzis. The point is to recognize the limitations of rational inquiry, not to deny reason a place in one's worldview. Saying 'I believe whatever I feel' is denying reason any role. Saying 'I have carried reason to the limits of inquiry and now I surrender my intellect to a committment of faith' is quite a different attitude. Your approach seems to be that if a leap is inevitable, then why bother with reason, but you answer your own question in saying that without reason one wildy leaps into insanity. This is the approach I would take to the issue of other religions. Before one commits to the leap of faith, does what our rational minds tell us lead us to believe that leap is warranted or not? I have no way of knowing if my wife is preparing dinner tonight right now, but the leasp of faith I make in assuming she is is quite different than if I suddenly decided to believe in green men from Mars. You don't seem to distinguish one from the other.

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  19. Tal Benschar2:34 PM

    GH:

    You remind me of a story (perhaps apocryphal) about a woman who came up to Bertrand Russel, the famous British philoshopher, and said as follows:

    Professor Russell, I have been reading some of your books about philosophy and I want to tell you, I am completely convinced that solipsism* is correct. The only problem is that I cannot for the life of me figure out why I cannot convince my friends of its truth.


    ___________

    * For those ignorant of the concept, solipsism is defined as "a metaphysical belief that nothing beyond oneself and one's internal experiences does in fact exist, and that all objects, people, etc, that one experiences are merely parts of one's own mind."

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  20. >>> I agree that if you are going to leap, then you might as well leap earlier. You also might as well believe in fairies.

    So by analogy, if a doctor approaches a situation he has never seen, if he uses his past experience and knowledge to make an intelligent guess as to what the patient's illness is, since that is really a leap fo faith, he might as well believe his patient is afflicted with demons? You see no qualititive difference there?

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  21. >>>What's wrong with the Moslem saying 'I make a leap of faith and all Jews are infidels and must be killed' ? They're wrong and we're right? Of course! But how can the world run this way? It's insane

    I think you answered your own question. A leap of faith at the edge of the abyss of rational inquiry is called religion. An abandonment of rationality is called insane.

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  22. Anonymous2:39 PM

    But how does this approach get a Jew who isn't already there where they need to go?

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  23. > So by analogy, if a doctor approaches a situation he has never seen, if he uses his past experience and knowledge to make an intelligent guess as to what the patient's illness is, since that is really a leap fo faith, he might as well believe his patient is afflicted with demons? You see no qualititive difference there?

    Of course there's a difference. But this example hurts your point, and proves mine. The doctor asseses all *known* evidence, in a reasonable fashion, and then makes an intelligent (educated) guess as to the most likely scenario. When you do the same for religion, i.e. look at all the evidence for and against, and then come to a rational, objective conclusion as to what is most likely true, then let me know. Would you visit a doctor who told you 'I can diagnose you, but my personal leap of faith means I won't believe you have cancer, no mater what the evidence' ? I don't think so.

    Until you agree to evaluate all evidence objectively (like the doctor), your arguement is simply 'I believe in Judaism, therefore it is'.

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  24. > So even though you can't justify it, you still do it. To me, that's a leap of faith.

    No, it's habit coupled with brainwashing. Just like every other FFB, only I have had the misfortune to actually realize it.

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  25. GH, you are playing semantics. 2+2=4 is objective detached truth. You doctor's assessment when he is unsure of the exact dignosis and hazards a guess is not. Evidence has led to doctor to the point that his intuition allows his to make that leap. Evidence can tell point us to clues about G-d's existance, but ultimately demands the same leap.

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  26. >>>But how does this approach get a Jew who isn't already there where they need to go?

    What do you mean? It's not either/or, faith or denial. Faith is a process of discovery. A person needs to seach his/her own experience, thought, reasoning to try to work on the issue.

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  27. > Evidence can tell point us to clues about G-d's existance, but ultimately demands the same leap.

    Fine. Like I said before, you could possibly 'intuit' God's existence. There's at least as much evidence for as there is against (or maybe none either way). But that's about it. All other arguments for religion fail miserably.

    Often you need to make an educated guess e.g. Diagnosis, Investment decision etc, based on a rational analysis of all available evidence. Making a decision based on the best available evidence is hardly a 'leap of faith', it's simply making the best decision you can given the information you have.

    So again, if you were to gather all evidence for and against all religions, and then weigh it all up objectively, with no prior assumptions or 'must hold' positions, then what would you find? Are you honestly claiming that the evidence would clearly point to Orthodox Judaism being the one true religion, above all else?

    Do you really want to get into a discussion of why this would not be the case? I don't think so. See my many posts on this subject.

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  28. >>>People make rational decisions based on evidence. Everyone does. You can't not do that, or else you couldn't get out of bed in the morning. Thats the way we work. Is there something 'else' out there? Something noble? Something we can call God? very possibly. I like to think so

    GH, I don't understand you. If the opposite of reason is insanity, then is your desire to believe in something great and noble a sign of insanity, or is it something that your mind/neshoma tells you has truth even if you cannot prove it using rational inquiry.

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  29. >>>Often you need to make an educated guess e.g. Diagnosis, Investment decision etc, based on a rational analysis of all available evidence. Making a decision based on the best available evidence is hardly a 'leap of faith', it's simply making the best decision you can given the information you have.

    Again, it's a semantic point. But at least you are conceding the possibility of arriving at faith through some means that cannot be proven the same way as 2+2=4. I never set out to defend Judaism vs anything else, but to defend faith as reasonable outside the boundaries of pure logic and rationalism.

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  30. > GH, I don't understand you. If the opposite of reason is insanity, then is your desire to believe in something great and noble a sign of insanity, or is it something that your mind/neshoma tells you has truth even if you cannot prove it using rational inquiry.

    Your desire to believe in something not supported by evidence is nuts. Let's say I would like to believe that a fantastic noble fairy lives in my garden. This fairy is the ultimate good, and if I just pray to her every night she will solve all world hunger. Isn't that amazing! So noble, so great. But of course it's insane. I know that's an extreme example, but there's no getting away from it. To have a belief unsupported by evidence, or even worse, contrary to all known evidence is nuts. Is it wrong / evil ? Depends on what you do with that belief.

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  31. > Again, it's a semantic point. But at least you are conceding the possibility of arriving at faith through some means that cannot be proven the same way as 2+2=4. I never set out to defend Judaism vs anything else, but to defend faith as reasonable outside the boundaries of pure logic and rationalism.

    No, you are completely misusing this argument. Of course not everything can be proven 100%. In fact it's probably impossible to ever prove anything 100%, you could always think of a reason why something is not proven. So it's not about proving anything. Nobody is asking for 100% proof of God, or Sinai.

    It's about asessing all known evidence for and against, and then coming to a sensible conclusion, without relying on any pre-conceived notions or a-priori must hold positions. The challenge is this: Given everything we know about religions in general, Judaism in particular, the text of the Torah and contradictions to Science and ancient near east history, which is the more reasonable conclusion:

    1. Judaism is the one true religion, and the Torah is the word of God
    2. Judaism is a religion like all the other 99.999% of religions in the world.

    Only someone heavily invested in the ikkarim would answer number 1. Every time you see someone in kiruv with a 'proof', they get spectacularly debunked. If there is a good proof, I would LOVE to see it. I'm serious. But there isn't.

    And this incidentally is why I was so invested in the rational aspect. I was hoping to show that even if there is no good reason to believe in the history and ikkarim of Judaism, at least there is a good reason to practice it. That's why I get so mad when people claim it's all mystical, because then you are off in fanstasy land with no basis for anything at all, except your own imagination and feelings.

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  32. Can we sum up? I don't see how what you say is different than what I say. You agree that religion cannot be proven the same way 2+2=4. And I agree that abandonment of rationality is called insanity, not belief. In the middle is the area where our rational minds provide some clues, but no hard evidence to lead us to an absolute objective conclusion. It seems we both agree that that existential void of doubt can be crossed. I label that leap across the void faith. You label it an extension of reason. Lets forget semantics - have I summed it up?

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  33. >>>because then you are off in fanstasy land with no basis for anything at all, except your own imagination and feelings.

    So when you come to a scientist, a mathematician, etc. with a new problem, and they say 'I do not know the solution yet, but my feeling is X', you dismiss that as pure fantasy?

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  34. >>>The challenge is this: Given everything we know about religions in general, Judaism in particular, the text of the Torah and contradictions to Science and ancient near east history, which is the more reasonable conclusion:
    1. Judaism is the one true religion, and the Torah is the word of God
    2. Judaism is a religion like all the other 99.999% of religions in the world.

    All your 'givens' are in the nature of empirical fact. Reasonable people can make reasonable decisions based on intuition and feeling as well without being labelled insane. Don't know why you boil everything down to this either/or choice.

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  35. Anonymous3:29 PM

    Chaim, sorry to interject, but the problem with this is that the argument boils down to positing that there are things which are arational. This is true. Sometimes we pick the car by its color. Not every choice we make involves an empirical search. Similarly, Judaism needn't be rational. It also needn't be irrational. It's arational. I love my wife because I do, just a surely as I love being enveloped by the shehina and elevated by the performance of mitzvot, which is hopefully how I actually feel.

    But--so what? This applies without even a slight modification to anything, not just Judaism. This reads like a way to convince yourself that you made a choice which you should be able to continue to respect. Fine, great. But how does this get me one inch closer to truth when it could take me into the arms of Jesus just as easily, which is both illegal and a tragedy from the perspective of the Torah?

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  36. > In the middle is the area where our rational minds provide some clues, but no hard evidence to lead us to an absolute objective conclusion. It seems we both agree that that existential void of doubt can be crossed. I label that leap across the void faith. You label it an extension of reason. Lets forget semantics - have I summed it up?

    No! Not at all. Our positions are very different. Except for internal systems such as mathematics, where 'proof' has anentirely different meaning, nothing can ever be proved 100%. That doesn't mean we have 'faith' in gravity, it simply means that given all the evidence, we came to the most reasonable conclusion. Everythign always falls down, and always has, so the reasonable conclusion is that gravity exists. It's not faith, it's not proof, it's just the most reasonable conclusion.

    Now, you can go and get all philosophical and post-modernist and play with definitions and argue nobody knows anything etc etc etc, but I'm not interested in playing those games. I'm just approaching this from a common sense perspective.

    So, again, you need to look at all the evidence, and then draw a reasonable conclusion. Sometimes, if the evidence is insufficient, or inconclusive, you may be forced to take a guess, or you may simply say 'I don't know'. Depends on the circumstance. With respect to God, there is no good evidence either way, so you can say 'I don't know' (i.e. agnostic), or you can say ' I hope there is a God' (emunah). That's okay I think (though some may argue).

    However with respect to Judaism, there is an awful lot of good 'evidence' out there on this topic. You don't need to look very far. It's quite feasible to take a look at all the evidence, then come to a reasonable conclusion, based on the evidence. Doesn't mean it's faith. Just a reasonable conclusion. I would submit that you have not done this, nor are you likely to.

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  37. > All your 'givens' are in the nature of empirical fact. Reasonable people can make reasonable decisions based on intuition and feeling as well without being labelled insane. Don't know why you boil everything down to this either/or choice.

    Now you are talking about 'decisions', which is different from 'beliefs'. Certainly it's reasonable for you to say 'I love Yiddishkeit and Torah', therefore I'm going to practice Halachah and learn a lot. That's fine. But to say 'I love Torah therefore Torah must be the word of God' is nuts. It doesn't follow. To claim that Torah is the word of God, you must have a good reason. And please don't say hyour experience is a good reason. I already addressed that issue above. And please don't talk about a 'million man mesorah cant be wrong'. There are 2 billion Christians in the world who believe just as pasionately that Jesus is the messiah.

    You need to have a good reason, and that reason can't be blind to the available evidence. If you say, 'Torah must be true because R Akiva Eiger is so brilliant', that doesn't work. Because even though he may be brilliant, when you weigh that against all the other issues (e.g. Science), the answer comes out different. Also, you can't say, well the Torah is true and therefore Science is wrong. That's cheating. You have to look at each Scenario (i.e. Judaism is true, Jusaism is false), and see which scenraio is more likely, given all the evidence for and against.

    Your personal feelings don't count as evidence.

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  38. >>>But how does this get me one inch closer to truth when it could take me into the arms of Jesus just as easily, which is both illegal and a tragedy from the perspective of the Torah?

    Ain hachi nami. You can have tragic beliefs and correct beliefs. This alone won't get you to the correct ones.

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  39. Anonymous3:39 PM

    So what's the point of this exercise?

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  40. To point out that faith itself (whatever the religion) is not subject to be accepted to denied based on rational evidenc alone.

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  41. > To point out that faith itself (whatever the religion) is not subject to be accepted or denied based on rational evidence alone.

    Firstly, the definition of 'faith' is that it's beyond reason. So saying 'faith' doesn't need 'reason' is probably just playing word games.

    Secondly, to address what I think is your real point, of course you need to use reason to decide what to believe in. The alternative is to believe in anything you want, including the fairy at the bottom of your garden.

    I think the argument you were trying to make was that since nothing can be proven 100%, and since we often have to make educated guesses, then it's okay to use 'intuition' to make a leap of faith. But this argument rarely works. It might work for God, but certainly not for a particular religion, where there is plenty of evidence to look at and come to a reasonable conclusion. If you chose to ignore the evidence, or chose to weigh some tiny piece of evidence as somehow more important than very strong opposing evidence, then that's not rational. It's just nuts. No different than getting up in the morning and saying ' Hey, maybe I can fly! You never know, it could be!' and then jumping out the window.

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  42. >>>If you chose to ignore the evidence, or chose to weigh some tiny piece of evidence as somehow more important than very strong opposing evidence, then that's not rational. It's just nuts. No different than getting up in the morning and saying ' Hey, maybe I can fly!

    I guess that is where we will have to agree to differ. I think most people have at one time or another weighed intution and experience against cold logic and went with the former. In your book, that's called temporary insanity. In my book, it's called a leap of faith.

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  43. > I guess that is where we will have to agree to differ. I think most people have at one time or another weighed intution and experience against cold logic and went with the former. In your book, that's called temporary insanity. In my book, it's called a leap of faith.

    Of course I've done that too. We all have. And sometimes things turned out good, and the thing we had faith in turned out to be true, and sometimes not. Have you ever leaped out the window though? I don't think so. You would agree that is nuts. So clearly it's all a matter of degree. Just how big is the leap? Is it leaping down the platform, hoping you can catch the subway train, or is it leaping out the window hoping you can fly? My research tells me that religions are more akin to the latter rather than the former.

    Again, until and unless you weigh ALL available evidence, and then make an educated decision, you are doing nothing other than confirming your preconceived beliefs and notions. Hence your leap to faith here is essentially a meaningless act anyway, since you have no idea of all the pros and cons, and no real idea of what you are leaping away from. Is it certifiablly insane? No, of course not. But when you are 'leaping', you don't really have a leg to stand on. And when you don't have a leg to stand on, the last thing you want to be doing is kicking anyone (lots of metaphors there but you get the point).

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  44. >>>It might work for God, but certainly not for a particular religion, where there is plenty of evidence to look at

    If someone came to me and asked me how I personally know G-d exists, it would not be based on scientific or historical evidence. It is because I experienced the presence of G-d today when I opened my gemara. (I do not have an answer for anonymous as to an easy way to get that experience if you are not there.) This was Kierkegaard's answer, which you reject. It's like you doing one of those public records searches and finding nothing listed for me and then e-mailing me that I don't exist. I would certainly beg to differ, evidence aside!

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  45. >>>So clearly it's all a matter of degree. Just how big is the leap? Is it leaping down the platform, hoping you can catch the subway train, or is it leaping out the window hoping you can fly?

    Agree 100%, it's a matter of degree, and on this we differ.

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  46. Anonymous4:13 PM

    Bear in mind that when Avraham chose to find God, he didn't choose to find Judaism. He found God. How could he have found Judaism though? Or even if he lived post-revelation? There are other claimed revelations.

    Of course maybe this is why it was claimed that Avraham found even eruv tavshilin. But do you think RYBS took that literally? So that means he found God.

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  47. Anonymous4:14 PM

    BTW great thread and stimulating conversation, I just want to know what this does aside for legitimate things to oneself.

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  48. > Agree 100%, it's a matter of degree, and on this we differ.

    I would accept that, but you have never weiged up all the evidence, so your contention that OJ is a reasonable 'leap of faith' is based on lack of knowledge. Not only that, but if you stick to Halachah, you couldn't even attempt to weigh up all the evidence if you tried, it would Halachically forbidden for you to objectively think about the posibility that God doesn't exist, or that the Torah is not MiSinai. The only hetter for thinking those thoughts is if you are only doing it to strengthen your emunah, which of course makes the attempt completely biased and therefore not credible. Basically, you are leaping in the dark. Halachah forbids you to really consider the opposing evidence, and nor are you likely to do that anyway. Your judgement therefore that it's a 'reasonable leap' is again based on nothing but your own feelings, which as previously discussed are notoriously unreliable when it comes to religion. The fact that billions of people all believe in contradictory religions based on their 'feelings and intuition' proves this (almost 100%!).

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  49. >>>How could he have found Judaism though? Or even if he lived post-revelation?

    Idach peirusha - zil gmor, meaning, I think the Rav's answer was through study of the halachic system and being immersed in it. And you will ask me to explain how that experience differs from a priest immersed in Canonical Law. I cannot answer because I have never shared their experience. I only know my experience and the experience of others passed through tradition teaches that Judaism provides a true way to find G-d by immersing in the study of Torah and doing mitzvos. If you accept that tradition and see that others find meaning in such a lifestyle and are willing to try it yourself, hopefully you will discover the same.

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  50. Anonymous4:23 PM

    Sounds like little more than a way of validating yourself. That's something healthy to do, but isn't really anything more than a pat on your back.

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  51. >>>Sounds like little more than a way of validating yourself. That's something healthy to do, but isn't really anything more than a pat on your back.

    What does that mean? If I start digging for gold in my backyard because I believe it is there, it is one thing to keep giving myself doses of encouragement after 2 feet, 5 feet, 10 feet, etc. just to keep going. But if I really find the gold, the validation is not coming from me, it's coming from the discovery. The dicovery of G-d is not a psychic phenomenon, it's something out there in reality, albeit not detectable by our senses.

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  52. > I only know my experience and the experience of others passed through tradition teaches that Judaism provides a true way to find G-d by immersing in the study of Torah and doing mitzvos.

    Sure. The system invents an idea of what God is, and then has a bunch of ways designed to re-inforce that idea. What does that prove? Absolutely nothing, except the system works well in the way it was intended to work. Islam & Christianity also. Atheism too. In fact you could argue that Christianity works better, because there are billion sof Christians, but very veery few Orthodox Jews, with many dropouts and mass exists since the enlightenment.

    If, on the other hand, you made an argument that Mitzvos had rational goals (e.g. ethics and morality), and that a look at history clearly showed that Jews were more ethical and moral, and therefore that shows that our system is better, then that might be a good argument based on some actual evidence. See where I'm coming from? It's not fantasy, but rather reality. Reality might not be as impressive as fantasy, but at least it's real.

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  53. > But if I really find the gold, the validation is not coming from me, it's coming from the discovery.

    Sure. But if you go around saying you have found the gold, yet can't produce it, and claim you know in your heart it's there but it's invisible, then we will lock you up in the asylum.

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  54. Anonymous4:31 PM

    But you're back at square one. So long as you think (sorry, know) you've found gold then you have, even if it's not rational.That's great, but don't we believe that you've got to find actual gold, not just pyrite even if we're really sure its gold?

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  55. > The dicovery of G-d is not a psychic phenomenon, it's something out there in reality, albeit not detectable by our senses.

    The dicovery of Jesus is not a psychic phenomenon, it's something out there in reality, albeit not detectable by our senses.
    The dicovery of Allah is not a psychic phenomenon, it's something out there in reality, albeit not detectable by our senses.
    The dicovery of Bhudda is not a psychic phenomenon, it's something out there in reality, albeit not detectable by our senses.

    See how that works?

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  56. >>>Sure. But if you go around saying you have found the gold, yet can't produce it, and claim you know in your heart it's there but it's invisible, then we will lock you up in the asylum.

    Only if it is something like gold, a tangible substance that can be empirically measured. But, again, religious experience is not quantifiable outside the experience of the believer - it by definition is outside the bounds of rational inquiry. If you were debating the mind-body problem and told me you will not believe in a soul unless I can produce one, I give up - you are asking for the impossible. Reread the Piecezna - denying everything that cannot be proven or measured will never get you to Torah.

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  57. >>>See how that works?

    Irrelevant - the truth claims of others in and of themselves do not falsify my own experience.

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  58. >>>Sure. But if you go around saying you have found the gold, yet can't produce it, and claim you know in your heart it's there but it's invisible, then we will lock you up in the asylum.

    Only if religion is the same as belief that I can fly. Is it? I think most people can discriminate between the two, and it's not rational evidence that leads them to that conclusion.

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  59. Apologies, but I have some work to do and am getting worn out from the ta'anis. Thank you for your comments and the discussion. Maybe more later.

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  60. > Irrelevant - the truth claims of others in and of themselves do not falsify my own experience.

    A rational person would say hmmmm. Billions of people are all convinced of Jesus/Allah/Whatever based on their own personal experience. Which is more likely? They are all right, or none of them are right? Of course some of them might be right, but since they all have equally valid experiences, then clearly their personal experiences prove nothing at all. You can remove experience as a factor entirely.

    A non rational faith based person says, 'My experience proves I am right!'.

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  61. > Only if it is something like gold, a tangible substance that can be empirically measured. But, again, religious experience is not quantifiable outside the experience of the believer - it by definition is outside the bounds of rational inquiry.

    Sure, so are fairies. So believe in faries then, convince yourself you have found them (in your mind), and who can argue? By definition fairies are outside the bounds of rational enquiry!

    You know there IS something that is truky outside the bounds of rational enquiry - you know what it's called? It's called insanity. There you can believe in anything you like. You can believe you ARE God if you like. And who can argue? It's outside the bounds of rational enquiry!

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  62. > Apologies, but I have some work to do and am getting worn out from the ta'anis. Thank you for your comments and the discussion. Maybe more later.

    Good discussion, civil too! Have a meaningful fast.

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  63. > Only if religion is the same as belief that I can fly. Is it?

    Well, you clearly think 99.999% of all known religions (apart from your own sub-stream of a sub-stream of your religion) are fasle, so much so they are not even worth looking at. And 100% of all people in other religions think your particular religion is comepletely false too. So you tell me, is your religion like believing you can fly, or is it something quite straightforward?

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  64. G-d is bigger than our minds, and that means G-d is bigger than reason, and that means reason/rationality does not do the job when it comes to religion.
    Which is why you're 99% right and GH is 100% wrong.*

    I write this for GH, but he thought it was "long winded philosophy". I'd be curious to know your opinion of it.

    http://kishnevi.livejournal.com/14820.html#cutid1

    * The 1% error comes from the fact that 2+2 does not necessarily equal 4. It does so only when you're dealing with base 5 or above, and in base 2 it doesn't exist: you would have to transform it into 10+10=100. In base 3 it's 2+2=11, and in base 4 it's 2+2=10. Here endeth the arithmetic lesson.

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  65. > and that means G-d is bigger than reason, and that means reason/rationality does not do the job when it comes to religion.

    You started talking about God, but then switched to 'religion'. Also, your statement has no basis in fact: Fairies are bigger than our minds (at least big ones are), so that means and that means reason/rationality does not do the job when it comes to Fairies. And the same statement works for anything, and any kind of God. Also, anything larger than about 12inches in diameter is bigger than our minds, and many concepts are quite unintelligeibly too. Does that mean anything we can't understand is therefore believable? Your position makes no sense at all.

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  66. Jeffrey and Chaim, here is a simple trick, which might help you. Every time you are tempted to make a statement about God, make the same statement about fairies (or Jesus) and see if it works just as well. If it does, you may want to rethink. For example:

    > If rationalism cannot lead one to G-d, that should not be accepted as a critique of belief, but as a critique of rationalism.

    If rationalism cannot lead one to Jesus, that should not be accepted as a critique of belief, but as a critique of rationalism.

    See? Works just as well. Likewise for everything Jeffery said above. I don't mean to be a leitzan here, just pointing out the obvious flaws in your arguments.

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  67. GH and R.Chaim,

    It will never be possible to prove empirically TMS or Ma'amad har sinai. In fact we will never know what happened there other than what the Torah says. The most important thing, as far as we are concerned, that happened at Sinai, is not God talking, Moshe transmitting etc... but the Bnei Ysroel accepting by saying Na'aseh Venishma. It was followed by a covenant and Dam Bris that bound them and their children. The covenant was that we would follow these laws, accept the structure that is being put in place, learn it keep it and nurture it forever. We all have choices of staying or leaving "Re'eh Nosati lefonecho hayom es hacahym ves hatov.... ubocharto bachyim" If you chose to accept ypu are a memebr of tyhe covenant if not not.

    Christains, muslims et al have the same choice in their religion and that is fine. Historically however we have been the spark that ignited all these other religions that accept a unique God. The ones that have not don't count as you cannot compare two totally different things animal and vegetable for example.

    Is TMS? Sure it is part of the covenant, that we accept it as such. It is a necessary belief to allow for the continuity of the system. It limits our ability to tamper with the system so it should not lose its efficacy.

    The rest is Zil Gemor. Go and learn HKBH ways so that you can emulate them.

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  68. Anonymous6:56 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  69. >IOW, it's not true, but we pretend it is because it fools our kids better that way.

    How can you be so foolish? Of course not. It is true because we accepted the Torah as immutable and that gives it the authority of TMS. TMS is a Hallachik statement after all!

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  70. > It is true because we accepted the Torah as immutable and that gives it the authority of TMS. TMS is a Hallachik statement after all!

    Whoa. WHOA. Finally. So TMS is only tue in the sense that the Jewish People accepted it as being true????? Thats a winner. Thanks!

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  71. GH--Your basic mistake to try to apply reason to the things that involve G-d.

    God (unlike fairies, Jesus, and everything else you can point at) is transcendent. That means that none of the concepts that human minds produce can adequately describe him, and that means that reason just doesn't cut it. At some point you have to have faith.
    To demand absolute rationality in this matter is to be in itself irrational.
    If you don't believe me, go back and review the Rambam on this point.

    Does that mean you should go out and believe TMS without further questioning? No. But it does mean you can't refuse to believe in it simply because you don't find rational, or because you can't find any acceptable evidence.

    And TMS does not necessarily mean what R. Chaim believes it mean. But since this is his blog, I won't go any further than to acknowledge that what he means by that term is not quite what I mean by it. But what both he and I believe is that the Torah is G-d Talking to us all. He reveals Himself fully in the Torah. The exact mechanism by which He ensured that the text of the Torah is the text He wants us to have is, for me, not really important: it's one of the spices of wisdom, and the literalist version of TMS which R. Chaim espouses and you reject is, for me, not probable, but certainly not impossible; and whether it is true or false in no way affects what I learn from the Torah and what the Torah has to say to us. And having had an experience which duplicated in its main outlines (albeit not all the details), something recorded in Nach, I'm inclined to give a good deal of evidentiary weight to what is in Tanach.

    So don't be so stuck on reason, GH; or you'll reason yourself right out of the World To Come.

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  72. Isn't it the halacah that tells us we must accept it as TMS and Kol Hakofer ein Lo Chelek? So you say I have blind faith it so. Isn't that the same? You believe it because of faith or you believe it because of halacha which is a sensible thing as opposed to myth like you say?

    Where you the cursing anonymous? you don't have to feel bad. I will not get upset. I am used to it. Luckily after calming down and thinking about it most people come around.

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  73. Jeffrey, I see where you are coming from however I vehemently disagree that there are things in our religion that do not depend on reason. You and I may not have understood it yet - yet is the key word - i believe trying we will understand everything about Torah including why we cannot understand God's essence. The last is the only unknowable which makes Him unique.

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  74. Anonymous8:12 PM

    >IOW, it's not true, but we pretend it is because it fools our kids better that way.

    >Assh*le.

    This person is NOT me, who was the anonymous commenter this afternoon.

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  75. > God (unlike fairies, Jesus, and everything else you can point at) is transcendent. That means that none of the concepts that human minds produce can adequately describe him, and that means that reason just doesn't cut it. At some point you have to have faith.

    Very, very silly. So I believe in transcendent fairies, or a transcendent Jesus. Or a transcendent Zoboomafoo. You are just playing games here. If you have a reason to believe in something lets hear it. Otherwise you may as well believe in goo goo gaa gaa, for all the difference it makes.

    > Does that mean you should go out and believe TMS without further questioning? No. But it does mean you can't refuse to believe in it simply because you don't find rational, or because you can't find any acceptable evidence.

    On the contrary, if there is no evidence that something happened, then believing it happened is quite stupid. This is self-evident, and is the way the entire world works.

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  76. > But what both he and I believe is that the Torah is G-d Talking to us all. He reveals Himself fully in the Torah.

    Sure, you believe that, but what are your reasons? I can also make dogmatic statements of belief; 'I believe that Jesus gave us the Torah', or 'I believe that the Koran is the word of God'. You need to justify your beliefs with reasons, otherwise what you say is of no value at all.

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  77. > So don't be so stuck on reason, GH; or you'll reason yourself right out of the World To Come.

    Cute, but you're not actually saying anything. And the only way we can even have a debate is by each of us using reason. So what are you saying? Some things are beyond reason? Maybe so, but once you move beyond reason you are in fantasy land, where anything goes, and anyone can have any fantasy they wish. Your fanstasy sounds nice, but so far, you haven't given me one single good reason to assume it is anything more than just a fantasy.

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  78. Here's anothe tip for you, Jeffrey and Chaim. When you make a statement about The Torah, try it again but this time substitute The Koran, or The Book of Mormon. If it works just as well, then it probably has no value. For example:

    He reveals Himself fully in the Torah. The exact mechanism by which He ensured that the text of the Torah is the text He wants us to have is, for me, not really important: it's one of the spices of wisdom, and the literalist version of TMS which R. Chaim espouses and you reject is, for me, not probable, but certainly not impossible; and whether it is true or false in no way affects what I learn from the Torah and what the Torah has to say to us.

    He reveals Himself fully in the Koran. The exact mechanism by which He ensured that the text of the Koran is the text He wants us to have is, for me, not really important: it's one of the spices of wisdom, and the literalist version of KMS which Mullah Omar espouses and you reject is, for me, not probable, but certainly not impossible; and whether it is true or false in no way affects what I learn from the Koran and what the Koranhas to say to us.

    He reveals Himself fully in the Book of Mormon. The exact mechanism by which He ensured that the text of the Book of Mormon is the text He wants us to have is, for me, not really important: it's one of the spices of wisdom, and the literalist version of MMS which Elder Smith espouses and you reject is, for me, not probable, but certainly not impossible; and whether it is true or false in no way affects what I learn from the Book of Mormon and what the Book of Mormon has to say to us.

    Hmmm. See how that works? it works just as well. So again, you need to justify WHY you think the Torah is the word of God, rather than the thousands of other religious texts which are claimed to be. I assumme you do have some reasons, yes? I mean, it wasn't just a random selection was it?

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  79. I have been recovering from today's ta'anis, but popped in to see the continued discussion and had to delete one comment. Please, no 'nivul peh'.

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  80. GH, you keep missing the point. One who experiences the word of G-d in Torah needs no justification other than that. And it is certainly true that a Mormom might find religious experience elsewhere, but how does that delegitimize my own experience of the truth?
    Two art experts disagree as to the value of a painting. Neither can justify their analysis completely in an objective scientific way because the nature of the subject matter depends on aethetic assessment. Yet, it would be foolish to say that since art appreciation depends on a subjetive appreciation of the subject it is worthless and since there are differing opinions, none of them contain any truth.
    The world of halacha and haskafa does not ask or address the issue of why Judaism is right. They do ask and address the question of what makes Judasim meaningful. From that sense of meaning, which is lost in the cold logic of the scientific worldview, comes the discovery that the system makes sense. It cannot be reduced to a simply collection of reasons any more than you can reduce to a simple list of reasons why you love your wife, why Mozart is a great composer, or why a piece of poerty appeals to the heart. Dwell all day on the structure, meter, and text of a Shakespearen sonnet and you still have not captured its appeal to the heart. Dwell all day on rationalizing your commitment to yahadut and you will still have failed to capture its essnece.

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  81. >>>And TMS does not necessarily mean what R. Chaim believes it mean.

    Just for the record, I don't recall ever discussing TMS here or anywhere else. As I wrote before, lets stick to belief - TMS is a seperate subject, one which I do not want to comment on now other than to ask that you not presume what I hold.
    Let me just add one other point - why do you think I have to have a 'shita' on it at all? One shita I do hold strongly of is that sometimes you can explore the parameters of a question and appreciate the problem without having a clear solution.

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  82. jeffrey smith10:21 PM

    GH--I have a reason to believe in the Torah and not other "revelations". But it was a mystical, very personal experience, and it would sound like I'm claiming some spiritual authority I do not really have, if I gave details. I will only say that I have seen something which is described in Nach, and what I saw fit very precisely with the description give in Nach, and the differences are the result in not being able to see all the details, and that difference is no doubt a reflection of the fact that I am not on the spiritual level of the person who described it in Nach. He was a prophet, and was able to see much better. I was just an autistic teenager going through a major emotional crisis. As best as I can tell, thirty years later, G-d sent me that experience to get me through the difficulties I was facing, then and later: a very special chizuk.

    But having, as part of that experience, "met" God, it's not possible for me to not believe in Him; and having seen something which is described in Tanach, I can accept the rest of Tanach as being very credible. There is no real leap of faith or abandonment of reason in accepting TMS for me. Nor, as I think I made clear, do I mean by TMS what you and R. Chaim mean. But I do understand that some things, ultimately, can not be explained and that "the righteous man lives by his faith".

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  83. > GH, you keep missing the point. One who experiences the word of G-d in Torah needs no justification other than that. And it is certainly true that a Mormom might find religious experience elsewhere, but how does that delegitimize my own experience of the truth?

    This is easy to answer. You claim that your 'experience' validates the tuth. Howeve you admit that a Mormon has a similar experience which validates his truth. Likewise a Christian and a Moslem. In fact, the 4 billion religious people in the world each have an experience that validates their religious truth. You hold that 99.999% of these people are all wrong. Therefore the ONLY logical conclusion is that experience is a very very poor indicator of truth, when it comes to religion. Could your religion be the one true religion? Sure it can. But using your 'experience' as proof for that is silly, since 4 billion people have the same experience and we know they're all wrong.

    If a doctor prescribed a drug for you, but told you that in 99.999% of the drug trials it had lethal consequences, would you still take the drug? No of course not.

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  84. > Two art experts disagree as to the value of a painting. Neither can justify their analysis completely in an objective scientific way because the nature of the subject matter depends on aethetic assessment. Yet, it would be foolish to say that since art appreciation depends on a subjetive appreciation of the subject it is worthless and since there are differing opinions, none of them contain any truth.

    An excellent example which only proves my point. Art is about subjective appreciation, hence they can both be correct. If your argument is simply that you appreciate the beauty of Judaism, then I agree with you 100%. I do to! But you seemed to be arguing that your appreciation of judaism somehow shows that it's 'true', in some real sense. This of course is nonsense. It might be beautiful, it might be fabulous, it might be excellent (to you), but nothing about your feelings for it can make it 'the one true religion', just like nothing about the art skeptic's feelings for a painting make it the 'one true painting'.

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  85. > GH--I have a reason to believe in the Torah and not other "revelations". But it was a mystical, very personal experience, and it would sound like I'm claiming some spiritual authority I do not really have, if I gave details. I will only say that I have seen something which is described in Nach, and what I saw fit very precisely with the description give in Nach, and the differences are the result in not being able to see all the details, and that difference is no doubt a reflection of the fact that I am not on the spiritual level of the person who described it in Nach. He was a prophet, and was able to see much better. I was just an autistic teenager going through a major emotional crisis. As best as I can tell, thirty years later, G-d sent me that experience to get me through the difficulties I was facing, then and later: a very special chizuk.

    While I hate to belittle your very real life experiences, I'm sure you will appreciate that the experience of an "autistic teenager going through a major emotional crisis" is hardly proof of anything.

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  86. The goal of Judaism is not to be able to prove that it is correct to a billion other people. The goal is to find personal meaning in observance and belief. I don't know why you think being able to prove what you believe is correct is a precondition to accepting its validity. These days the majority of marriages end in failure with both parties realizing they were not meant for each other. So when you met or meet your wife do you say the experience of love is not real because most people are simply deluding themselves when they get married, or do you accept the possibility that you have discovered true love at that moment?

    I have to duck out - too tired to continue. Thank you again and have a good night.

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  87. jeffrey smith10:37 PM

    R. Chaim said:
    TMS is a seperate subject, one which I do not want to comment on now other than to ask that you not presume what I hold.
    ---
    1)Much of GH's questions seem to relate to TMS; which is why I brough it up. (Actually, in fact, I think GH brought up himself.)
    2) I didn't think it was much of a presumption to say you mean by TMS what standard Orthodoxy means by TMS. And I think it proper to admit that, according to standard Orthodoxy, my view of TMS is kefirah. But I am not asking GH or anyone else to follow me there: I'm only try to argue that a reasonable person should not expect the degree of 'evidence', etc. GH seems to be demanding. A reasonable person will admit that some things must be taken on faith; and given all other considerations, taking things the Jewish way is a very good way to take them.

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  88. > A reasonable person will admit that some things must be taken on faith

    Sure, but which things? Jesus? Allah? Hashem? Fairies? The Loch Ness Monster? Aliens? The Abominable Snowman? Torah? The Golem? The Dybuk? The Talking Fish from New Square? ESP? Magic? Vodoo? All of them? None of them? One of them? Which one? How do I chose? Seriously, once you leave behind reason all bets are off. Anything goes, and a quick check of the religion section at Barnes & Noble proves that quite conclusively.

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  89. > So when you met or meet your wife do you say the experience of love is not real because most people are simply deluding themselves when they get married, or do you accept the possibility that you have discovered true love at that moment?

    The former actually. Anyone convinced 100% that they have found their one true love with no possibility of divorce ever is clearly deluding themselves. Much like anyone who is convinced that their religion must be the one true religion with no possibility of it being false. I thought that would be fairly self evident. Then again, maybe what you are referring to is the phenomenon that people 'in love' tend to get caried away and don't think clearly? Sure, same as with people 'in love' with religion. It feels great to be in love, but it doens't prove anything at all about anything at all, other than the fact that you are in love. If you want to make the argument that all Judaism demands is that you love Judaism, then fine. I can agree. But I think (based on the ikkarim) that Judaism demands you actually believe it to be true 100%, and that cannot be, without some good evidence.

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  90. jeffrey smith11:05 PM

    The only evidence you can produce against the truth of Judaism is the result of historical researches which by their very methodology must be tentative and can not produce all the pertinent facts, and were often conducted by individuals who had an ideological agenda that demanded disproof of Judaism and/or religion in general; you can not produce a single fact that shows, conclusively, that anything described in the Bible did not occur in a manner which is consistent with the Biblical text.

    I will take the Million Man (and Woman) Mesorah over that any day of the week.

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  91. bill selliger talks about killing amaleik.
    todays jihadist talking about killing amaleik (the west, jews etc.).
    Are we lucky that we that the commandment to kill amaleik was interpeted away by chazal? would bill become a suicide bomber if we still had that commandment?

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  92. > you can not produce a single fact that shows, conclusively, that anything described in the Bible did not occur in a manner which is consistent with the Biblical text.

    Of course you can't. It could always be a miracle. But you also cannot prove conclusively that the Book of Mormon is false, or the New testament. Remember the trick I showed you before? You should have used it here. it would have shown you how meaningless your statement was.

    "you can not produce a single fact that shows, conclusively, that anything described in the New Testament did not occur in a manner which is consistent with the New Testament text."

    "you can not produce a single fact that shows, conclusively, that anything described in the Koran did not occur in a manner which is consistent with the Koranic text."

    "you can not produce a single fact that shows, conclusively, that anything described in the Book of Mormon did not occur in a manner which is consistent with the Mormonic text."

    The same statement works for everything, and hence works for nothing.

    > I will take the Million Man (and Woman) Mesorah over that any day of the week.

    Sure, but which million man mesorah? Judaism? Or Mormonism? Or how about the billion man mesorah? There are quite a few of those to chose from. Or how about a thousand man mesorah? Or a one man mesorah? Without any evidence, your preferences and beliefs are simply your own personal choice and your statements affirming how much you believe in them are as meaningless as when my Catholic colleague tells me how much he believes in Jesus. Without evidence you got NOTHING.

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  93. Anonymous1:33 AM

    >Without evidence you got NOTHING

    Not true. When there is NO evidence that John killed Mike, but we have two reliable witnesses whose testimony cannot be refuted, we fully prosecute John with the applicable punishment set by the law.

    It isn't rational. There is no evidence. Simply the words of two people. But that's the way society works. If you'll walk around screaming "but there's no evidence...." you remain the fool.

    We have a testimony of revelation at Sinai constantly transmitted from generation to generation. Remember, up to 60 - 150 years ago, there was no DNA, Fingerprint data banks, Cameras and videos. The world relied on testimony. We can't allow our minds to be so biased by current technology which so downplays testimony. As in - when the lab reports that we established that the DNA of the accused was found on the dead person, we don't care what henry and robert (witnesses) have to say.

    But before the advent of technology, the world relied on testimony. Therefore, for Torah which was given before technology, we must rely on the testimony transmitted to us.

    Lakewood Yid

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  94. Anonymous9:18 AM

    We can dismiss the Xian experience that Jesus was the Messiah because the neviim predicted the Messiah would do certain things and Jesus didn't fulfill the conditions. The same applies to the faith in the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

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  95. > Not true. When there is NO evidence that John killed Mike, but we have two reliable witnesses whose testimony cannot be refuted, we fully prosecute John with the applicable punishment set by the law.

    When I say 'evidence' I mean it in the broader sense, witnesses certainly count as evidence too (assuming they are reliable etc). My impression was that Chaim B was advocating an approach where we go beynd such evidence and instead listen to our souls (or something similar).

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  96. >>>My impression was that Chaim B was advocating

    Good Morning. Chaim B advocates nothing. Chaim B is quoting the spectrum from the Rav (Litvak intellectual) to the Noam Elimelech and Piecezna (chassidic mystic) to the effect that reason alone can NEVER lead you to faith. GH - if you look back at my post, I don't know why you keep fighting when I AGREE with your basic premis. Judaism cannot rationally be demonstrated. Where we differ is that you take that to be its death knoll, I take that to be a function of the limits of rationality and nothing else.

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  97. Anonymous10:27 AM

    GH: Just curious. 1) How do you account for the fact that the Torah says we will be an eternal nation and the fact that we've survived for the past couple thousand years under conditions that, as far as I know, no other group of people has survived under. 2) Also, the various groups of Jews that have been separated for hundreds and hundreds of years still have a common culture and common beliefs (e.g. same authoritative sources, Ovadia Yosef quotes recent Ashkenazik poseks often etc.). In comparison, the various Gypsy groups who have been exiled and seperated from each other for about half the duration of the Jewish exile don't even consider one another to be Gypsy. How do you account for these facts? How do you account for the fact that the Torah says we would eventually return to Israel? Would have predicted that the Babylonians, Romans, Greeks, etc. would all disappear but that the Jews would remain? 3) Also, if Sinai actually didn't happen, then that would be the only case, as far as I know, of a nation claiming it had a national experience (e.g. war, famine) that never happened (some of this was taken from R'Gottlieb's website). Maybe you can resond on your website so the discussion here can continue to be primarily between you and DC. Or if you've already addressed all of these issues on your website you can just post the links. Thanks

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  98. Anonymous10:40 AM

    >But before the advent of technology, the world relied on testimony. Therefore, for Torah which was given before technology, we must rely on the testimony transmitted to us.

    Fine, but that doesn't make it factual or true. It makes it legally admissible, true for practical purposes.

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  99. Anonymous10:42 AM

    >(e.g. same authoritative sources, Ovadia Yosef quotes recent Ashkenazik poseks often etc.)

    That's a bad example. ROY lives in Israel side by side with Jews from 100 countries. But other than that, you made a good point: we Jews preserved ourselves with a national identity living all over the world for 2000 years, even maintaining essentially common literatures, customs, laws and beliefs.

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  100. The real reaon I'm commenting is b/c I know you hate numbers like 99, so this will round the comments up to an even 100, but I can't help wondering what the penultimate anonymous comment would accept as "factual or true" Actually, you bring up a semantic question: is there a difference between "factual" and "true"? I think you take them to be one and the same and distinguished from simply "legally admissable" or "true for practical purposes". Question: why would something that is not factually true be "legally admissable" in a question of this sort? While we may acknowledge that halachic fact is not the same as common fact (as in the status of something that is in the category of rov), that is not the same type of categorization.

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  101. >Question: why would something that is not factually true be "legally admissable" in a question of this sort?

    I didn't say it should be. I'm not sure if I think it should. I was replying to the contention that edut makes facts. It doesn't. It makes courts figure out how to act.

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  102. I was Anon 10:40 AM, in case it wasn't obvious.

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  103. GH: Hi, I was the one who wrote the previous massive anonymous post. Another question, while were at it: Why are the Jews the only religion out of the 15000 or so in recorded history to claim we began with a national prophecy (as opposed to one person having a prophecy and telling others)? Maybe because its impossible to make up.

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  104. That's the argument of Sefer Kuzari. I'm afraid we'll have to generate another 47 comments before Chaim has a number he can feel comfortable with. ;-) Maybe we'll start a debate on facts vs. truth or the possibility of testimony that is not in fact factual not being cause for perjury.

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  105. Tal Benscahr2:00 PM

    Ariella:

    What's the deal with Chaim and numbers of posts? Is that a kabbalistic thing?

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  106. It's not related to Kabbalah. He just doesn't like non-rounded numbers. For examle, when buying gas, he wants the final amount to be an even $20 or $15 -- not $14.98 or $20.01. It's a pity some people commented after my first comment, for that ruined the perfect 100.

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  107. GH: >> However the bride actually exists and can be seen. If you told me you loved an invisible women I would have you sent to the hospital.

    R. Marvin Fox suggests that Halakhah is an appropriate response to that. I recently posted about it.

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  108. Tuvia2:12 PM

    some thoughts:

    first, why is GH so angry in his comments? I agree with him, but he always has to call people "nuts" or "insane." he uses really heated words. argue with a little less of a slashing style, we hear you better.

    Second, I really struggle with this stuff too. I am one of those types that can see both sides of the "is Judaism real?" debate.

    I just wanted to add something that was not mentioned:

    We believe there is a G-d --- and somehow one G-d is a better way to go than many gods. there are several ways to defend the one god idea, but i will just state that with several gods there is a kind of chaos and problems with "my g-d is stronger than yours." I mean, if we are all simply "people" that way of thinking just kind of goes away as immature and not compelling.

    Also, I have read that the theology of Christianity is based on "mercy," the theology of Islam is based on "justice," and the theology of Judaism is based on both.

    It seems to me that, of course all three of these monotheistic faiths have some of both, but leaving that aside, I think we can conclude that ALL of them have some merit. If there is a G-d kind of leaving the world to us, but also intervening in subtle ways -- it IS interesting that there is such a balance to these three. A kind of symmetry.

    Now, why stay Jewish and not join one of the other two?

    I think that if you feel the "call" of the Koran or Islamic style, you can probably go that way. Same thing with Christianity.

    I think the thing about Judaism is that you can be a right winger (an "Islamic" style Jew) or a left winger (a "Christian" style Jew).

    What I am saying in answer to GH is that maybe all three have truth to them. maybe God set it up this way. maybe it enhances free will, or one could say that Judaism is in some ways at the focal point of the two. This works poetically as well since the Jews are the smallest (and in some ways the most impactful) of the three.

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