Monday, May 22, 2006

Emunah Peshuta - True or False.

I always get irritated when people refer to ignorance as Emunah Peshutah. Nebech an idolater is still an idolater and a person that believes in a comprehensible God is wrong and does not believe in the God of Israel.

Rambam in Moreh 1:35 states;

That God is incorporeal, that He cannot be compared with His creatures, that He is not subject to external influence; these are things which must be explained to every one according to his capacity, and they must be taught by way of tradition to children and women, to the stupid and ignorant, as they are taught that God is One, that He is eternal, and that He alone is to be worshipped. Without incorporeality there is no unity, for a corporeal thing is in the first case not simple, but composed of matter and form which are two separate things by definition, and secondly, as it has extension it is also divisible. When persons have received this doctrine, and have been trained in this belief, and are in consequence at a loss to reconcile it with the writings of the Prophets, the meaning of the latter must be made dear and explained to them by pointing out the homonymity and the figurative application of certain terms discussed in this part of the work. Their belief in the unity of God and in the words of the Prophets will then be a true and perfect belief.”

In other words if a child is taught that God is transcendental and as he grows up he is confronted with the text which seems to contradict that, he is forced to think about this. His Rebbis should grasp the opportunity and explain to him why we understand God this way. As he grows further he will come to know more and understand more. The Torah’s goal is to teach man and it does it by forcing him to confront the contradictions of our existence. We can only understand the physical but we know and can infer that there is a God/Creator whose essence is not understood or known. Rambam continues:

Those who are not sufficiently intelligent to comprehend the true interpretation of these passages in the Bible, or to understand that the same term admits of two different interpretations, may simply be told that the scriptural passage is clearly understood by the wise, but that they should content themselves with knowing that God is incorporeal, that He is never subject to external influence, as passivity implies a change, while God is entirely free from all change, that He cannot be compared to anything besides Himself, that no definition includes Him together with any other being, that the words of the Prophets are true, and that difficulties met with may be explained on this principle. This may suffice for that class of persons, and it is not proper to leave them in the belief that God is corporeal, or that He has any of the properties of material objects, just as there is no need to leave them in the belief that God does not exist, that there are more Gods than one, or that any other being may be worshipped.”

Emunah Peshuta is not to believe in a God of our imagination, never mind how comforting a personal, knowable and tangible God is, but accepting on faith what smarter people have concluded about God. That He is not a body nor anything physical, nor anything that a human can understand or know no matter how brilliant they are. That is Emunah Peshuta. However it is not a goal in itself but must be seen as a stepping stone that will allow for greater insight and understanding. To be satisfied with Emunah Peshutah, even the correct belief, is avoiding to fulfill one's obligation of Yedias Hashem.

18 comments:

  1. Some consider emunah pshuta the ultimate goal.

    ReplyDelete
  2. JF that is my point.

    It is an offshoot of R.Nachman Breslaver's ideas. He came tom it from the point that God is completely unknowable and it is futile to try to understand Him. That is probably why a lot of rebbes, the rational camp of chassidus which at the time included Chabad! were against him.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The way I've looking at it recently is that the term God is synonymous with Reality/Existence. This means that God is both the source of all that exists and the sum total of all that exists, since everything is within and a part of Reality. There can't be anything greater or apart from Reality/Existence since it is infinite and all inclusive.

    ReplyDelete
  4. >This means that God is both the source of all that exists and the sum total of all that exists, since everything is within and a part of Reality.

    That is the Kabbalists approach especially Chabad. I do not accept that. That is why I am harping all the time about the limits of knoewledge. You are insinuating your human concept of time/space/existence. God is not all that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Why do you say that I am talking about time/space? That is only how we humans can understand reality. But Reality is not limited to time and space.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So you are saying what I am saying. God is beyond our experience therefore we cannot know Him as to His essence or anything that directly is Him. So why bother understanding what we cannot. Let us stay with His creation and learn from it.

    The way you put it confuses God's reality with ours.

    ReplyDelete
  7. And you are both saying what I'm saying, which is that from nothing you get nothing. If you make God unknowable, then you have to live with God being unknowable. In other words, you have to live with not being able to make any meaningful statements about God, and you have to live with all the consequences (e.g., for religion) that follow from that.

    ReplyDelete
  8. >and you have to live with all the consequences (e.g., for religion) that follow from that.

    Which are?

    ReplyDelete
  9. In the words of Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook Zt"l:

    Emunah Peshuta is not Pashut!

    The problem is David is that the rationalists are a bit disingenuous. They draw an arbitrary line when they say we can understand Hashem's actions and nothing else. The kabbalists just go a bit further and say we can understand Hashem's Chochma (while agreeing that we can not grasp His essence).

    In other words, they reject the idea that Hashem's essence is synonymous with His "knowledge".

    ReplyDelete
  10. >In other words, they reject the idea that Hashem's essence is synonymous with His "knowledge".

    I understand that and that is what I have been writing about. See my post on R.Meir Simcha and on Chabad a while back. RMs disagrees and Chabad takes it to an extreme.

    I know that my approach is unlike the Kabbalah. All I am trying to do is define the positions and let people decide what works for them. The problem I see is that people talk without thinking, confuse the shitos with an Elu Ve'elu argument. Each position views the other as wrong and that is fine. people should have their conviction as long as they treat the other side with respect.

    At the end of the day, I cannot understand how anyone can disagree with the way i see it! (smile)

    ReplyDelete
  11. The consequences of "unknowability" for religion are that one cannot trace religious teachings and rituals back to God. I think that if we firm-up the meaning of "unknowability," this will become very clear.

    ReplyDelete
  12. >The consequences of "unknowability" for religion are that one cannot trace religious teachings and rituals back to God.

    That is not correct. I will deal with that as I get to prophecy. i have a post on a small aspect of it in the next day or so.

    ReplyDelete
  13. OK, I will look forward to that.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Some Guy, just one more thing God does not talk to man, Man seeks out God and "hears" Him. See Rashi on Vayishma es hakol midaber, in the last possuk of Nossoh and Seforno there.

    ReplyDelete
  15. jewishskeptic5/22/2006 3:45 PM

    The Rambam completely failed!
    He was very influenced by Greek philosophy,especially by Aristotle,as interpreted by the Muslim philosophers.
    He hardly said anything new. His attempt at reconciling biblical anthropormorphism with the Greek concept of God was taken from the Muslims attempt to do so with the Quran centuries before him. Nothing new!
    His attempt is very contrived & selective.
    Anyone who knows biblical Hebrew can see how farfetched his interpretations are. Even the first word he interpretes(ch.i) tselem (צלם is unconvincing!
    His-Greek concept did not catch on by the masses or even the rabbis.
    And rightly so! How can you pray to a God that you can describe onlynegatively? How can such a God hear your prayers? There is the contradiction of the Rambam!
    And finally,how can anyone have any kind of relationship with such a God?!
    People coudn't stomach such a God.It was very unsatisfying.
    That's why the Kabbalah was developed,with a much more approachable & personal God! And later on came along Chasidism with its Tsadikim as intermediateries between man & God.

    ReplyDelete
  16. >So you are saying what I am saying. God is beyond our experience therefore we cannot know Him as to His essence or anything that directly is Him.

    I don't think so. I don't think God is completely beyond our experience by the fact that we can know God in some sense through our human faculties. We may not completely know God, but that's not the same thing as saying it is unknowable. We can understand God as it is reflected by time/space etc.

    >The way you put it confuses God's reality with ours.

    I am saying there is only one reality, not two. We understand reality based on the the way our mind is capable of understanding. Let's put it this way, Reality is infinitely multifaceted and we can't perceive it fully in all its ways, but we can understand it in some way

    ReplyDelete
  17. >Some Guy, just one more thing God does not talk to man, Man seeks out God and "hears" Him. See Rashi on Vayishma es hakol midaber, in the last possuk of Nossoh and Seforno there.

    That is a distinction without a difference. Since you have conceded that God is unknowable, any attempt to know him or his will is futile. Thus, the prophets could not have heard God. Moreover, even if they had discerned some essential truth regarding his will there would be no way for them or for us to know that for a fact.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Jewish Skeptic - You present many arguments that are quite valid but I believe you really misunderstand what Torah, Judaism and Rambam are all about. I will be addressing every one of your issues as I get from subject to subject and keep reading and commenting.

    BS and Mike - Let me try to put it in as few words as possible. Rambam maintains that there is a clear delineation between science which is knowable empirically and metaphysics which cannot be known that way. Metaphysics can only be known by inference and therefore it like seeing a shadow or traces of something else. That is not our reality but of the entity we infered it to. We cannot know more than that however that does not stop us from analyzing that shadow or trace and try to read from it the mind so to say of its owner.

    Now Mike, you are right Rambam's prophecy is totally different than traditional revelatory prophecy, and his understanding of the prophet's connection with God is also totally different. I cannot address it here in comments however I will be posting about it. the prophecy part you can see my article in Hakirah vol 1 at Hakirah.org. Next issue will have an article by me on miracles and prophecy and its connection. I will be posting about Sinai in the next few posts. So keep on reading and commenting. Your comments sharpen my thinking and I thank you.

    ReplyDelete