Ki Tisa/ Vayakhel/Shekalim

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Truth and Faith

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

In the evening service (after reciting the Shema), there is a paragraph that begins: “It is true and faithful all of this, and established for us, that he is God and there is none other…who performs countless wonders…” We refer to this paragraph as Emes Ve’emunah (Truth and Faith). It seems that both truth and faith are crucial. How do we categorize these two concepts? How do we understand the interplay of these two concepts?

Rebbi Natan, in Laws of Superstition and Sorcery, explains that truth refers to applying our intellects to understanding the truth about the universe and the purpose of life. In seeking out the truth, we are obligated to apply our intellects as objectively as possible. One who truly seeks out the truth will discover that: 1) there is sufficient evidence to come to the conclusion that there is a creator of the universe, 2) the Torah is God’s word, and 3) history and nature are governed and controlled by God.

Our intellectual discovery of these truths leads to a surprising conclusion—we cannot understand God or His interaction with the world. Our intellectual truth leads us to the conclusion that we cannot understand the details of the truths we have discovered with the human mind. This is the deeper meaning of what Rebbi Nachman taught: “The purpose (conclusion) of all real knowledge is to know that one knows nothing.” When the intellect has reached its limits, we need faith.

As to not fall into false beliefs, faith should always be preceded by true intellect. This is the unique approach of Judaism—our knowledge and spiritual lives are guided by true intellect and faith. We gain true intellect and faith from our Torah and righteous sages. Let us cleave to their teachings and build the synergy of truth and unwavering faith to guide us through life.