Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Is Emunah Peshutah blind faith?

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 the real way we understand God. 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 such a God may be. It is accepting on faith, what smarter people have concluded about God, until developing one’s own insights and confirming the correctness of those conclusions. Emunah Peshuta is not a goal but rather a stepping-stone on the way to greater understanding. It can lead to Yedias Hashem if the person fulfills his religious obligation of trying to acquire that knowledge.


  1. As Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook Zt"l once said, Emunah Peshuta is NOT Pashut.

  2. Two words: Reb Nachman. And no, I do not mean crazies who run around chanting Na Nach etc., but I mean the hashkafa of Likutei Moharan which eschews philosophy as a derech to arrive at yediyas Hashem. Emunah peshuta means that faith is not an intellectual process of discovery, the way you portray it, but is a leap of intuition into the void which the intellect alone cannot cross - e.g. see L.M. 62

  3. Chaim B. I know about Rav Nachman and I agree with his detractors. I tried tio read his stuff and it is very Christian. R.Adin Steinsaltz tried to make him understood in some of his writings in my opinion unsuccessfully.

    I don't think that just because someone had a different opinion makes him right and me wrong even if that other has a following.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Neil, I could not open it. I am not a big R.Schwab fan in general.

  6. Sorry, about the link. Not a Yeck, huh.

    You wrote, "Emunah Peshuta is not a goal but rather a stepping-stone on the way to greater understanding"

    I think that's a great way to define the concept. I've alwasy thought that Emunah Peshuta is like when you sit on a chair. If you have faith that the chair legs won't give out (which is most of the time) then you can have the foundation to do your work at a desk or eat a meal in comfort and security.