Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Two Forms of Emunah: Another View

In the spirit of stimulating interesting discussion which we hope Mishmar will become famous for, I present my comments stimulated by Bari's post in the form of a separate posting. I do not so much disagree, rather I am giving a little different balance to the issue of the two types of faith. I also discuss the Iggeres Teiman regarding a person's tendencies towards belief.

This issue of emunah peshuta vs. chakirah is an age-old debate, and the Chassid Yavetz's opinion is as relevant today as ever. Obviously, the views of current manhigim(leaders) are of utmost importance, for it is they who are guiding the Jewish People for the long haul: ad bias goeil(which we hope is actually not such a long-haul).

Regarding a slightly different topic, current charedi hashkafa and mesorah(and even MO for young children, to an extent) is a mix of rational and mystical; the Rambam, Emunah V'deos and the Chovos HaLevavos, yes, but also the Chafetz Chaim, Arizal and the Maharal. Personally, I feel one must be well-grounded in emunah peshutah, especially at a young age. However, I think that it's important to make clear that emunah al pi chakirah is not totally rejected from Yahadus, even though it has weaknesses, and they have, arguably, been proven over time. As Bari quotes from the Chassid Yavitz, it was the "simple people" that were willing to die al kiddush Hashem.

To say that chakirah, however, is totally rejected would be like saying today that some elements of the Moreh Nevuchim became kefirah today(although some hold that). Rav Schwab also quotes a Shu't regarding TIDE that "ki he machalokes yeshanah"; its an age- old debate in Jewish History. Similarly, the question of the two types of emunah is also an age-old one. Of course, all of these are separate issues, but it should be mentioned that there are opinions which favor, specifically, a rational approach. I quote Michtav Meliyahu and Emunah Ramah( Raavad I) here (last comment in thread) which provide a nice balance and historical context for the issue.

The Beis Halevi's opinion in parshas Bo on dealing with a one who is challenging the faith, is also interesting. He emphasizes emunah peshuta, and not debating, but rather davening for that person! In other words, to an extent, one can not "give" another person emunah peshutah-- certainly not overnight-- although one can expose a person to a Torah environment.

Also, see the preface to the Lev Tov edition of Shaar Hayichud at length, regarding the drawbacks of chakirah. There is, of course, basis to the decision to skip Shaar Hayichud in charedi Yeshivos. It should be noted, however, that the Chasam Sofer did teach Shar Hayichud in his shiurim.

My personal thoughts, are that much depends on the person, that there are different mixes of both types of faith, and that it is not an either or issue.

I feel, though, that everyone needs to be well grounded in emunah peshutah, especially at a young age. I would go so far as to suggest, that had the Rambam written the Moreh Nevuchim, or Rav Saadiah Gaon, Emunah V'deos, at age five, they might(chas v'sholem) have become Kofrim! In other words, they as well, possibly, benefited from emunah peshutah.

Iggere Teiman

I would also like to quote the Rambam's letter in Iggeres Teiman("Epistle to Yemen"). He encouraged the Jews of Yemen who were facing forced conversion and also the prospect of a false Messiah; that community subsequently was grateful to him for generations later.

The Rambam there writes that the Torah promises that the Jewish people will always believe in Moshe Rabbeinu, v'gam becha yaaminu l'olam(Shemos 19:9) From this we see, writes the Rambam, that someone who leaves the Jewish faith, did not originally stand at Haar Sinai.

Rav Shaach, in the fifth volume of Michtavim and Maamarim was asked: we see Jews who did leave the faith! He answers that a person still has bechirah, free-will. The Rambam should be understood as merely stating the tendency of the Jewish nation in general; in other words, what I think we would call "a pintle Yid". R Shaach continues that the greater a person, the greater his opposing tendencies as well(e.g., he mentions the example of Korach).

Rav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg as well, in his sefer on emunah, quotes the Iggeres Teiman, Sefer Hayashar(Rabbeinu Tam) and Chasid Yaavetz, and maintains that emunah is a natural part of a Jew. Rather than create faith ex nihilo, the goal is to simply let the natural faith develop("mimelah") and expand through Torah and mitzvos, and to protect it by being careful regarding negative sources of exposure. He uses the approach of the Iggeres Teiman to answer questions raised by Rav Elchanon Wasserman in Kovetz Maamarim on the obligation to have faith.

However, I don't know for certain if we have ever "proven" this in the conventional sense. To do so, one would have to take ten Jews raised in a forest, and ten non-Jews raised similarly, and demonstrate the difference in the nature of the neshomos(souls), as far as belief. Also, as mentioned above from R Shaach, there is always the bechirah(free-will) factor that affects the equation.

It should be noted that Project Chazon and others have been developing programs to educate children with basic principles of Yahaadus. In a discussion on R Yaakov Horowitz site, the issue of children and emunah issues is raised(see my two comments there). I maintain that having doubts is a perfectly normal phenomenon, even if it is not publicly discussed, for good reasons. In fact, the Chovos Halevovos in Shar Yichud Hamaseh discusses at length natural thought- patterns that are in opposition to faith. This would indeed seem as R. Shaach states that a person has internal opposing, or conflicting forces. Clearly, it is not solely a recent phenomenon.

Challenges to Emunah may be viewed in a positive way: as a building block to growth; as I quoted above from Rav Shaach, "kol hagodel machaveiro, yitzro gadol heimeno". Rabbi Dr. A.J. Twerski also discusses the issue of doubts from a psychological perspective in a response in his "I am I".

Anyhow, thanks to Bari for translating RSZA writings; I agree as well with his last three paragraphs.

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