Thursday, February 08, 2007

Meditations on the Kuzari

Further to my previous post, I post below some discussions on the oft-quoted statement from the Kuzari in 1:67 and 1:89. I do not claim to have the final word on the balance of rationality and faith in Judaism, and I invite your comments.

Two additional notes on my previous post:

1) "Credo quia absurdum", is actually not a Christian concept either. Even fedeism( defined as a "system of philosophy or an attitude of mind, which, denying the power of unaided human reason to reach certitude, affirms that the fundamental act of human knowledge consists in an act of faith, and the supreme criterion of certitude is authority"), has been rejected in its extreme degree by some sources in the Catholic Church.

2) I was most impressed by Roberts comment on "Mystical Paths", and on "A Simple Jew", on the thread I linked previously:

OK, I am not a philosopher by any means. Nor am I a ba'al bitachon. I definately go for the Emunah/Chassidishe camp, and nevertheless have a lot of respect for the Chakira/Maimonidean Jews.I talked to my Rabbi about this, and he said that each soul has it's tendency to favour a certain derech. He says that both paths are valid. He also said that we have to follow the Chachamim in Halacha. Just as each of the 13 sh'vattim were different with different ways of serving Hashem, Judaism is rich and replete with different ways of interpreting the Torah.Both Chakira and Emunah have their plusses, and their risks. However this world is not 100% safe anyway.Looks like this is yet another reason to find yourself a Rabbi who will understand your derech and guide you in the way Hashem wants you to go!

The following are some online discussions of the Kuzari:

From Ohr Somayach’s Ask the Rabbi:

Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, in his famous work the Kuzari (1:67), writes that "Heaven forbid that there should be anything in the Torah to contradict that which is manifest or proved." Likewise, Heaven forbid that there should be anything manifest or proved which would contradict anything in the Torah. If one is convinced that G-d wrote the Torah and created the world, then one should fear no scientific discovery. Conversely, if one is afraid of what the scientists will discover, then one is clearly not fully aware that everything discoverable was created by G-d.

As mentioned, this assumes that “one is convinced that G-d wrote the Torah and created the world”. If one is wrestling with this idea, there is a choice-- to believe, disbelieve, or remain with questions. Another option is to concentrate on the experiential aspects of Judaism as well.

There is good discussion of the Kuzari in the Summer 2005 Jewish Action in Counterpoint: Kabbalah, Science, and Creation(link is towards the bottom of the OU page ).

Howard Shapiro:

Wisdom” never really contradicts Torah. Since both spring from the same Source—God, Who gave us Torah and the world—there can be no true conflict between them. As Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi exclaims, “God forbid that any matter of Torah contradict the testimony of direct observation or that which has been proven by logic!” (Kuzari 1:67). And “God forbid that we believe in that which is impossible or that which the intellect rejects and regards as impossible!” (ibid., 1:89). A conflict between the Torah we study and the world we observe would necessitate viewing the Torah as divorced from our sense of reality—a totally unacceptable conclusion for Judaism. Contradictions are possible (perhaps even inevitable) only when wisdom or Torah or both are misconstrued. For example, when logic is spuriously applied to intrinsically non-rational issues, or when scientific models are manipulated as the putative basis of moral values (or their negation), wisdom has overstepped its bounds. Similarly—as affirmed by such recent authorities as Rabbi Hirsch, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz and Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler—when our terrestrial Torah is purported to be readable as a blueprint for (or refutation of ) current scientific hypotheses, Torah has been perverted.

Professor Aviezer:

As one who has extensive experience in this field, let me assure the reader that for the Jew whose spirit is deeply troubled by these many seeming contradictions between Torah and science, it is insufficient to simply say, as Mr. Shapiro suggests, “Don’t worry, there is no true conflict.” When these challenges to Torah are hurled daily by peers whom the Jew admires and respects, and no satisfactory rational answers are forthcoming, doubt sets in and emunah(faith) begins to crumble. The troubled Jew has the right to receive rational explanations to his questions and not be put off by philosophical assurances that everything is really all right. Ignoring these cries for help from the anguished Jewish soul is indeed “a course fraught with danger.

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