April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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There is a story told about Sir Isaac Newton, who was known to have been a believer in God. Newton had a friend who was both a fellow scientist as well as an atheist. Newton had a skilled craftsman build a model of the solar system which rotated and orbited, imitating the real solar system. When Newton’s friend came to visit, Newton brought him into his study to show him his magnificent model solar system.

Upon examining the model, Newton’s friend expressed his fascination with it and asked who made it?

Newton replied that the model came about by accident.

He proceeded to explain that a dog chased a cat through a junkyard of spare metal parts. As they ran through the junkyard, the metal parts randomly flew into the air and landed in the exact formation of the model solar system.

His baffled friend proclaimed: “Sir Isaac, that’s ridiculous! This model is so brilliant, someone must have created it?”

Newton responded by asking his friend that if he recognized that this intricately detailed model clearly contained far too much intelligence to have come about randomly, how could he profess to believe that the great original from which the design was taken has come into being without either designer or maker!?

As the days of Elul turn to Tishrei and Rosh Hashanah, we find ourselves turning back home towards our spiritual roots. Our spiritual journeys, which often include our drifting along the winding path of daily life, culminate in months of teshuva and simchas hanefesh, the joy and spiritual calm of returning home, of returning back to port and the peace of mind that comes with returning to Hashem.

It would be logical to suggest that the alacrity and urgency of our annual and lifelong teshuva journeys would increase when accompanied by a similar strengthening of our individual and collective emunah, belief in Hashem.

Rabbi Yissachar Frand points to a particular fundamental and classic question brought by the Rambam, who asks how it can be a mitzvah to believe in Hashem? If one already believes in Hashem, then why must we need a mitzvah to tell us to do so? Alternatively, if a person doesn’t truly believe, then how will a mitzvah change that lack of belief?

The Rambam answers that the mitzvah isn’t simply to believe in God, as many commentators argue that belief in Hashem is naturally embedded deep within the DNA of each Jew (bringing truth to the old adage “there are no atheists in the foxhole”). Rather, says the Rambam, the mitzvah is to actively look for God in our lives.

Throughout the timeless classic sefer Chovos Halevavos, Rabbeinu Bachya goes to great lengths to convey one’s obligation to study the marvelous intricacies of Hashem’s world as an important vehicle for gaining greater emunah in Hashem. Analyze the vast complexities of the human eyeball, the miracles of childbirth, the brilliance of the human digestive system or the inner workings of how the human mind operates. Carefully watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset, gaze at the stars, watch the moon over the horizon or the beauty and color of nature and one is sure to arrive at the inevitable conclusion that there simply is no other truthful explanation for the marvels of creation other than the reality of an infinite Hashem being behind it all, running the world.

Equally as important as the study of nature itself, one need not look further than an honest study of one’s own life to recognize all of the hashgacha pratis, the hand of God, that clearly influences and directs what we experience in our own lives. Through honest reflection one can follow the wide web of hundreds of past decisions, and seemingly random events that led each of us to having all that we each have in our lives and to the life situations that we are each in. The reality, however, is that deep inside we know there is nothing random about it as there is a master of the world orchestrating it all.

Perhaps the ideal roadmap for returning to our spiritual roots however, transcends studying the marvels of Hashem’s creations and is best described by Sorah Rosenblatt a”h (a Baltimore-born and American-educated baalas teshuva who later married a Breslover chassid with whom she raised a large family in Me’ah Shearim) in her out-of-print collection of poems “Memo to Self: Songs of Jewish Living” (published by Feldheim and written under the pen name Ruth Lewis).

 

The poem is called “Interview”:

 

When asked,

“How did you come to Yiddishkeit?”

My answer depends on

who’s asking.

 

To most I say

“I was befriended by a family.”

(True, there was a family.

Those were the logistics;

there have to be logistics.)

 

To some I say,

“I read books.”

(There were books,

providing an intellectual rationale

for what goes far beyond

the rationale.)

 

But for you

only the truth will do:

I was so faint with longing

that the breath left my body.

I couldn’t catch it back.

When I caught it back,

I was someone else.

And that’s why.

May the wordless cry of the shofar elicit tears of joy as the light of our neshamot, souls, illuminates our paths home and enable us to once again return to the days where we danced joyously with Hashem. Shana Tova and may the year ahead bring happiness, good health and spiritual ascent for all!


Daniel Gibber is a longtime resident of Teaneck and is a VP of Sales at Deb El Food Products. In addition to learning as much Torah as he can, he is also privileged to speak periodically on the topic of Emunah and be involved in Jewish outreach through Olami Manhattan. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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