Sunday, September 5, 2010

Following G-D and Rationality

After having a discussion with my friend Baruch I thought that it would be a good idea to discuss a person's ability to follow G-D based solely on rational thinking vs emotional involvement (Something I discussed here). Anyway, the most appropriate way to discuss this, I think, is bringing in my dear old friend Rabbi Dr Leo Adler. For those of you who don't remember Rabbi Dr. Adler, he wrote an exceptional essay called "The Biblical View of Man." The very first thing he discusses is this issue of rational thought vs emotional reality. Here are the relevant excerpts from the beginning of the essay:

The idea being being brought here is something, I think, is obvious. Human beings have rationality at their disposal. However, there is also something else they have, emotions and the ability to go against their rational thought. If a man believes in G-D how can he sin? This is a question that only a philosopher, who does not take into account human emotions and characteristics, can ask.

The Bible, on the other hand, takes into account the human condition and realizes that even though man may be aware of certain realities, he or she can disregard these realities in favor of their hearts' desires. For example, people go sky diving even though they know it is very dangerous and could lead to death. Why do they do it? Because it is fun and they do not focus on the possibility of death.

The same idea applies to G-D. A Jew, or non-Jew, may believe in G-D. Why then do they sin? Because they follow their hearts desire and do not think about G-D while they are sinning. This is what it is like to be human. The idea of a human being strictly following rationality is theoretical at best. People are not robots and they follow their emotions which may sometimes go against their rationality.

This brings me to my point which I made in Parsha Ki Tavo, Man can come to a belief in G-D through rationale. For instance, the Jewish people came to a belief in G-D because they saw the miracles and wonders that G-D performed, they even spoke with Him at Mt. Sinai. However, until they were able to emotionally involve themselves with the cause of the Torah, they were not connected to G-D. The Jewish people were not fully invested in the life of the Torah. They might have known that G-D was real, but they still desired to do things that were against the Torah. It was only once they were emotionally involved, connected to G-D and wanted their lives to be filled with G-D's holiness were they finally able to have this full connection.

People can be Jewish without G-D. People can claim to come to rational conclusions that G-D exists. However, this will not cause them to keep G-D's laws or even try to connect with Him. They might just say these things and even believe them, but that does not mean these ideas will be taken to heart. A person needs to find their own motivation for keeping the commandments. Some might say that rationally coming to a conclusion does give one motivation for keeping the Torah and trying to connect to G-D. This may be true, but in the end of the day the main reason a person uses rationality instead of mysticism or pure emotions is because rationality is what  fuels their desire, emotional desire. As I said before, human beings are not robots and they desire many things for different reasons. However, it is this desire that motivates him or her to act and really believe in something.This can either lead to a strong connection to G-D or none at all, even in the realm of people who DO believe in G-D.

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