In keeping with the concept of chukas – the mitzvos which have no discernible reason, and the acceptance of all mitzvos on the same basis – we present a letter in which the Rebbe answers to one questioning the acceptance of mitzvos on faith – doing things which the rational mind finds difficult and which limit one’s independent thinking. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
21 Tammuz, 5737
New York, N.Y.
Blessing and Greeting:
I am in receipt of your letter in which you write about your conflicting moods in regard to Yiiddishkeit and your difficulty to accept some mitzvos on faith, feeling that it limits your independent thinking, etc.
I trust it is unnecessary to explain to you at length one of the basics of our Jewish religion which is adequately dealt with in various sources. The point of it is that the fundamental approach to Torah and mitzvos was already established at the time of Mattan Torah, at the Revelation at Sinai in the presence of all our people, including all Jewish souls of all future generations. We all accepted the Torah and mitzvos by the unanimous declaration of both na’aseh (“we will do”) and v’nishma (“we will understand”) – and in this order, namely, the unconditional commitment to fulfill the Divine commandments first and then trying also to understand them – to the extent that is within reach of each individual, in view of the fact that G-d’s Wisdom and Will (the Torah and mitzvos) are essentially beyond full comprehension of a created, hence necessarily limited, human mind.
That his approach is also a logical one should be evident even on a little reflection. A Jewish girl from the age 12 years and a boy form the age of 13, are full-fledged Jews. It is impossible that at this age their minds and intelligence should have reached the zenith of perfection. Hence, if the mind should be the sole judge of one’s conduct, one can see what the results would be. Similarly, as a boy and girl grow older, and indeed to a very ripe old age, the mind continues to develop. If a person should postpone doing what is expected of him or her until such a time as he or she will reach complete intellectual maturity, there would be irretrievable loss in the fulfillment of the Divine Will.
In light of the above, your argument, how can you do things which your rational mind finds difficult, or impossible, to accept, should be amended by the addition “as of this moment,” for tomorrow and the day after your mind will not be the same. Is this reason enough to neglect your obligations today, because you happen to be a year younger than next year?
Furthermore and this too has often been used as an illustration. Assuming the yetzer hara plants a doubt in the mind as to any particular mitzvah, which might take years to resolve in one’s mind. If, nevertheless, the person fulfills the Divine precept, the only thing he stands to “lose” is the price of some personal inconvenience – be it having to forgo the taste of a certain food in which he might have indulged like any unrestricted gentile, or forgoing a ride on Shabbos and the like. On the other hand, if he should allow himself to be swayed by the yetzer hara, he will have deprived himself of an inestimable treasure in terms of the daily Jewish experience of Torah and mitzvos, with all that it means in terms of fulfillment in this world and eternal bliss in the Hereafter. And if, G-d forbid, he should further be swayed by the yetzer hara to commit a transgression, could he eventually forgive himself for transgressing the Will of G-d?
In final analysis it is simply a matter of taking account the pros and cons of the odds involved. When a person is given an opportunity to invest a penny with a chance of winning a fortune, there is no doubt what a sensible person would do in such a case.
May G-d grant that you should realize that your doubts and distractions are nothing but the guiles of the yetzer hara, who in our sacred literature is described as “old and foolish” and surely unworthy of being taken seriously.