Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Maharal On How to Find the Truth

In the Maharal's Sefer Tiferes Yisroel (perek 16) he discusses how to ascertain proofs as to why it must be that the Torah is from heaven. These proofs are not empirical, but they follow a logical approach to the matter. His opening remarks resemble his sentiments that have been shown in previous posts about philosophers. He says,

"There are men that posses examining hearts that only follow their own wisdom, these are the wise men of the nations that are called philosophers. They want to use their wisdom to figure out the truth of how the world and its nature works. However, their understanding is far (from the truth) they do not know or understand (the truth) since they are searching in the dark. For if they are going to figure out (the truth), they first need to admit to this basic principle, that the Torah is from heaven. Then they will move out from the shadows and the darkness (and in to the light). This core idea that the Torah is from heaven removes a mans dirty and disgusting clothes (metaphor for incorrect ideas) and purifies his thoughts. Once this happens he or she will be able to be certain about their decisive proof that the Torah must be from heaven. "

The Maharal is not discounting the philosophers wisdom in any way, In fact, he refers to these people as wise men from the nations. The point of the Maharal is much deeper than mere knowledge. His point is that man can never know the truth without first setting up basic principles. Just like man can not figure out physics without first understanding the force of gravity, so too man can not understand the true nature of the world without first realizing that the Torah and the wisdom contained within it comes from heaven.

The idea here is that man without a guiding set of principles will not be able to find out the truth. Think of it in this sense, if man is put on earth without any guidance, how does he then figure out reality? How does man invent mathematics, art, language and all the other subjects? This leads us to believe that there is a higher being that all knowledge stems forth from. Therefore, once we realize that the Torah is from heaven, it is possible for the guiding principles of the Torah to be expounded upon by philosophers. Man's own knowledge is unable to figure out the truth without guidance, but with a basic principle that guides man's knowledge, then man is able to figure out all truths that exist in the world.

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