The Natural Condition of Mankind
Whether you start off as a Jew or a Noachide, once you get started in Torah, you tend to get to the point of being love-drunk, more or less. You will feel passionately adoring and grateful to the God of All Creation, Who – miraculously! incredibly! - deigns to serve as your personal God.
“To love Y.H.V.H. [HaShem] your God and serve Him, with all your [YOU singular, personally] heart and with all your soul….” (Deuteronomy 10:12)
This is a vivid relationship. Of course you can’t live at this pinnacle of twanging consciousness all the time but, once you’ve reached it, you live in a nexus of self-aware often-conscious service to the LORD, informed by all you know – all the knowledge you’ve gleaned in your lifetime about Him and how He works, and how He makes the world work.
Normally, lots of what we call “book” knowledge go into this kind of consciousness.
The Hebrew prayers – the Prayer book prayers, in the Siddur, some of them David’s – are endlessly helpful. How is man supposed to feel about God? How is one supposed to speak to Him? We have the prayers for learning and for self-hypnotic infusions of wisdom. By reciting them, by pledging what they pledge - allegiance, gratitude, enthusiasm, and eagerness to serve – we manage to, periodically, align ourselves with our “better angels. Our objective: doing the King of the Universe’s will as our own will (which, of course, also makes our will His will). We aspire to the “yoke,” the collar, of HaShem Himself.
This is a very actively conscious kind of life-style. It’s a cerebral, high-level life-style. Most people don’t get to live even part of their lives at this height.
People who’ve never known true religion think “religion” and imagine spoon-fed fools believing what they’re told, but true religion – religion that “afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted” – is the exact opposite of that. God demands maximal intellectual engagement.
“If God doesn’t exist, nothing matters. If God does exist, nothing else matters.” (H.G. Wells)
He calls on us who fear Him – that is, to respect His management of all things - to love Him. You can’t “slide by” or fool Him with insincere allegiance. It’s a pagan idea that you can – that one’s God or gods are a chump – and the prayers we pray are a prophylactic against such dumb idolatry.
“Faith,” in true religion, isn’t the willing suspension of disbelief. It’s not holding “true” or grasping tight to something that your intellect says is fluff. Rather, it’s confidence in one’s conclusions and in the rigor of the intellectual processes, the rational analysis, the logic, both passionate and dispassionate, that led to those conclusions:
that God is real and Who He says He is.
Many times, we’ve watched people become convinced – we are in the business of convincing, obviously, laying out the facts with the prophecies and their fulfillments – in the rightness and the realness of the Hebrew Revolutionary Cause. Then the world wears them down. They turn to their usual mentors; their “influencers,” the people they count on – everybody needs somebody - to help see the world straight. Alas, people tend to get the mentors they deserve. In a world that’s made great progress towards the next stage of human history but definitely isn’t there yet, our First Covenant/Rainbow Covenant/Jewish Revolutionary enthusiasts run into hostile skepticism, ignorance, and stubborn unwillingness to engage.
They can’t find “fellowship” with their peers. Sharing their epiphanies, their increasing understanding of holiness, “it’s like trying,” so we hear, “to punch a hole in a pillow.”
You’d hope folks would be more honest and open to persuasive evidence and less prone to feel personally insulted. But everyone starts out with childish ideas or “names” of God, worldviews and primitive conceptions of reality, and it’s natural to resist information that seriously contradicts it. And God’s way – the Hebrew Revolutionary way, the derech haShem [Path of the LORD] or Torah – always runs smack into false ideas cherished by someone.
We’re often struck by the uselessness of clergy and philosophers. The man-made religions are forever at war with Torah, even – or especially – when they express affinity to it. Philosophy too: it’s all for “justice,” for instance – but then you find it justifying inequality and caste, completely contrary to “all of us made in the image of God.” The atrocious attacks that “great” modern philosophers, the Hegels, Kants, and some literal Nazis, have levied against Torah and the Jews discredit the whole institution of philosophy.
If you approach Torah on its own terms, past all the “did Adam have a belly button?” lower criticism, and “Moses was a figment” higher criticism, the outstanding fact, that God Himself is involved with us, is more than adequately demonstrated by the prophecies concerning Israel. They are that spectacular, and have been confirmed and fulfilled, so far, so spectacularly: the truth is, no one with a speck of intellectual integrity can ignore it.
Yet people do ignore and brush it off. They maintain a state of “double-think,” as Orwell named it, where they wall off facts that aren’t convenient to their orthodoxies. They maintain an evidentiary double-standard. In conventional analysis, the only acceptable proof - if it’s from Israel, concerning holiness or Deity - is proof beyond the shadow of a doubt.
In their own lives, dealing with practical, ordinary matters - like buying dish soap, say, or electing someone to office - not to mention the tenets and central miracles of the gentile religions, they would accept a thing as true on barely negligible evidence, compared to the proofs they require from HaShem, that He is Who He said He is!
Recently, we were discussing philosophy’s search for “goodness” with an agnostic intellectual.
We opined, “unless it reflects the ancient Teaching that every human being is an inviolable sacred being, it’s going to go wrong.”
Our friend: “Rational conversation needs to proceed without being tied to any such notion. Obviously, anyone who raises such a notion immediately runs into epistemic issues that will undercut such claims.”
Basically, this is, “You can’t prove there is such a thing as sacred, nor prove any human being to be sacred.”
Epistemology – how much can we really know, what is the basis of meaning, what are the limits of knowledge, how can we choose between the valid and not valid? – is misused to teach that man can’t know anything about God.
In this kind of analysis, no recitation of realized prophecies, no review of teachings, and no study of messy historical events can measure up to the peculiar intellectual standard here, the “you can’t prove it beyond the shadow of any doubt” standard.
It’s funny. In adulthood we begin to realize how exceptional the Torah is. After a busy life in business, teaching, public affairs, etc., one realizes, no human being could have produced this amazing Torah without help from above; no committee that’s ever existed could have done it, for sure, now that we’ve lived a life and learned how committees work – when you put all that together, together with the realized prophecies and the obvious, plainly announced plan here, to raise up mankind to greater holiness: HaShem rules!
But that’s not proof enough for your hard-core epistemologist.
Imagine if God did “prove” Himself in the way demanded!
This can’t be said enough: God doesn’t force belief on man. Even at the Red Sea, after all the Plagues of Egypt, as the mighty winds made the waters pile up, there were people saying, “it’s just an atmospheric disturbance, it’s interesting that it’s happening just when the Jews need it, but I don’t see God – do you see any God? - in anything here.”
If we had visual and tactile evidence merely of God’s closeness, and His intimate involvement with all things, His immanence and transcendence, never mind His incandescent holiness … how would we take it? Our ancestors did awfully badly even with fairly mild Divine fireworks in Scripture. Are we vastly better than them, or more blasé, that God shocking us, awing us, wouldn’t plunge us into uselessness, into passive dependence … while also probably enraging us, provoking fierce resentment and rebellion, for all the ways His will isn’t our will…
God needs to walk a fine line. He has to reveal enough about Himself so people can discover Him, in His prophecies, in their confirmations, and in the uniqueness brilliance of His teachings, but not so much about Himself and His ways as to seriously damage us.
By now, the sons and daughters of men have reached a new stage in world history. Human lifespans are expanding... selah! [“No need to elaborate on this point further.”] Opportunities are new and impressive but so are the challenges. It’s merit for us, who’ve discovered – and keep discovering! – enough of God’s clues, facts, hints, artifacts and proofs that we can love Him with all our souls. It’s bad for those of us who haven’t. People can toss aside evidence as easily as lies – but what can the rest of us do about it?
Of course we hope, for God’s sake – for the sake of His glory and the integrity of His Name in this sector of the Universe – and for the sake of our species, and this planet, that people get past all the dishonest double-standards that keep them in the darkness.
By Michael Dallen
“God gave the Torah to the Jewish people so that all nations might benefit from it.”
Midrash Tanchuma, Devarim [Deuteronomy] 3
“I have put My words in your mouth, and have covered you in the shadow of My hand, that I might plant the heavens, and lay the foundation of the earth, and say unto Zion:
‘You are My people.’”