Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Judaism's Real Goals; Morals Not Science

When one thinks about Judaism as a religion what comes to mind? Torah, Mitzvos, an unhindered allegiance to the rabbis? These are all details that are found within Orthodox Judaism today, but what is the real essence of Judaism. In its formation, what did G-D truly intend for the Jewish religion to be? Did G-D want everyone to think the same, wear the same clothes and show intolerance for plurality? I think the the basic tenants of Judaism are completely different than what most people think nowadays.

After reading the book written by Rabbi Dr Leo Adler, The Biblical View of Man and some of the Ralbag's book The Wars of The Lord, I think I have figured out what Judaism was meant to be. It was never meant to be a religion of conformity in thought, rather it was just supposed to be a religion of conformity in certain actions.

What do I mean and what is the difference. What is the significance of action versus thought? Well, the truth is that there is a world of a difference between conformity of action versus thought. If everyone was meant to think alike then there is no such thing as the individual. No one would ever question anything. There is no way to put meaning behind actions if there are no individual thoughts behind those actions. This is also why there is a law that one must do a mitzva lishma, for the sake of the mitzva. However, conformity in actions just means that everyone treats each other with respect and that everyone connects to G-D. This does allow for individualism. Questions can be asked and unique ideas can be pursued. This is Judaism, treat others how you would want to be treated and believe/connect to G-D, but do it in your own way. As long as a Jew is within the parameters of the laws laid out by G-D, he or she is not doing anything against the religion. That means that a man or woman can become a philosopher and try to develop ideas of how the universe was created or how did man end up on this planet. Scientific ideas are not inherently evil and can help a person get close to G-D. If these ideas are used to get close to G-D or treat others with respect then they are actually an enhanced form of Judaism. However, if these ideas do detract from a person's ability to perform a mitzva then there is a problem. However, this is the free choice that exists in Judaism, the freedom to make the wrong conclusions.

This is what I think is the point of the Bible. G-D gave us the Torah in order that we know how to treat each other and how to connect to Him. There was no other inherent purpose. The stories in Breishis and other places are there to teach us lessons of how to interact with each other and how to view G-D. The other part of the Torah, the commandments, are simply there to tell us what actions will bring us to, ultimately, connect with G-D. In essence, the Torah is a moral compass of how we are to act, not think, but act. The Torah does not tell us what Pi is or what the gravitational pull of a black hole is, but rather the Torah focuses on man and how he or she should act.

You know what this means? It means that, like the Rambam and Ralbag teach us, reason and science can teach us the physical realities of the world that the Torah does not discuss. Someone who thinks that they can derive science from the Torah without any other source, like logic or empirical evidence, is just a fool. For example, if someone thinks that they understand the creation of the world in a scientific way based on the Torah, they are foolish. The Torah is not describing the creation in a scientific way, therefore, it is impossible to derive science from the Torah in this matter.

Anyone that would allow themselves to be driven off the path of Judaism based on science does not clearly understand the relationship between science and the Torah. The Torah will never contradict science, therefore, if it appears that the Torah is contradicting science, something is wrong. Either the person interpreting the Torah is wrong, or the person interpreting the science is wrong. This is not my opinion, but the opinion of the Rambam and the opinion of the Ralbag. The reason for this position is that no one really understands the deep meanings of the Torah, therefore, when something becomes clear through science, the Torah must be explained according to this new clarified idea.


Garnel Ironheart said...

The problem with yeshiva educations is that they teach gemara, gemara, gemara.

You want to learn what Judaism is supposed to be? Learn Navi and Ksuvim. Seek justice, pursue righteousness, cloth the naked, protect the orphan, etc.

Unfortunately Judaism today has been taken over by people who are obsessed with the minor aspects of Judaism - 3 or 6 hours after meat, black hat or knitted kippah. Stuff that doesn't make you a more moral person or make God more visible in this world.

E-Man said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I think navi is extremely important. Tanach in general is so important, but people only focus on minutia. If a person understands the lessons contained within tanach then they could actually know how to act not just how to make a chakira in a sugya.