July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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As we enter Pesach, the holiday of faith, we must reinforce our commitment to embarking on the journey of faith. There are five stages in this journey.

  1. Emunah Peshuta: Simple Faith:

The first is emunah peshuta. When you are two years old and still a child, you simply see reality as it is. No questions, no options; everything is just pure, true and beautiful.

  1. Blind Faith:

Then you learn how to speak. The world suddenly becomes a mystery. You walk around in wonder and confusion; you have questions; you’re learning to communicate. If you’re taught to believe in Hashem, you do. Not because you have any reason to, but because your parents or teachers tell you that Hashem loves you, that He created you, that he cares about you, and that “He gave you this delicious cookie as a present.”

  1. Experiential Faith:

However, as you get older, you want more. You want to meet Hashem, to talk to Him. You want to believe in Him, but you struggle; it’s hard. If only you could see Him, touch Him, or even hear Him, then you’d believe! You just want some indication that He’s here, watching, caring, just as you were told growing up.

Every once in a while, a coincidental encounter with Hashem, the sublime, occurs. Maybe your life was saved, maybe you just made your flight, or just missed it—and later heard it crashed. Maybe you found your soulmate, did well on your test, or got the job. Maybe you had your first child, your illness was cured, or you won against all odds. Maybe you were just in the exact right place, at the exact right time.

Suddenly, you believe. It’s real, at least to you. You’re convinced, you walk around as if floating on cloud nine. Life is good, pure, true and beautiful.

But somewhere along the line, this isn’t enough. You want more; you need more. Rational, logical and philosophical questions come up. “If God exists, then…” and “How can God exist if….” or “Why would God do…” Maybe your life falls apart and you cry out, “How can this have happened to me?!”

  1. Rational Knowledge:

This fourth stage is the rational stage. You need rational proofs: logic, philosophy, science, math, algorithms and intellect. So you begin to collect proofs.

  1. A) The big bang may explain how the world came about, but where did the big bang come from? It must have come from Hashem.
  2. B) The world is so organized and sophisticated. It must have been created.
  3. C) Quantum physics shows that the world is actually an expression of a supreme consciousness, so Hashem must be the neshama of the world.
  4. D) Einstein showed that time and space is relative, and only appears this way to us. But objectively, there is a dimension that transcends time and space. Hashem must be that which transcends time and space!

But this fourth stage is limited. You may have proved that Hashem exists, but so what? That doesn’t help you have a relationship with Him. It doesn’t help you truly know Him, to connect on the deepest level. As the Ramchal, Rav Moshe Luzzatto, explains in his sefer Da’at Tevunot, “The Knowing Heart,” rational proofs may reveal Hashem’s existence but they don’t allow for a deeper understanding of Hashem. You may know that God exists, but what does that mean experientially, how does this manifest in your actual experience of life? All you know is that God exists, but nothing more. This is why we need the fifth level.

  1. Experiential Knowledge: Truly Experiencing and Knowing Hashem

There are certain things that cannot be explained rationally. They transcend logical and rational explanations; they can only be experienced. These are not irrational, they are post-rational. Reason and logic lead you to them, but only experience itself proves them. Once you’ve experienced them you cannot simply prove them to someone else, for one must experience it themselves in order to truly know them. For example, if someone has never eaten chocolate before, it is impossible to explain to them what it tastes like. They need to taste it and experience it themselves. The same is true for spiritual wisdom:

  1. A) Love can’t be explained, only experienced.
  2. B) Goodness can only be experienced.
  3. C) The fact that you have free will is experienced every time you face a moral dilemma.
  4. D) The fact that life has meaning and purpose is intrinsic to the human experience, and yet impossible to prove.
  5. E) You know deep down that you are unique, that you were created for a reason, and that you have a unique mission in this world, yet again it is impossible to prove.

All of these things may defy logical and rational explanations, but are experienced deep within our consciousness, deep within our existential experience of reality.

Deeper Torah knowledge as well requires this post-rational experience, weaving your way into the inner dimensions of Torah consciousness. At this stage, you see reality as it is. No questions, no options, everything is just pure, true, beautiful.

But then you notice something grand, euphoric and unexplainable: This was the exact experience you had during the first stage. Your journey through life was actually the creation of an epic and cosmic circle! You lost that transcendent connection of oneness so that you could journey through life to rebuild it! Except this time, it’s real, it’s earned, and therefore it’s yours; you chose it, you built it, and now, you get to experience it!

My friends, life is full of ups and downs, light and darkness, clarity and faith. Belief is not a noun, it’s a verb, something you must constantly build, mold and develop.

When in the midst of struggle and darkness, remember how far you’ve come, remember why you’re here, remember your why in life, and then push forward, push forward, and take the next leap forward in your journey of faith!

By Shmuel Reichman

Shmuel Reichman is an inspirational speaker who has lectured internationally at shuls, conferences and Jewish communities on topics of Jewish Thought and Jewish Medical Ethics. He is the founder and creator of “Shmuel Reichman Inspiration: Think. Feel. Grow.,” a platform from which he shares inspirational Torah videos that have reached over 100,000 people. You can find more inspirational lectures, videos and articles from Shmuel on YUtorah.org and Facebook and he can be reached at [email protected].

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