Monday, December 04, 2006

Two Forms of Emunah II

In my previous post , I emphasized that Gedolie Yisrael, following a mesorah, choose an educational policy which they felt was best for the charedi community on a whole, as far as emphasizing emunah peshuta(simple, experiential faith). I also wrote that it is important to make clear that emunah al pi chakirah(faith supported by inquiry) was not totally rejected from Yahadus, even though it has weaknesses, and also that much depends on the particular person.

In "There is Only One Yeshiva College: A Memoir"(11/16/04/ Commentator) one leader of the Yeshivah University community discusses his formative years.

"One scene remains indelibly inscribed in my otherwise imperfect memory. I was visiting the home of my uncle, the founder and rabbi of the Crown Heights yeshiva, and noticed in his library the then standard English translation of the Rambam's Guide of the Perplexed. Perplexed I certainly was, but frightened as well. I had it drilled into me that it was strictly forbidden to read the Guide, because it was dangerous to my spiritual health, because it posed questions without providing simple answers, and because it would lead me astray into the study of philosophy and other such abominable heresies. But suddenly, with the Guide in my hands, I could not resist this heterodox temptation, and began to leaf through the recondite volume. I recall that I was particularly interested in angels "was there or wasn't there a rational explanation?" and so kept on reading furtively, afraid that at any moment some adult would walk in, catch me in the act, and publicly reveal my shame.

The author continues that this incident lead him to realize that he would be happier at Yeshivah University.

I would note that the above description is the author's own feelings, and does not give expression to legitimate concerns over learning the Moreh. But I am wondering had he expressed his concerns to a mashgiach, if he could have been guided in learning the Moreh, perhaps after having a thorough grounding in other hashkafah works. I think such an approach, for an intellectually-inclined person, is better than having someone eventually leaving the charedi world.

I contrast this with a positive experience of my own. I once thought of a question concerning how the rejection of kadmus(eternal theories of the universe) relates to, or flows from ikkarei emunah. I asked, a (charedi) rebbe of mine who had a "breidkeit"(broad outlook) in hashkafa about this. I was originally somewhat uncomfortable asking the question, because I felt that it was an unconventional type of thing to ask about. I remember this rebbe telling me that the Moreh Nevuchim deals with this question at length. At that point, this was sufficient, as I really was not interested in Platonic or Aristotelian theories of the universe; in fact, I think that I even felt good about being "mechavein" to the Moreh!

Now of course, a decision to change yeshivos is a personal decision and may be caused by more than one factor. However there need not be any reason, in my opinion, for anyone-- even in the charedi world-- to be "afraid that at any moment some adult would walk in, catch me in the act, and publicly reveal my shame."

I think that this illustrates my point that we should not completely consider emunah al pi chakirah as foreign to Yiddishkeit. True, a person should be well-grounded in experiential-faith before engaging in inquiry, but emunah al pi chakirah still has its place, at least for some individuals.

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