Sunday, February 15, 2009

emunah and yediya recap

Update to previous post(s): there seems to be some confusion as to how R' Shach and R' Chaim could explain the idea of emunah as belief in that is beyond the rationally justifiable when the Rambam uses the word "leyda", to know. The answer is that the Rambam also uses the term "l'ha'amin", e.g. in Sefer haMitzvos he refers to "ha'amanas Elokus". Question: does the Rambam therefore mean that faith is rooted in "yediya" or "emunah"?

R' Chaim's answer is a classic Brisker "tzvei dinim" sevara. The Rambam meant both. The mitzvah that demands that we acknowledge and accept certain yediyos, factual knowledge about G-d that any rational person can see is true. There is an additional level to the mitzvah that demands that we go beyond that basic mininal standard and believe even that which we cannot justify.

I wanted to add a mareh makom to the sefer Derech Mitzvosecha of the Tzemach Tzedek, p. 44b (mitzvah 25 os b) who spells out exactly these two levels of the mitzvah based on the two formulations of the Rambam, ayen sham.

Also, to add another mareh makom, the idea that emunah is innately programmed into our psyche is not a chassidishe vort of R' Tzadok -- it fits perfectly with the Rambam as well. Look no further than the Malbi"m to Shmos 20:1 who echoes almost word for word R' Tzadok's thesis and bases himself completely on the Rambam.

A tangential point: I took my son to a shiur given in these type topics by a talmid chacham and he was amazed -- he had never heard these ideas approached analytically in the way one picks apart a sugya of gemara. "Why don't we learn this in yeshiva?" he asked. Good question -- I told him to ask his Mashgiach. The truth is that you can go through years of yeshiva and come out ignorant of basic tenets of Judaism, which is pretty scary. I don't have a good answer for how to approach the topics systematically (someone needs to write a good collection of sources for high school age kids to learn), but I think it is important for a ben Torah to go through Rishonim and achronim in these areas just like any other area. If you can appreciate why you need to see a R' Chaim in a sugya in Chezkas haBatim, kal v'chomer you should appreciate why you need to see and understand a R' Chaim in the sugya of emunah.


  1. Daas Yochid11:56 PM

    How do you understand the level of yedias Hashem spoken about in the seforim, referring to His existence, that being obvious to all and not requiring emuna. Surely in todays day and age, even G-d very existence is brought into question?

  2. Based on R' Elchahan the answer is that in our day and age society has become so corrupt in its thinking that what should be pashut is not.

    I am not sure I agree with the premis of the question. The two other major world religions today subscribe to monotheism (OK, Xstianity pushes the envelope a bit, but they at least would claim to subscribe to that idea). Go back 3000 years and, as you read in Tanach, you were dealing with pagan societys. A few vocal atheists don't make a majority.

  3. Can you please let us know what the Mashgiach answers, or even if he has an answer? OTOH, I can tell you what the Menahel of said yeshiva said to me many years ago re the same issue...

  4. You should know that Eliezer would never dream of asking such a question despite my prompting him to.... Fortunately or unfortunately, exposure to these topics just reinforces his feeling that the watered down mussar shmoozen are a waste of time. As he puts it, "Why take me away from my learning to tell me to learn more?" Mussar devoid of intellectual content is not very satisfying. I have encouraged his learning Michtav m'Eliyahu to at least start him on an intellectual diet of more serious machshava (some of the pieces in Michtav are pretty deep) and we will see where that leads. All lomdus and no machshava makes one a dull Brisker : )

    Now that you have whetted our appetite, what did the Menahel say?

  5. Daas Yochid6:19 PM

    I'm no philosopher, but I have read that after Kant, many proofs for G-ds existence are obsolete.


    Facing the Machashavah Challenge

    Facing Current Challenges: Essays on Judaism
    Rabbi Dr. Yehuda (Leo) Levi
    Jerusalem, 1998

    Reviewed by Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

    I once asked the principal of a yeshiva high school why the standard curriculum does not include the study of Jewish thought - excerpts from the Kuzari, Derech Hashem, Michtav Mei=Eliyahu - anything? He answered me quite candidly, saying that the study of such works and issues would likely provoke students to raise significant questions, and there was a real concern that the teachers would not be equipped to answer the questions satisfactorily. Better, he contended, not to raise questions in students= minds than to raise questions that would remain unanswered.

    While we may be disappointed with the principal=s response, we cannot deny the reality of his concern. A standard yeshiva education generally does not equip a teacher with familiarity - let alone mastery - of Jewish thought. Systematic study of the Agreat works@ (such as those cited above) is a rarity. Often, the sum total of a yeshiva alumnus= exposure to musar or machashavah is the collective wisdom contained in whatever shmuessen or sichot he has haphazardly attended over the years.

    1. So then why don't the yeshivas or Torah umesora equipt it's Rabbeim and teachers with these knowledge and skills?!?

    2. So then why don't the yeshivas or Torah umesora equipt it's Rabbeim and teachers with these knowledge and skills?!?

  7. Um, that was me, not NEB (Noam), and it should have said that this is from one of my published reviews. There is a footnote at the end of that segment that reads:

    Although beyond the scope of this review, there was a fascinating correspondence and debate between Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi, the renowned historian, and Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, in 1908, concerning the advisability of the incorporation of the study of machashavah in the curriculum of a new yeshiva that Rav Kook intended to found in Jaffa. Rabbi Halevi was stridently opposed to any adulteration of the Atraditional@ Shas and Poskim based course of studies, while Rav Kook felt that the times made an expanded focus essential. See Igros R= Yitzchak Isaac Halevi 80-80a and Igros HaRa=ayah 1:146 and 149.