Weekly Letter: Contrasting the Idea of “Faith” and “Reason”
As we begin this week the history of the Jewish people with our Patriarch, Avraham, known for his teaching of “monotheism” to a society steeped in idolatry, we present a letter from the Rebbe contrasting the idea of “faith” and “reason”. 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
5 Shevat, 5737
Oak Park, Mi. 48237
Greeting and Blessing:
In reply to your letter you will find enclosed a brochure on the subject matter. It is based on the Kuzari which, though written centuries ago, is valid also today, and precisely from the viewpoint of empirical science.
With reference to the question of proof of the existence of G-d – the medium of a letter and the pressure of time make it difficult to go into the complex matter here.
However, I would make at least one observation regarding your basic premise upon which your proof rests, namely, in your words, “….if this process of making intelligent things continues after some time there will be things which compared to us are gods.” etc. On closer scrutiny you will see that this does not necessarily follow, as, for example, in regard to such divine attributes as the power of creation ex nihilo, or that G-d cannot be affected and many others.
I would like to add a point which is essential in my opinion. I refer to the philosophical discussion on the question of how a person can prove scientifically that he exists. Needless to say, for all practical purposes, as well as for personal satisfaction, no individual requires proof of his existence, and one need not write a treatise to confirm one’s profound conviction, both consciously ad unconsciously, that one exists. The same is true about the existence of G-d. A normal person, who is not prejudiced by personal motivations or rationalizations, requires no proof of G-d’s existence. The question can only arise for the sake of discussion, or answering skeptics. Otherwise debating the question is really pointless.
The reason I consider the above point essential is that an approach based on proof of G-d’s existence has an inherent weakness in that all “scientific,” or so-called philosophical proofs are subject to the limitations of science and philosophy. Whereas emunah – the conviction of real faith – is by its very nature unshakable and pervasive, permeating one’s whole being.
In final analysis, since all so-called “scientific” proofs of G-d’s existence are “debatable” we must take recourse in emunah , rooted in the historic truth of the Revelation at Sinai, preceded by the Exodus from Egypt (when all Jews declared “This is my G-d and I will glorify Him”) as has been transmitted to us in an unbroken chain from generation to generation.
A further important point, perhaps the most important, is this: although emunah is rooted in the mind and heart (intellect and emotion), our Torah, called Toras Chayim – because it is the Jew’s true guide in life – declares that “the essential thing is the deed,” that is to say the daily life and conduct in accord with G-d’s Will, as set forth in the Torah. This principle too, could be explained and “validated” in various ways, hence also limited, but as above, surely no proof is needed.