First, thanks so so much for taking the time to respond to my questions. It really means very very much to me.
Before going any further, I just want to clarify my intentions, since I believe you might have made some assumptions about myself and the questions I ask.
I would also like to apologize for dumping lots of questions in a very 'foncused' form without much order. I hope this clears some of the mumble jumble.
As I already mentioned, I was raised in a very Frum and Chassidish family, and I still live in that circle.
Although I never shed my garb, and I never left my community, still my heart and soul did go through some changes over the years. As I grew up and got older, I always had lots of questions. I always wondered why other people don't have those questions, just living life and going through it without being aware of the extreme wonder it is. I don't actually really envy the people who don't ask questions, although I wish I would have such inner peace as they do.
As I watched the world around me, I would always wonder what's the purpose of this whole phenomena, the phenomena of life which to me is the greatest mystery. Thinking about it I just feel like 'wow', being sometimes just overwhelmed with how amazing it is, and how deep it really is. The idea of being aware about your perception and observing just the fact of being alive is an amazing experience.
The "questions" I'm referring to are not just technical and logical, but are much more emotional, running deep from brain to heart and into my being, affecting my whole outlook on the world and my mood....
Questions like "How real is this world?" and "Is there a way to measure how real something is? An absolute reality?", "What is the real truth?", "Is there one single real truth, or is truth unique to it's beholder, thereby allowing multiple truths?"
I would sometimes find my thoughts being discussed already, as was the case when I found a Wikipedia page about the topic which bothered me, finding that it has a name already "Brain in a Vat
" and the "Dream Argument
This also lead me to questions if Logic is really logical, or is it not. Isn't it possible that logic is just a way of thinking that makes great sense to us, because of the way we are created and wired, but in 'reality' (a question by itself...) logic might make no sense, or perhaps the idea of making sense is just something that makes sense to us, but perhaps 'sense' is nowhere to be found in the 'real reality'.
These questions might sound crazy, I know. But once you realize how 'funny' and interesting this world is, and once you realize that the existence of the world around you is 'reality' just because your perception of it, you start questioning where the bigger picture lies, trying to find a frame of reference, and something that's absolute and concrete.
The sad part of the story is that I know very well I can't answer the questions, but the happy part of it all is that I can't answer these questions.... Meaning, the realization of my own limits, and the nothingness of the human being, which brought back the idea of how little we truly are and how we can't go out of the boundaries in which we are. It is the realization that I truly might be a brain in a vat, and there is no way of going out of the vat I'm in; the idea that I know nothing about my own essence which is 'life'.
One of the great questions which bothered me all along was the meaning of life and its purpose. In the beginning I would question if there is a logical need for meaning in life, or not. I asked myself: "If you were to find out that there actually is no meaning in life, would that mean at attempt at suicide?", but my response was "No, I would probably just live life the way I do, and I would try to enjoy it as much possible".
But the idea of living life just for enjoyment was not sitting well with me. As I was observing the world, I saw that a great percentage of people actually live according to the above philosophy (or probably a lack of any philosophy....), trying to run after the enjoyments of life, money, cars, food, etc. and they are always trying to enjoy more and more.
I would always try to imagine myself at the age of 120, lying on the deathbed, moments before leaving this world, and I would try to ask myself if I'm happy with the life I lived or do I believe it was in vain.
As I would imagine the above, I was certain that living a life with no meaning would be such a sad story to me. Enjoyments are all great at the moment, but they are temporary and don't carry any meaning. Is it possible for me to live life just for the moments happiness? Living without meaning would imply there is no meaning in the existence of the world, and it's all just in vain. What's the point?
I started feeling like a walking Koheles... But without the last few verses... I would try to find meaning, reason, but I could not find it.
Looking around, I was seeing people busying themselves with so many things, but it all looked pointless and comical. What's the point in all this?
And the more I thought about it, the less I started to see the enjoyment in the things considered enjoyable to most. Of course, every human has his physical inclinations, and there is no person who can claim not enjoying the physical enjoyments, but the more I saw the emptiness and the void of meaning, the less attractive it became.
But, again, it was all questions and no answers.
Of course, I was thinking about how religion can give the answer to all my questions. I had a feeling the answer must be right at home, and I started to think about how the answer to all my questions must be in Judaism, but I still had no idea how to put the puzzle together.
I was, of course, aware that according to our Mesorah, the ultimate meaning in this world is in serving HaShem. Great! But how does this answer the question? What is the meaning in serving Hashem? I would still ask "What's the point?"
I would assume that the ultimate meaning of life must be tied to the meaning of the universe. But what is it?
As I'm writing this, I still try to figure out the answer, and I'm slowly learning and trying to find the real path, the path which will give me peace and meaning, happiness and light.
Now, let me begin replying to your response.
it is true that we cannot fathom how Hashem made the world, because (a) we are incapable of conceptualizing nothingness, and creation was out of nothingness, and (b.) the world itself contains infinite wisdom (Rambam Yesodei HaTorah 2:2) and obviously we are incapable of knowing all of it.
However, our inability to fully understand the laws of nature has nothing to do whatsoever with being an atheist, pantheist, theist, or idol worshiper. Please explain what he means by "the problem involved is too vast for our limited minds" - what problem exactly is he talking about? Einstein (who was no authority in philosophy or theology, nor was he any more objective than any other guy off the street). here tied our inability to completely understand nature to "our attitude toward G-d." But that is only true if you assume that there is nothing else that contributes to our attitude toward G-d except our understanding of nature. And that assumption is false. If you are looking to understand Hashem through mathematical equations then of course he is correct. But that is like saying "A metal detector can tell you some metal is there but it cannot tell you exact details about what it is."
True, but that doesn't mean there are not other means at your disposal to find out. A shovel may help. Our limited understanding of nature only means that we can only figure out so much about the Creator through nature (unless you are Avraham Avinu of course), but it does not mean that we have no other means at our disposal. We do. If science is all you know, you won't know historical facts and if history is all you know, you won't know science. Thinking that the only method of our disposal to find truth is by science is a very bad mistake, See this article, and this one.
In fact, the way we know about Judaism is not through science - it is through history. As in "Mesorah" - see here and here. Looking for Judaism in a science book is like looking for quantum mechanics in a global studies book.
The way I read Einstein's words is that he is basically stating the fact that no human can conceive of the creator, something everyone would agree on. When he said that "the problem involved is too vast for our limited minds", he probably meant to say that it's out of our scope. The 'problem', in this case, means the 'question'. So, in other words, he is saying that the question involved in figuring out how everything and anything came into being is too vast for our limited minds. It's because our minds and it's thinking are part of the creation, part of the question, and our minds are limited, where we can't understand what preceded us.
You are basically stating the same. But you are saying that we know Hashem not by observing the world, but by other means, which is Mesorah. Great. So we shall discuss Mesorah, in a bit.
Why do we need to know anything about the creator's essence? What difference does it make?
About the purpose of creation, what does the purpose of creation have to do with us not knowing anything about the creator's essence? The purpose of creation is not part of the creator's essence? Inability to know one does not mean the inability to know the other.
The question was simple: if the human mind can't know anything 'outside' this world, and the only thing it can conclude by its logic is only the fact that a creator exists, how can the human mind decide on anything besides the existence of Hashem? How can I know which path is the right one? If all I know is that Hashem exists, it does not imply the rest of Judaism or any religion (LeHavdil). It does not imply 'why we are here' and so on. Deism holds true the existence of a deity and that's the end of the story. It's not a religion, just logical conclusions.
At this point I feel compelled to point out to you that your last 2 questions, the ones I just quoted above, cannot be your own. Such questions are only questions if you assume that knowing the essence of the Creator is a required element of a religion. Of course it is not. Thinking so indicates a complete lack of understanding of what a religion actually is. And by that I mean anyone who grew up in a frum home would not have such a question on his own. Such a question comes from someone who is not religious, knows little or nothing about religious philosophy (even less than the average frum person), looks at religion from afar and says, "Well religion is all about G-d, and since you know nothing about G-d, how can you have a religion?"
The question is, frankly, a sign of immense ignorance of the topic being discussed.
You cannot possess that level of ignorance, both because you grew up frum as well as from the rest of your question, which indicates you are not toally ignorant about Judaism.
You saw this question on some website or book or heard it from someone. And it sound nice so you internalized it, but it makes no sense at all. Just saying.
Back to the topic at hand. We don't know anything about what Hashem is, but we know what Hashem is not. And we know about how he acts, by observing the patterns of actions that he takes. None of that has to do with his essence. So what?
As far as the purpose of creation, we can reason this as well, as the Seforim of our Rishonim explain. We know that the Creator has no imperfections (if He would then He would have boundaries and attributes), and therefore cannot gain or lose anything. You cannot add to Him nor subtract from Him.
Now after the Creator created the world, there were only 2 things in existence: The Creator and the creation. Therefore, the purpose of creation must have been either:
#1 is not possible since the Creator, being intrinsically perfect and also beyond change cannot be impacted by creation
- For the sake of the Creator
- For the sake of the creations
- For no sake, i.e. there was no purpose
#3 is absurd, especially for a perfect Being
#2 - This is the conclusion: The purpose of creation was for the sake of the creations.
Now "for the sake of the creations" can mean one of two things:
#1 - For the benefit of the creations
#2 - For the detriment of the creations
#2 is illogical because there is no purpose in harming anyone unless someone (usually the person doing the harm) benefits from it (or is insane which is not an option here). And since the Creator cannot benefit from anything, the conclusion is that the purpose of creation was for the benefit of the creations.
Meaning: Hashem created the world in order to do Chesed.
But all of the above is really NOT the way we know the purpose of creation. It is not really worth discussing much, except academically. Again - our knowledge of Judaism is not from science or philosophy (although sometimes the assertions of both are similar or the same). Our knowledge of Judaism is from the Mesorah, and it is from there that we know the purpose of creation.
Alright, so it actually all boils down to Mesorah in the end.
But here I have a problem, because Mesorah can't be proven, and I'm sure you are aware of the fact that other religions have different Mesorahs. History, by its nature, is something which cannot be proven and is sometimes not accurate.
The other question is: What is included in Mesorah and what's not? There were so many different opinions within the Jewish nation over the years, with many different approaches. Now, how would anyone know what's actually right?
I don't know what religion you are talking about, but there are no explanations or interpretations about what we do not know in Judaism. Again, you did not think this thought yourself. It was told to you or you saw ti somewhere. As a frum Jew, I'd like to ask you: Can you give me a single "explanation or interpretation about what we do not really know" in Judaism? Such a statement can only be spawned by the mind of someone that believe in order to be e monotheist you need to have some kind of explanation or interpretation about what preceded us. That is a false statement, and a strawman created by whoever it is that thought of that idea.
Again, what I meant here is that the existence of Hashem does not logically imply any religion. It's just like you said, that the reason for all we now do is because of Mesorah. If that's the case, than we have no disagreement, and we both can agree that our religion (the 613 mitzvos etc) is not a product of logic but tradition.
What I said "hinted" at no such thing, because if that is your definition of "belief" then Judaism has nothing to do with "beliefs". Emunah is not belief. Emunah means "unwavering." As in וידיו של משה היו אמונה לשמים or the word נאמן which means reliable. You are, once again, taking non-Jewish concepts (in this case "belief") and projecting it on to Judaism, when Judaism has no such concepts.
Furthermore, it says nowhere in the Torah, even, that we have to have Emunah. It says, instead, Anochi Hashem Elokecha - a fact:
I am Hashem." It is from there that we derive the Mitzvah of Emunah. Clearly, the fact that the Torah told this to us in this manner, tells us that this is the degree of surety that we are supposed to have. A statement of fact.
Furthermore, if you look in the Rambam (and other Seforim as well) you will find that our obligation is not merely Emunah, but "Yediah" as well Yediah means to "know." But not just to know - to know intimately. In a sensory manner.
The differences between Emunah and Yediah are complicated (see my footnote #4 in this sefer). But the way you describe "belief" - that is neither Emunah nor Yediah, and it is NOT what Judaism professes.
The Ran that I cited says that when Hashem introduced Himself He did not say merely "Hashem exists" because they knew that already - through their logic. Instead, He said "I am Hashem" meaning, I, Who just took you out of Egypt, I am the G-d you know exists." That does not mean there is no basis to believe that. On the contrary - Hashem just told it to all of them, which is a pretty good "reason" to "believe." All the Ran is saying is that Hashem had no need to tell them the obvious, which His existence was. Instead, He told them that it was Hashem the Creator Who took them out of Egypt, as opposed to an angel or anything else.
I'm glad to learn this, for I despise 'belief' by itself. I'm hungry than to learn what Emunah really is.
We all have Bechirah, and our Seforim tell us that a person can proactively confuse himself so much that he can cause himself to lose any semblance of Emunah that he might have, despite all the good reasons to believe. A person can also simply choose not to believe. But everyone agrees that a person can mess himself up and end up, well, funcuzed.
The Yismach Moshe (quoting Alshich I believe) and Rav Elchonon in Kovetz Maamarim both say that the MItzvah of Emunah means to stay objective. Meaning, not to bias yourself by subjecting yourself to influences of dubious reliability. In other words, if you read anti-religion literature, you cannot blame anyone if oyu suddenly see your judgement tainted.
It's like if you're on a jury. Nobody is asking you to be the most brilliant detective or analyst of facts or even more astute than the average (or even less than average) person. But we do require you to make sure to remain objective and base your opinion on the evidence and only the evidence. If you read a newspaper article about the case, you are not longer qualified to have an objective opinion. We throw you off the jury.
Same thing with Emunah. The Torah requires that we be honest and ruthlessly objective. But reading books written by people with slanted thinking or incorrect facts (such as the statements above about religion needing to know the essence of G-d or the deriving the purpose of creation from logic), will cause you to be confused, and maybe even think that Judaism is a "belief system," in the sense that a "belief" is something you believe without a reason.
And of course, even if a person does not pursue "newspaper articles about the case", this particular jury is judging itself - whether they are obligated to fulfill the Torah, whether they are bound to Hashem's word. That means we start off with a vested interest. The Mitzvah of Emunah is to overcome that vested interest and to be intellectually honest with ourselves. It is just the opposite of how you described it. it is not that the Torah asks us to believe something without any reason - the Torah asks us not to follow our vested interests but rather to be intellectually honest, and to protect our minds the way a Chazal would protect his voice, or a pianist would protect his hands.
Objectivity and intellectual honesty is all Jewish "Emunah" requires.
Yeah, I know what you mean, but should I feel guilty for having such questions?
I am not running around trying to look for new questions. I rather ponder the questions I have, trying to find answers.
Yes, I have tried to look into various places in order to see what they offer. Let me be honest and say that I even looked into atheism, and I'm glad I found it to be such nonsense. I do feel that 'sense' lies here at home, and not far out away. I just need to rediscover it, and not take it for granted, because I refuse to live an auto-pilot life. I can't allow myself to do something without realizing what it is. I hope finding meaning will make life more enjoyable.
First pointer: learn about Judaism FROM JUDAISM. Not from foreign sources of dubious knowledge that present their version of Judaism or religion. You will save yourself a lot of funcusion that way.
If you can, can you please give me a basic quick rundown of your quesitons. Not thousands, but maybe a dozen or so? The reason I ask is because I'd like to point you in the direction of material that will help you (besides me doing what I can), and in order to do that I need to know what type of questions we are talking about.
But just based on what you wrote here, I would highly recommend three books by Rav Avigdor Miller: Awake My Glory, Rejoice O Youth, and Sing You Righteous. They directly address the issues you have mentioned here.
Again, please don't assume that I don't do so.
I actually have started reading some of the books you mentioned, and it's amazing. I will check out the others.
I have lately bought some Sforim by the Ramchal, a Kuzari, and some others.
As I said many times, I do have a feeling that the truth is in Judaism. But still, I have to find it. I have to dust it off. Judaism as lip service, as something you do without knowing why and how, is boring and outright not-enjoyable at all. It would be very hard for me to live according to the Torah without first realizing what's the point behind it. It would be a mere restriction on life and I would not be able to cling to it for too long.
I hope the day comes when I find the real light, the light to discern truth from false, the ability to feel at ease and in peace with the truth I find.