Authority and Sechel

You can't argue *Belief* in Moshiach from Authority!

Hmm. I happen to intellectually believe that had I not grown up super-rationally believing in God that the intellectual arguments would not persuade me. I understand on some level the rational arguments that the Rambam felt were sufficient to prove the existence of God, but they don't prove it to my rational satisfaction.

Wow, now I'm arguing with the Rambam, too. Look, I can't help it. His arguments don't do it for me. But one should not take that as a criticism of the Rambam, his arguments were based on the philosophical systems of his time.

Now maybe in the future either different arguments will be presented, or better explanations of the arguments, for both God's existence and some information besides "Moshiach will come at some time". But meanwhile, don't be surprised at people who scratch their heads.

Hmm again. You tell me that you intellectually believe in something. I don't question the belief (well we do seem to also differ on the question as to whether the Moshiach is likely to arrive soon as opposed to may arrive soon, may not), but I say, that's not intellectual, that's belief. If I am not careful I could confuse this with irrationality. I'll try not to do this. Perhaps I could put this in a non-insulting manner by saying that the rationality of the arguments is not apparent to me. When someone insists that they are being rational when it looks to me like they are being intuitive, well I don't have any categories for this that I would enjoy being called. Note that I'm not questioning the sincerity of those who say they have rational arguments.

One thing about rational arguments - you can't argue from authority. No matter how much more someone knows than me, you can't tell me, well he holds X, so you must too. If you are arguing rational you have to convince me of X, or accept that I am not rationally convinced.

Answer: Emunah and Sechel

I apologize for taking so long to answer this - sometimes work interferes with writing articles for SCJ, however there is a great deal of substance in what you are saying, and I would like to address it more fully (but in an order and sequence I find more comfortable).

Emunah vs. Sechel

You make two points on this:

  1. Rational arguments are absorbed/accepted by the intellect, as opposed to belief which is not absorbed/accepted within the intellect (rational mind).
  2. Rational arguments cannot come from authority. Until one is convinced of the argument it is still not rational.

To which I say a hearty AMEN.

Let me explain this as it is stated in Tanya chap 18:

In Mishley 14:15 it states:
"ki pati yamin lchol davar, v'arum yavin"
"A fool believes everything, but a wise person understands"

shul.jpg (91315 bytes)There are two powers in the soul: the power of emunah (belief) and the power of sechel (intellect). A fool uses his power of belief to understand things that he should use his power of intellect. Rather than use his sechel to understand how TV works, how radio's work, how the telephone works, he just believes they work. [and belief when mis-applied can lead to all sorts of magical interpretations or even heresies].

Another example. Imagine a Mongol tribesman from 500 years ago watching a heart transplant. To him it might appear that they are torturing the patient. Instead there actually is a deep rational reason for what they are doing, it is just that he has an untrained power of sechel, which cannot grasp the rational reasons for what they are doing.

A wise man, on the other hand, does not rely on his power of emunah to grasp things that are within the reach of sechel, but instead exerts himself to grasp as much as possible with his sechel.

Of course, there are things that we cannot entirely grasp. For example, G-D. We cannot understand him and we can't understand how he runs the world.

"ki lo macshovosai machosvochem"
"my thoughts are not your thoughts"

Rabbi Yani omer: ain b'yadianu, lo mshalvat harashayim, v'af lo m'yisoray hatzadikim" - , Avot 5:15

Rabbi Yani said: it is not in our hands, not the salvation of the wicked, nor the suffering of the righteous.

Moshe Rabbenu reached the 49'th level of understanding in G-dlyness. But when he asked to see G-D's face (which the rabbeim explain means how he conducts the world) G-D told him he could only see his back. I.e. he could not directly rationally obtain this understanding. Ultimately, it lies in the realm of emunah. [It is said that right before he died Moshe Rabbenu achieved the 50'th level of binah].

So, emunah and sechel are not separate and opposite. Instead there is a continuum. The more one applies and exerts one's intellect the more that was in the domain of emunah enters into one's rational understanding. However, from G-d's perspective, it is all sechel. How the world works, good/evil, the meaning of the chokim, etc. are all part of a G-dly logic.

The Rambam says that G-d is the knower, the known and the knowledge, and by knowing himself G-d understands the universe. When we understand something, we are something apart and separate from the known object. There is a subject (us) and an object (the known). [the knowledge refers to the power of intellect]. With G-D that is all one, but we don't understand how that is.

However, Rambam tells us not to be fools. That it is a mitzvah of emuas Elokus is to know G-d and how the heavens and the earth come from him alone. We should try and understand the reasons for the mitzvoth, for the chokim, and how the world is a product of G-dlyness and conforms to Torah (G-d's will) and is not truly opposed. It just seems that way to our limited sechel sometimes. And although we have Emunah that everything in the world occurs by hashgacha pratit (divine providence) to a large degree this is also within the realm of rationality and sechel and we should not be fools and exert ourselves as much as possible to see G-d's hashgacha pratit in the world.

And just as hashagach pratit is one of the 13 articles of faith, so is the belief in Moshiach. If we spend the time to study and learn what the nature of the world will be when Moshiach arrives, then there too we can begin to observe with our rational intellects the immanence of Moshiach, just as we can see Hashgacha Pratit.

This might also answer why a tzadik is able to predict the future with ruach hakodesh [which unlike nevius did not disappear, but let me not go down that path right now]. Ultimately everything is a G-Dly logic/sechel. However, the depth of the tzaddik's sechel is so great, that to us it appears supra-rational. We call this ruach hakodesh. It seems as mystical as the Mongol tribesman looking at the surgery. Certainly if the tzadik can predict the future, he can state certain signs are true signs of Moshiach and which are not.

How deep is the tzadik's knowledge? Well Shlomo HaMelech said he was able to give 2,000 moshels (analogies) to every law in Torah. What is a moshel? say a concept is beyond the sechel of a student. His teacher the rabbi's knowledge of the subject seems utterly profound and beyond the students grasp.

So the teacher creates a moshel for the original concept (nimshal) in the teachers head. The moshel is a stripped down version. It is couched in terms that the student is familiar with. The rich interconnecting logic that exists in the Rabbi's mind is not there.

Then after stating the moshel, and the student understands it according to his level. The teacher then starts explaining in which ways it is similar and in which ways it is different from the nimshal. He explains where the idea is applicable and where it is not. It is sort of like taking a seed (moshel) from a tree (the teachers knowledge) and planting it in the students head. With the proper gardening it will grow into just as rich a tree as the teachers original. At which point the student would now understand something that was completely opaque and magical before.

It was said that Shlomo HaMelech could give a chain of moshelim one sequentially after the other that would lift the student up level by level till after 2,000 one would have a glimpse of what it means to understand Torah at the level of Atzilut. Which was the source of Moshe Rabbenu's prophecy.

Author: Yechezkal-Shimon Gutfreund