Drown No More – By Pinchas Winston
So often in life, our greatest asset in one situation can be our greatest liability in another. For example, intellectual analysis can often protect us from dangers that may go undetected by our emotions, but it can also destroy relationships that emotions could have easily repaired. Life is the fine art of knowing how and when to use each.
Another example is our ability to adapt to situations, even harsh ones. However, sometimes that does not work to our advantage, because rather than call out for help when we should, we persevere, at least until the situation becomes unbearable. This happened to the Jewish people in Egypt; had they only cried out to God earlier, they wouldn’t have had to suffer as they did.
The Sforno explains that when the Torah says that man was created b’tzelem Elohim—in the image of God, it means that he was given the power of discernment. This is an important part of mankind’s resourcefulness and a reason for his survival, but he sometimes uses his ability to intellectually discern to his disadvantage.
For example, there are the questions: Does God exist? And, if He does exist, is He involved in the affairs of man? Did He actually speak to the Jewish people and give them Torah? And, is it the same Torah that we learn and follow today?
There are many people on the planet who will answer yes to the first question, far fewer who will answer yes to the second question, and even fewer who will answer in the affirmative to the third question. Relatively-speaking, only a handful will accept the truth of the last question, simply because human beings are rational people, and rationally-speaking, there just isn’t enough evidence to inspire confidence in such a possibility.
Well, yes and no. There really is enough evidence to make the case for Torah from Sinai, which is why many secular Jews have become Torah-observant over the years. They didn’t just abandon their faculty of reason and become religious, but used it to make sense of information of which they had previously been unaware, and which convinced them that, chances are, our Torah is from God.
What about everyone else?
Everyone else who rationally rejects the Torah seems to be living with the assumption that if the evidence of its Divinity was truly there, it would jump out at them; it would readily available. At the very least, it should be duplicable in a laboratory where it can empirically be proven to be real or imagined.
However, that is like having the following conversation:
“Is it sunny outside?”
“How do you know, especially if you are sitting in a room with the shades drawn?”
“Does that really make a difference?”
Actually, yes, it does make a difference, a big difference. And, if the person refuses to get up and open the shades, he’ll never know the truth about the weather. At some point, that is bound to work to his disadvantage.
Likewise, unless a person makes the effort to peek behind the veil, they’ll never know the truth about Torah, and life for that matter. As it says:
It is a tree of life for all those who embrace it . . . (Mishlei 3:18)
That is, until someone reaches out and embraces Torah, it will not be a tree of life for him. Ironically, this verse is not talking to the intellect as much as one might first think.
Even scientists themselves have come to accept that little on the inside is as it seems on the outside. Indeed, until recently, scientists thought the same rules applied for all of physical Creation, regardless of size. However, the more they push the envelope in search of the most basic building blocks of Creation, the more they realize that the world operates differently on the level of super-small than it does on the level of big.
This is what bothered Einstein about Quantum Theory until his dying day. He assumed that God wanted us to find Him, and that being the case, created a world that was orderly and consistent, so it can take us right to Him. The notion that probability is at the bottom of all that physically exists disturbed him deeply, because it implied just the opposite. Therefore, he rejected it even as the rest of the scientific world was coming to terms with it. Not a very logical thing to do.
In truth, Einstein had been right about one thing and dramatically wrong about the other. Yes, God does want us to find Him; history has been only about this. However, a lack of certainty in Creation only means that He cannot not be found with the intellect alone. It can take us part of the way, but not the entire distance. Einstein didn’t lack intellect. He lacked something else.
The something else to which we refer is hinted to at the beginning of the Torah itself:
God saw that the light was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness. (Bereishis 1:4)
He saw that the wicked were unworthy of using it, and therefore set it apart for the righteous in the Future Time. (Rashi)
He made a separation in the emanation of the light, that it should not flow or give off light except for the righteous, whose actions draw it down and make it shine. However, the actions of the evil block it, leaving them in darkness, and this itself was the hiding of the Light. (Sefer HaKlallim, Klal 18, Anaf 8, Os 4)
We need to understand what this means, and well. For, even though for a religious Jew, Tanach is the basis of his daily belief and lifestyle, still, many tend to regard it more as fiction than fact. Living on this side of the page, it is hard for us to comprehend how what is on the page was once reality, and more importantly, will once again become reality, and soon. Not intellectually, but emotionally.
Soon, the old and the new will merge, in fundamental ways. Something will happen to make everyday life much less superficial, at which point the reality of God will become palpable to everyone still alive:
On that day, God will be One, and His Name will be One. (Zechariah 14:9)
Something is going to change that will make belief in God and Torah the most obvious of all, something that we would be wise to understand before it happens, and God Himself draws the shades.