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Core Emmuna 1: Hello? G-d?



Copyright © 2016 Rabbi Shlomo Ben Zeev

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

 

First Printing: 2016



ISBN: 978-1-387-44998-9



Published by Rabbi Shlomo Ben Zeev
DN Nahal Soreq PO Box 148

Beit Hilkiya, Israel 7681500

Core.Emmuna@gmail.com



www.rabbibz.wordpress.com









DEDICATION





I have dedicated this book to the memory of my deceased grandparents:

Ze’ev Gavriel ben Menachem Mendel,

Ester Channa bas Gershon,

Noach ben Shlomo and

Itka bas Eliahu

It is also in memory of my late father-in-law Shimshon ben Michael.



May they see the merits of their descendants and rejoice in them forever.

It is also to all of the people out there who, like me, would like to face the truth of life and, with G-d’s help, learn to live a life of meaning and purpose.



CONTENTS

Contents

Core Emmuna 1: Hello? G-d?

DEDICATION

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Foreword

1. Emmuna vs. Faith: Identical Twins?

What Does “Emmuna” actually Mean?

Faith

True Believers

Cold, Hard Facts… or Not?

What is Emmuna?

Context in the Torah

The ROOT WORD.

Usage in Stories and Metaphors

In summary of what we have learned in this chapter:

2. The Basis of Faith and Trust

What Do I Really Need to Believe Something?

Limits of the human mind

The Prerequisite for Knowledge

A Little Fine-tuning

How Deep is Your Love?

The Definition of Proof

In summary:

3. Into the Twilight Zone

What Are the Ramifications of Answering the Question “Is There a G-D” With “No”?

Yeah, but what does it DO?

Just another animal????

It’s the right thing to do!

Social Conditioning

Modern man

State Sponsored Darwin And Its Effects

Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life

The Ultimate Nothing

But let me end this chapter with a story:

4. Logical and Philosophical

How Human Logic Drives Us to The Understanding That the Universe Is a Divine Construct

The Finite World Around Us

The Rational World of Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect in A Finite Universe

Will the Real First Cause Please Step Forward?

Rabbi Akiva and Turnus Rufus

The Model Universe

In Summary:

5. World of Care and Wonders

An Exploration in The Complexity and Interdependence of The World’s Life and Eco-Systems.

The Atmosphere

Water and the Water Cycle

The Carbon Cycle

The Nitrogen Cycle

The Land-Based Cycle

The oceanic nitrogen cycles!

The Oceanic Nitrogen Cycle:

Plate Tectonics

Ecosystem Engineers

Cross-Pollination

In Summary

6. The Emperor’s New Clothes? Or: Would You Buy a Car from A Guy LIKE this?

A Close Look at The Evidence for The Theory of Evolution.

The Observable Sciences of Archeology and Anthropology

The Proofs from Archeology

The Proofs from Anthropology

The Existing “Transitional Forms”

The Coelacanth

Archaeopteryx

In Summary of Part 1:

Observable Biology and Its Related Sciences: Micro-Evolution

Smart Bacteria

Wild Guppy Coloration and Predation

The Problem with These Proofs:

Biology and Its Related Sciences: DNA

Junk DNA

The Law of Biological Conservation of Energy

A Growing Genome: Adding Information

Horizontal Gene Transfer

Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam

In Summary of Part 3:

Biology and its Related Sciences: Mutations

How Do Mutations Occur?

Gene Damage Via Radiation (and the like)

What Is Needed for A Mutation to Work as The Source of Evolutionary Theory?

Genome Complexity and In-Depth Knowledge of DNA

Last Thoughts

In Summary

7. A-braham and A-bio-genesis:

Abraham's Quest for Truth and The Theory Of A-Bio-Genesis

A-biogenesis

Problem A: The time-frame chemical evolution had in which to take place

Problem B: The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Problem C: The Environment in Which Simple Life Systems Could Propagate

Issue #1: The Water Dilemma

Issue #2: The Carbon Dilemma

Issue #3: The Oxygen Dilemma

Space: The Origin of Life?

The Primordial Soup Hypotheses

The Miller-Urey Experiment and Similar Discoveries

Problem D: The Complexity of Biological Systems

DNA

The Bacterial Flagellum

Problem E: The Interconnectedness of Biological Systems

The Cellular Immune System:

The Cellular Digestive System:

The Cellular Skeletal System:

The Cellular Reproduction System:

Onwards with protein synthesis:

Problem F: The Shortcomings of The Scientific Method

1) Science does not explain. It quantifies.

2) Quantification Is Not Equal to Understanding.

3) “Empirical Evidence” Is Only as Good as The Observer.

Complexity Is a Sign of Intelligence.

In Summary of This Chapter:

The Final Difficulty:

8. In the Beginning...

Existence, Time and Multiple Universes in The Eyes of The Torah

Genesis and the “Big Bang”:

Creation

Bereishis, Genesis

Existence and The Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics:

The Static Universe

The Big Crunch

Infinity

Heaven!

Universal Expansion and the 6 Days of Creation

Genesis and the “Big Bang” Continued: The Earth

Tohu and Bohu

Tohu

The Darkness that Precedes the Light

The Wobbly World

Bohu And Earth, The Water Planet

A World Shrouded in Darkness

Day and Night and The Round Earth

Light and Darkness Intertwined

Scientific Conundrum: The Natural Forces Created in the “Bang”:

What Makes Our Universe and The Earth So Fit for Life?

String Theory, M Theory and the 11 Dimensions

The Infinite Dimension Hypothesis.

The Scientific Fallacy of Infinity

Genesis Day 3:

The Ancient Land-Mass

The Green Earth:

The Order of Plant Genesis

Ice Age:

The Universe:

The Sun and the Moon

The Milky Way Galaxy

Ice Age Revisited

9. The Timeframe of Creation and Anything Homo…

Torah And the Age of The Universe:

Dinosaur Bones.

Dendrology.

Oceanic Salt Content

Tectonic Movement.

Star Light

Measurement of Creation

Genesis and Anything “Homo”:

10. Parting Shots

In Lieu Of A Bibliography

Appendix I

Marriage and Divorce

Faith Affiliation

Violence

Suicide

In Summary:

Appendix II

Appendix III

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS





SO MANY PEOPLE have profoundly affected my life that I find it tough to choose whom to acknowledge. I will therefore simply say:



G-d, creator, guide, life bringer. He who has led me sustained me and brought me to this day. He who has given me everything that I have in life. I can only hope that this book can, some way, begin to “pay back” all the kindnesses that I have been given in life.

To my parents, who have also guided, sustained me, laughed with me, cried with me and helped to make me into the man I am today. A special thank you to my mother, who took (a lot of) time in reviewing the original manuscript and giving me editorial advice. Thanks Mom!

To my Rebbeim, both those alive and in the next world, who set me on the path to becoming the man that I am today.

I would also like to say a special thank you to Dr. Gerald Scheroeder, Ph.D., to my good friend and student Dr. Yosef (Carl) Ashkenazi, and to Rabbi Ben Tzion Schafier who gave of their time to review the book and to give me critiques and endorsements.



To my children and students, who have all changed me and helped me hone much of my many character traits. (This includes you, too, Akiva!)



Lastly, to my loving wife. Throughout all of the difficulties that we have been through, she has been there to support me. She who has raised our children to be true menschim, to love Chessed and go out of their way for others.

May it be His will that we have a long, happy and meaningful life together with lots of GeFeN: Gedzunt, Parnassah, and Nachas!





Foreword



What is it All About Anyhow?



A FEW YEARS AGO, when I was a young married fellow here in Israel, I was invited, like most Israelis, to take part in IDF reserve duty.

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.

I was the only religious soldier serving in a scouting unit, within a foot-soldier platoon, in a tank (armored) division. What this implies is that I stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. In Israel, a nation divided between the religious and irreligious but full of Israeli Jews, who are always ready to tell you what is on their mind, the topic of religion can sometimes be quite volatile.

As the only religious Jew in the platoon, I was the sole representative of all Torah observant life in Israel. If anyone held a grudge against the religious – for any reason whatsoever – then I was sought out as the figurative punching bag to vent frustrations; but, more importantly, I was also sought as a source of explanation and understanding when it came to our religion. I took great pleasure in the latter, (not the former).

On one of those occasions, my company Sergeant approached me and asked if I could go on a walk with him to explain to him the issues of the laws of “Nidda” (the laws about a menstrual woman). We walked and talked for several hours going from the laws of Nidda and forbidden relationships (and the Mitzvah to marry a woman before having sexual relations with her) to the laws of Shabbat, the Sabbath day, and on to all sorts of issues under the sun. After a while, I turned to my Sergeant, a fine young Yemenite guy a little bit younger than me, and said to him as follows. “Look, Sagiv, (his name), I'll be happy to sit with you whenever we have time to explore further any topic that you want concerning the Holy Torah. However, before we continue, there is just one thing that I must make absolutely clear: All of these things are Mitzvos, commandments because THE COMMANDER commanded them. So long as that is clear to you, that the reason that we fulfill these commandments is that they are on the authority of THE COMMANDER, then you will have a reason to keep them. However, if you don't accept this as fact, then all of the time spent explaining is pointless. You'll hear some “expert” on the topic give you a convincing explanation as to why you don't have to keep them and that will be the end.”

I'm happy to say that he got married to his girlfriend not too long after our conversation, (I like to assume that it was because of our conversation), and he has several kids today.

The point that I made to him is not only valid; it is the linchpin for the entire Torah. We refer to this as EMMUNA, (אמונה), which translates into English as “Faith” or “Belief”. The issue of Emmuna is so important, so fundamental, that our sages of blessed memory, the Rishonim1, argue whether it's “one” of the 613 commandments in the Torah, or if it is too fundamental to be considered “a” commandment. Rather it's part and parcel of ALL of the commandments. However, no matter how we slice it, it is unquestionable that Emmuna is THE foundation of the entire Torah.

If a person’s Emmuna is weak or lacking, then his or her complete adherence to the laws of the Torah is similarly weak. Weak emmuna is comparable to a building with a shoddy foundation. Such a structure is more likely to collapse than to remain standing. All that is required, many times, is just one strong wind to knock it down!

So too in Torah: as long as the foundation, Emmuna, is weak then the performance of Mitzvos and the continued practice of its commandments are constantly in danger of collapse. As long as it is not clear, there is a COMMANDER then it is similarly not clear that there are any COMMANDS, Mitzvos, as well.

With this as an introduction I would like to, therefore, posit the following axiom:

Any thinking human being will ask him or herself a fundamental question concerning life. Depending on the answer to that first question, the person will ask the second question and depending on the answer to this issue; we would then ask a third. These are the fundamental questions regarding life. They are:



Question 1> Is there a G-d who created the universe?

If “no” then the questions stop here. If “yes” then we must then ask question no. 2.

Question 2> Does G-d know me and desire a relationship with me?

If “no” – then we stop here. If “Yes” then we must ask question 3.

Question 3> What is my relationship with G-d?

As with all relationships – this one, too, is a two-way street. If one side loves the other but the other side only likes the first, then the extent of the relationship is limited to the lesser of the two!

This book and, G-d willing, the books to follow, are written to help the reader explore – to the best of my knowledge and ability – the information required to make an informed decision about these three fundamental questions.

Having grown up in both the secular and religious worlds, I experienced both sides of the coin. I have, since I was young, always been fascinated by the sciences, (thank you Mrs. Tuvlin), and since my exposure to authentic Torah learning I have been deeply in love and enthralled by that as well.

Popular media would have us believe that these two worlds are in conflict. If we wish to follow Torah/Religion, we must do so despite scientific data; and conversely, we are told, after exposure to the various fields of science no one can possibly be a believer.

Despite the fact that this is untrue, it has found its way into our subconscious in so many different ways.

Our great teacher the RAMBAM2, one of the, (if not THE), greatest scientists and physicians of his day, while also being one of the greatest Torah scholars of his time, said as follows. If anyone feels that the Torah and science are at odds, unless faced with uncontestable proof, then it’s the science that is incorrect3.

Based on his words I found that there was a great need for this book.

The purpose of this book is to deal solely with the first question above: Is there a G-d? It's not just that the scientific data is not at odds with the Torah, but rather, as we will see, that the only way that the data can be understood, the only way that it makes any sense, is in the Torah’s light as explained by the Creator.

Data, after all, is only information gleaned from experimentation. It is, therefore, almost always open to more than one interpretation and therefore cannot be an absolute proof.

It is the goal of this book to help the reader, as the saying goes, see the forest despite all of the trees. Meaning when we consider the whole picture presented by the information – what does it show, and in which direction does it point? Theist or Secularist?

The information and sources are available to all, but many people will not have sufficient motivation to explore them on their own. Therefore, I have tried to crystallize and organize this data into a coherent, logical and readable form. Life is a gift given to all of the world’s people – why should this essential information not be as well?

It is my fervent hope that the information contained in this volume help to remove obstacles from in front all my fellow Jews and all of those Gentiles who believe in the Creator of the universe but suffer from a sense of inferiority or confusion due to the stigma of mass media.

Please read and enliven your soul!

One caveat, however.

As most of the information presented in this volume is brought to give the reader all of the pertinent information relevant to the existence of The Creator, I must also point out that none of it AT ALL can tell me who He is. The purpose of this volume is only to remove the obstacles that have been preventing us from exploring faith-based religions. None of it can, in no way, act as a proof for one religion or another in any shape, way or form.



As with all rules the one exception to this one will be the chapter entitled “In the Beginning” as it is organized based on the first several verses of the book of Genesis to deal with the topics of cosmology, physics, botany and more. Exploration of reality based on an ancient religious text clearly sets a precedent for the authenticity and truth of the “OLD” Testament. However, proving the Old One says nothing and proves nothing about the content of the new one or of any other book for that matter.

G-d willing in future volumes I will present the reader with even more pertinent information that we require to make informed decisions concerning our faith as we explore the further questions presented above “Does G-d know me?” and “What is my relationship with G-d?”.







1. Emmuna vs. Faith: Identical Twins?



What Does “Emmuna” actually Mean?



AS I STATED IN THE FORWARD the purpose of this book is to lay the foundations for emmuna. However, before we can begin to explore the realm of Emmuna, first we have to quantify JUST WHAT IT IS WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. Just what is emmuna?



Faith

In English EMMUNA translates as “faith” or “belief”. What exactly does “faith” mean?

According to the Oxford online Dictionary4 the definition of faith is:

Complete trust or confidence in someone or something

Strong Belief in the doctrines of religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

A particular religion

A strongly held belief



According to dictionary.com5 the definition of faith is:

Confidence or trust in a person or thing: Faith in another's abilities

Belief that is not based on a proof

Belief in G-d or the doctrines or teachings of religion

A belief in anything as a code of ethics standards of merit etc.

A system of religious belief



Merriam-Webster6 also includes a similar definition of faith as:

A firm belief in something for which there is no proof and something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

Most definitions of faith include this conception of “belief without proof”. In my opinion, this basic definition of faith as a belief not based on proof is erroneous. We arrived at this misconception because of improperly understanding how we use “faith” in real life. Here is a simple example illustrating the operation of our current definition of faith (belief without proof).

Let's say that I need to go somewhere, and I entrust my dear friend with my delicious chocolate bar to hold until I return. After I have finished doing my business, I come back and find that my chocolate bar has disappeared and that my friend happens to have a smear of chocolate around his mouth. I ask my friend what happened, and he says, “I just couldn't stop myself, and so I ate it!” In this instance, I believe/have faith in my friend's answer even though I don't honestly know if that is what happened. This is an example of a belief in something without proof or evidence. After all, it could be that my young son ran into the room, saw the chocolate bar in my friend's hand, grabbed it, opened it, took a bite and then, just before leaving the room, shoved it in my friend's face and said, “You want some too”? Maybe my friend didn't want to incriminate my son. Do I know what happened? No. So, therefore, I have to have faith that what my friend told me is what happened, even though there is no proof or evidence.

Ergo: Only when I have, NO KNOWLEDGE is there room for faith.

This belief became ingrained further into society’s collective mind because almost all religions make use of precisely that claim: believe in X without proof. It’s just they take it one-step further.



True Believers

Let me illustrate the real problem here with a story:

Once upon a time I was forced, (for lack of a viable alternative), to sit next to a missionary on a plane trip to the States. (I mean I could have jumped out of the aircraft at 30,000 feet going 800 kilometers an hour, without a parachute, endangering all of the other passengers. It just didn’t seem to realistic, though). I knew what was coming. I was ready. Therefore, when my neighbor turned to me and struck up a conversation concerning the “truth” of the Christian faith, I was ready. “Jesus,” he said, “was the Messiah of the Jews”! “How do you know that to be true?” I asked him. “Well,” he said and began quoting me from the New Test(ament) as to Jesus's ancestral lineage.

Why did he do that? Very simple. THE Testament, (there is only one, and it is not new), says quite clearly that the Messiah is going to come from the house of David. He then proceeded to quote to me from the Gospels, which refer to Joseph of Nazareth as a descendant of David. “But wait a minute,” I said, “Don’t all Christians hold that he wasn't Jesus's real father? G-D was Jesus' dad! If that’s the case, then who cares what the lineage of Joseph was? He wasn’t Jesus’s dad”! “That’s true,” he said, “But in Luke 3:23–38 it says that Mary, Jesus's mom, was a descendant of the house of David, so his claim to messiah-hood is through his mom.” I looked at him in utter disbelief. "How could you even think such a thing?” I said. "It is clearly written in The (Old) Testament (Numbers 1:2) that a person's lineage comes from his father only, not from his mother. I'm afraid to tell you that no matter how you slice it, Jesus can't be a descendant of David”!

There was quiet for a few minutes. Then, after a short while, he turned to me and said the following “Those are difficult points you raise. BUT THAT’S THE STRENGTH OF FAITH!”7

Then he said as follows, “Even though I have no proof and even though it makes no sense … I have faith that it is true!”

That is what I meant by “a step further.”

IF the meaning of “faith”, Emmuna, is to believe it even in the face of lack of proof;

THEN the greatest act of faith and a real test of the extent of a person's faith is when his faith is in conflict with empirical evidence.

The more absurd or far-fetched – the greater is the feat of belief, and so much greater still is the believer!

Does that sound right to you? It doesn’t to me! But if you feel it does - don’t worry, you're in good company.

It is precisely this conclusion, which so confuses us in the realm of Emmuna. Taken to its logical conclusion, it is possible to say that in matters where there IS knowledge – it's no longer subject to faith at all.

Therefore, our dictum, thus far, is faith – no proof; science – lots of proof, no faith. GREAT FAITH = follow regardless of, and in spite of, the evidence.

The result of all of this, which bothers me the most, is that we assume that this definition applies just as much when we are dealing with Emmuna, which, as I said previously, is THE foundation of everything that we do in keeping the Holy Torah. This has been so ingrained that I have even heard great Torah scholars who have told me that Emmuna, (אמונה, faith), means exactly that: to believe regardless of the facts or in spite of them.

An extension of this occurred to me from another angle. I discovered that when I questioned my friends in IDF reserve duty concerning friends of theirs who had become religious, they would evade in the following manner. “Why do you think that they would take such a step in their life, to change their lifestyle so drastically?” I would ask. The answers that I received followed the following grain: “He always was a little weird,” “He had an accident in life,” “He broke up with his girlfriend” or “He was depressed.” Something along that line. Meaning: It can't be that there is a LOGICAL reason for a person to become religious. It must be that due to some tragedy, some upset, (temporary insanity), that he changed his mind and changed his way. Faith doesn't follow logic; it's entirely foundation-less!

Nothing could be further from the truth.

However, as the purpose of this chapter is not to set before you the logical evidence for faith, G-D willing we'll do that during future chapters, I do want to clarify the misunderstanding concerning Emmuna so that from now on it is evident WHAT we are talking about.

However, before that – one more point.

Cold, Hard Facts… or Not?

This mistaken notion has led many people to follow blindly anything that was “discovered” by “scientists” using “scientific methodology” regardless of the veracity of the proofs that they bring. The assumption is that since science, supposedly, is based on COLD, HARD FACTS, then this isn't an issue of belief at all! Just the opposite! This is the clear and concise truth. No faith involved. … NOT!

However, science, even when backed up with methodological testing, is many times more faith-based than empirical proof based. G-d willing, I will quantify and present the proofs more fully in the later chapters (you'll just have to have faith!). In the meantime, let me give you two examples of this:

Have you ever been on a diet? Well then, let’s ask, which one are you following? Are you on the “Grain Brain Diet” (low carbohydrate, high fat, moderate protein)? Are you on the Atkins diet, (mainly proteins and no carbohydrates)? Maybe you're doing the Zone diet, (part protein, part carbohydrate, part veggies)? Or maybe, just maybe, you're on the Bread Diet, (a diet that states that it's important that the mainstay of your diet is bread based)! Perhaps, some of you are on the China Study diet, (a diet of vegetables and legumes, no meat or milk).

Do you know that all of these diets were created and extensively studied by scientists using scientific methodology? They all have “science” on their side! They all claim that all of the evidence shows that their diet is THE correct diet for at least 95% of the planet! So, whom should you follow? Well, I guess that just depends on who offers you the better “spread” in their diet; OR... on in whom you have the most …(i.e. blindest) faith.

Another issue where we find this is in the realm of general health and which foods best promote it. Who knows just what it is that you need to have healthy bones and teeth? (Milk, of course!)

Ask any dairy farm and they will bring you out truckloads of data and drop it on you, (not killing you, of course, after all, the one actually getting “milked” here is you, the consumer). All of it is supposed to prove to you beyond any doubt that there was not, is not and never will be anything as healthy for you as cow's milk.

However, if you speak to other scientists, say, perhaps, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study” and a well-respected Doctor and scientist, he would tell you that you are drinking liquid poison! “Milk is for cows,” as the naturalists say!

So, whom do you follow here? The dairy industry, which clearly has a financial interest in your continued use of their product, (say “Moo!” everyone!), or the naturalists, who also have scientific studies on their side to prove their point? I guess it depends on WHO you have the blindest faith in, (or what flavor the ice cream is).

Many times, science, despite having arrived at some cold-hard facts, is not based on cold hard evidence, but rather warm squishy interpretation based on cold blind faith.

Enough on this for now. As I said, we will come back to it later. Getting back to the topic at hand:



What is Emmuna?

Well, first and foremost, it's a word.

Emmuna is a Hebrew (Semitic) word and, therefore, we have three ways in which to check its precise definition. Either using:

It's context in the Holy Torah; or

The root of the word. Many Hebrew words are “built” by using a root word with “plugin” forms into speech frames. We can, therefore, use the root word to find commonality between one word and all other words that share the same root. Or

Usage of the word in stories or figures of speech

Let’s take these concepts for a spin:



Context in the Torah

Let’s take a look at several places in the Holy Torah where the word emmuna is used. (I'm only bringing three, but there are plenty of other instances – look them up!):



Exodus 17:12

And Moses' hands were heavy, and they took a stone and placed it underneath him (Moses), and he sat on it, and Aaron and Chur stabilized his hands, on this side one and on this side one, and his (Moses) hands were EMMUNA until the sun set.

This passage from the book of Exodus was said concerning the war that the children of Israel waged against the Amalekites in the desert. Moshe sends his student Joshua to battle against them, while he proceeded to go up on a mountain and raise his hands in prayer to heaven. The Torah tells us that when he would raise his hands – Israel would win, but when they lowered, Israel began to lose. So, Moses sits down on a rock (not a comfortable chair, because the people of Israel were in distress) and Aaron, Moses's brother, and Chur, Miriam's son, propped up Moses' hands. The Torah tells us that then Moses's hands were “Emmuna” until sundown. What could that possibly mean? Well, if, as we have understood up until now, it means to believe in something without proof does that mean that Moses's hands were down, but he said, “I have faith that they are up”? I think not. Rather here the usage of the word means “strength” or “stable”. The verse is telling us that before Moses sat on the rock and rested his hands on Aaron and Chur his hands were unstable, whereas NOW that his hands were resting on Aaron and Chur his hands were stable and secure. They had strength and vitality. We are talking clarity here, not doubt.



Chronicles 2 34:12

And the people were working with EMMUNA in their labors.

Literally “and the men were performing their tasks with Emmuna”. Here the verse is talking about King Josiah, a pious and righteous king of Judah, who, when he saw the dilapidated state of the Mikdash, (the Holy Temple in Jerusalem), immediately commanded: “Make a collection so that we can build a Mishkan.” They collected the money during the Festivals and then gave it to the artisans, to start the repairs that were so desperately needed. This verse states, “the artisans performed their duties with Emmuna.” If we “plug in” the explanation of Emmuna that we had until now this would seem to imply that the artisans were doing their duties believing that they were doing their job without any real proof. It's kind of like talking to a modern-day contractor: when you ask him if everything is ok he says, “Everything is perfect! Trust me”! What do you think? Should you trust him? I wouldn’t!

No! That can't be the meaning of the verse! Rather the verse is relating that which was evident and discernible, that the artisan's performed their work with strength and vitality.



Proverbs 14:15

A fool (peti) will make/call “Emmuna” all things, but a wise-crafty person will understand things to its fullest.

Here Emmuna is used in its future tense as a verb, ya’amin, whereas up until now we have been looking at it as a noun or an adjective, emmuna.

Here, if we apply the “plug-in” explanation that we had originally, it really makes no sense! “A fool will have faith in something without proof by anything” which, structurally, is a double negative. If the word Ya’amin means to believe without evidence, then the words in all things become superfluous. Rather, the verse is speaking along the same vein we saw earlier: that a fool makes robust and vital anything, even something which isn't, whereas a wise-crafty person will apply his mind to ensure that he fully understands what he is dealing with: whether robust and vital or weak and frail. Only that which is healthy and vibrant will be considered by the wise person to be so.

It would seem, therefore, that the true meaning of the word Emmuna as used in the Torah refers to STRENGTH and VITALITY.

Let's see if that holds true in the other tools.



The ROOT WORD.

The root word of the word emmuna is נ.מ.א. . If we want to try to understand a word by using its root the way to do so is to see what other words there are with which we are familiar that utilize the same root. When I put my mind to it, I came up with the following terms:

Ne’eman, Oman, Iymun and Emmuna.

Now, what are these words?

Let's start, for example, with the word Iymun (אימון). What is iymun? It means “practice.” For example, when a person learns to be a sharpshooter or an artist, the more he shoots or paints – the better he becomes. That is an act of strengthening knowledge and capability.

Iymun, practice, leads a person to become a oman, an artisan, a professional in his or her trade. This title belays a level of proficiency that one receives once he has proven himself – strengthened his standing in his field of choice – in the eyes of his friends and neighbors.

Another word that uses the same root is the word Ne’eman, נאמן. Ne’eman refers to the base believability and reliability that a person has in the eyes of others. 9 out of 10 times, it is the result of proving oneself in the eyes of others, thus strengthening his moral character in the eyes of his peers.

So, it seems that here, too, the correct interpretation of the concept of Emmuna denotes strengthening [something] and making [something] more vital. The common denominator would seem to be that a person utilizing “Amen” (the root of Emmuna) is going through a process of taking something that he already has, not that he has baseless faith in, and improving, strengthening and vitalizing it!



Usage in Stories and Metaphors

Let's take a look at one example. It's a story that our sages tell us about one of the people that the Torah calls a Tzadik, (an upstanding, righteous man), Noah. The Torah tells us many things about Noah; however, I want to stress something on which our sages zero in. A piece of extraneous verbiage, (extra words) that the Torah uses to describe Noah’s entering the famous ark, (Genesis 7:7):

And Noah came and his sons and his wife and his son's wives along with him into the ark in the face of the waters of the flood”.

Our sages ask themselves “Why did the Torah have to tell us this extra detail, that they entered the ark “because of the floodwaters”? Wouldn't it have been enough to say that they entered the ark, and that's all? Wouldn't we have understood that the reason he went into the ark was the floodwaters?

The answer that they give is astonishing, (see RaSh”I ad loc.): that by adding these words they are telling us something about Noah. It’s telling us that he was counted among the smallest of Emmuna, (mi’ketanei emmuna), those of little faith. Just what does this mean exactly?

Well if we were to use our “plugin” explanation here what would be the meaning of the words of our sages? The meaning would be that we learn from here that Noah was the smallest of believers without any proof!

Does this explanation make any sense whatsoever?!

Is it possible, according to the Biblical account, to say that Noah believed in G-D without any rhyme or reason? Absolutely not! He SPOKE to G-D! Does it mean that he, as opposed to the “great” believers, (i.e. even flying in the face of fact), didn't act based on his faith? Absolutely NOT! Noah did far more on his faith than most “true believers” ever will! For 120 years he slowly, painstakingly, built the ark with his two hands! Our sages tell us that he did this publicly as well and that during the 120 years of building he was approached, on almost a daily basis, in the following manner:

Here's Noah slaving away, building the ark and someone wanders over to him and asks “So Noah! What are you doing?” and Noah tells him “I'm building an ark.” The guy then asks, (giggling and winking at his friends), “What do you need an ark for?” Noah answers “Because G-D is going to bring a flood to the world, and you are going to die in it, and I am going to live because I built this here ark!” At which point the other guy bursts out laughing, “HA! Noah and his ark! You really think that G-D's going to drown us? What an idiot!”

So, NO; Noah – it would seem – had plenty of faith upon which to act.

SO HOW IN THE WORLD COULD OUR SAGES CALL HIM “AMONG THE SMALLEST OF BELIEVERS”?

The answer, (at least the only one that makes sense to me), is that G-D, like a man, is a multifaceted Being and that the measure of our Emmuna is based on just how well we know HIM. Noah, despite his obvious piousness and faith, lacked faith in G-D in one area, and that is the aspect of G-D called TRUTH.

What do I mean by this? I mean to say that G-D has many attributes: truth, justice, mercy, and more. We enumerate 13 attributes of G-d that we beseech on the High Holidays, asking for forgiveness and mercy for our iniquities. However, the one characteristic which we experience the most, (usually without paying any attention), is the attribute of MERCY. G-D has mercy on all of the creation. G-D feeds and sustains the entire universe. G-D loves everyone with a love that is beyond human understanding. He also forgives with a forgiveness that is beyond human understanding.

Having said that, it would seem that Noah’s mistake was as follows. Noah, who for 120 years worked his hands to the bone building the ark, despite all of the ridicule and jeering of his friends and neighbors, who stood fast in the face of his generation, did so while thinking that all he was building was a prop. It was only a means to “set the stage” so that the people of his generation would “get the picture” and change their evil ways. To Noah, the ark was, essentially, unnecessary. In other words: Noah didn't think that G-D, the merciful, the compassionate, had it in Him to carry out his words when HE told him that he was going to wipe out the world with a flood.

THAT is a lack of Emmuna! Noah was therefore called “of the smallest of believers” because of this shortcoming in understanding the TRUTH that is G-D: if He says it – He means it!

It turns out that for 120 years Noah was building an ark that, in his mind, was no more than a prop! When the time of the flood came near, and it started to rain, (our Sages teach us that the rain started one week before the beginning of the flood so that if the people did repent then the rain would have turned into a blessing), Noah said to himself “Wow! G-D knows how to set the stage so that people will think it's real!” On day 7 when the waters started to rise Noah was thinking “Any minute now, they'll repent!” and yet the waters continued to increase! “Wow!” Noah thought, “That's showing them G-D! They'll think you mean business now!” When the waters were up to his knees, Noah began to wonder what the story is! Finally, our Sages explain, the waters got so high and grew so violent that the waters themselves forced Noah to enter the ark and shut the door behind him.

All of the above is what the Torah means when it says that Noah entered the ark “because of the flood waters.”

This explanation is in harmony with the definition that we have said up until now. The reason that our Sages call Noah “of the smallest of believers” is because, in a certain very critical area of Emmuna, Noah was totally lacking! The strength of faith he had – but not to the extent that he could/should have! In that regard, as he did not strengthen his understanding of who G-d is, therefore he is called “among the smallest of believers.”



In summary of what we have learned in this chapter:

There is a misconception in the world that Emmuna, (loosely translated as “faith”), means to believe in something in spite of the lack of evidence. Which led to:

That the greater the absurdity and lack of proof, the greater the feat of Emmuna of the believer. Which resulted in:

Something that has proof is not subject to faith (however, we disputed this).

Emmuna does not mean “faith” as is commonly interpreted.

The correct explanation of Emmuna is “strength and vitality”.

It is not an abstract concept but rather a verb that describes a process.

The process is one in which we take that which we know, (in this case that G-d exists) and that a promise or commandment that He makes will be fulfilled precisely as transmitted in either the written or oral Torah. We then strengthen it, by living by it, making this knowledge and our innate trust more vital in G-d and His Word.

True Emmuna, real strength, and vitality, living our lives based on that which we know to be true, is needed to increase our steadfastness in following G-D. It's like exercising a muscle: the more we use it, the stronger it gets!

So, when we speak of Emmuna vis-a-vis G-D, as the verse says in Exodus 14:31 “And they had Emmuna in HaShem and in Moses, His servant,” just what does this mean?

It means the following: If G-D tells us something and it's written in black and white, either handed down in the written Torah or explicitly in the Oral Torah, then I have to strengthen and vitalize my acceptance that everything HE told me is what will transpire exactly. The word “Emmuna” and the word Ne’eman (trustworthy) are synonymous. If a person is trustworthy, (ne’eman), then by trusting him and having faith that what he says He will do – He will do, that is Emmuna! As we say before the recital of the SHEMA, E-l Melech Ne’eman, (He is a Trustworthy G-D King). If He says it – I can trust that that is what will be. THAT is Emmuna!

Let me give a story to solidify this point:

Seven years ago, as of this writing, we were in the midst of getting prepared to accept the Holy Shmitta (Sabbatical) year. The Shmitta year is a year where, in the land of Israel, no crops are grown, and no ground work is done, (plowing, seeding, weeding, etc.) unless the tree/plant, etc. would die without it.

I was supposed to go to the boys in the Nahal for a Shabbos; it was the summer already, and the weekly Torah portion was called BaHar, (“on the mountain” of Sinai), where the Torah discusses the Commandment of Shmitta. What else could I do but speak about this particular Mitzvah? So I said to myself, “Self, you need to go talk to your neighbor, Reb Moshe Kahana shlit”a, and get a good story about keeping the Mitzvah of Shmitta.” So that's what I did! Let me tell you a little bit about my pious neighbor Reb Moshe Kahana: He is one of the larger farmers in the Nahal Soreq area of Israel, where I live, and he is a shining example – all year round – as to what an average Jew is supposed to be like. To me, this means that he works very hard for his living and almost all of his free time is spent in the Synagogue learning Torah. If he finishes working at 10 in the morning by 11 am, he is in the synagogue. If he ends by 4, he is there by five. If he ends at 9 or 10 in the evening – he is there until 11 PM at least. THAT's a real Jew8! He also is one of the bastions of the Mitzvah of Shmitta in our area. He keeps it to the “t”!

In any case, so I go up to him, and I see that he is on and off the phone all of the time. I approached him and said “Reb Moshe! How are you? What's going on?” He tells me that he is on the phone now with the Beis Din (Rabbinical Court) of the Eidah Chareidis (the Orthodox Community) concerning the wheat that he has in his fields. “Why?” I asked. “Because,” he said and proceeded to explain his situation and told me the following story:

The way that things are in Israel is that there is a very particular, very precise planting cycle. Everything planted takes something from the ground and gives something to it in return. The next crop planted takes from the nutrients left by the first and gives new nutrients to be used, in turn, by the crop that will follow. This is how it works year-round. So, based on this system, this year, the year preceding Shmitta, was a year in which the farmers in the area all planted wheat from the beginning to mid-winter so that the rains, (which only fall in the winter in Israel), should water them. Otherwise, it is ridiculously expensive to irrigate. What happened was that that year was a drought year, only a small amount of rain fell, and the farmers waited... and waited... and waited! In the end, experts came to the area, dug up the ground and discovered that the wheat had rotted. So, most of the farmers of the area went to their respective insurance companies, opened up their right pocket and said, “Do you see this pocket? Please fill it with money to replace the lost crops!”. They then proceeded to the government, opened up their left pocket and said, “Do you see this pocket? It needs to be filled with subsidies so that I can afford to overturn the ground and plant something new!”. They then took the money, turned over the soil and planted something new.

Reb Moshe was also approached by both his insurance company and the government and was given the same offer: turn over your grounds, plant something new and take some money! Reb Moshe heard them and said, “No, but thank you.” When these people heard that, they considered calling the men with white coats and to get a padded room ready! “NO?” they said incredulously, “Why not”? I'm sure they were thinking “Bucks, Dollars, Shequels, Cash” and the names of any other forms of currency. Who, in their right mind, turns down money?

Reb Moshe calmly looked at them, proceeded to open up his Torah to Leviticus chapter 25:3, and read it to them.

Six years you shall plant your fields and six years you shall trim your vineyards, and you shall collect their produce. And on the seventh year, it shall be a Sabbatical year for the land, a sabbatical for HaShem, etc.

The guy looks at him and goes “Yeah? So, what! That's next year! What does that have to do with now?” Reb Moshe looks at him, says “Patience!”, and continued to read: (verse 20)

And if it shall come that you ask just what will we eat during the seventh year if there is no plowing and gathering of produce?...

Here he picked up his voice a little bit and said:

And I shall command my blessing unto you in the sixth year and it, (the land), shall produce the grain required (to sustain you) for the three years.”

(Years 6, 7 (Shmitta) and 8, until we can grow new food).

"Don't worry,” he said, “I'm just waiting to see HaShem's blessing.”

When I approached him on that day, I asked him “Do you have a good story about Shmitta for me?” he told me all of the above and said, “From where do you think that I have all of this wheat? It's the grain that everyone said would never grow! And do you know what?” he asked. “According to the survey that was done, it's the finest, fattest wheat that has grown in the past seven years!”

So why was he fretting about the grain in the field? Because he had sold the whole lot for the sake of baking matzos for Pesach. This grain is guarded against water so that it shouldn’t become Chometz (leavened). Because the wheat in the fields was so dry already and the summer sky was overcast, as it was about to rain, he was worried maybe he would have to rush and reap it all before the rains came so that it would not get wet from the rain!



That, ladies and gentlemen, is Emmuna. When G-D states explicitly, in either the Written or the Oral Torah, a promise or makes a commitment: do I strengthen my connection with HIM, voraciously clinging to HIS words... and do as HE instructs... or not?

There is blind faith in the world... but it's not Jewish Faith; it’s not Emmuna.

There is another aspect of belief in G-D called BITACHON, and we'll explain what that is, G-D willing, in a later volume, so be patient!

















2. The Basis of Faith and Trust



What Do I Really Need to Believe Something?





AS WE LEARNED IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER real Emmuna, true faith and trust, are not baseless things. They begin with a foundation of knowledge that must continually be reassessed and improved. That's what Emmuna is all about: living my life based on the clarity of that which I know to be true.

Nevertheless, the question remains: how do I start? What is, or should be, the criteria upon which I base my core knowledge? But even more so, how do I know what I know?

To understand that we must first understand the following:

Amazingly, we have all of the utensils necessary at our disposal to accurately weigh and assess all aspects of life. It’s called the human mind. All people on this earth have the G-d given ability to analyze, criticize and speculate almost any matter under the sun.

However, there are a few limits, prerequisites, and fine-tunings, which must be recognized and scrutinized before we can rely upon the conclusions of our mind. Just what do I mean by this? I refer to the following:



Limits of the human mind



First, the mind is limited by its experience.

As we will discuss in future lessons, although we know that space is limited and that it’s expanding, we have absolutely no way of comprehending or describing into WHAT it is expanding. Why is that? Very simple: because it is beyond human experience. Everything that we do know, as of today, is based on the sensory knowledge that we acquired using the five senses of taste, smell, touch, sound and sight. If we have not experienced it with any of these five things – we know nothing about it in any way.

Also, even those things that we have experienced are further limited by the extent of the experience that we have had. Having seen, for example, the American Bald Eagle only once – I really can’t tell someone else that much about it other than it’s got white feathers on its head and neck and a mean stare! How would I be able to understand more about it? By further observation, of course!

The assumption, therefore, is that if I have two people that have observed the American Bald Eagle, one watched him for 1 hour and the other one for 10 hours, then clearly the one who has observed him for 10 hours is the one with the better understanding of the American Bald Eagle. Correct?

Maybe.

It depends on what is the information that I would like to learn about the Eagle. If I want to know about its behavior – clearly the one who has more hours of observation is more likely to be the one with that knowledge. However, if I want to know more about, say, its feeding habits and the one-hour guy happened to have used his time watching him while he fed, whereas the other guy only saw him feed for 10 minutes then the one-hour guy is the one to go to for that information.

Which brings us to the next issue, concerning the limitations of the human mind.

It is quite likely, due to human nature, that the guy with the 10 hours of observation, but only 10 minutes of feeding observation, to say “Hey! I know a lot more about the eagle than that guy!” and proceed to produce a detailed conclusion concerning the feeding habits of the eagle based on the other 9 hours and 50 minutes of observational knowledge that he has.

Now in truth, as the student of the aforementioned observational experts of American bald eagles, I am in dire need of this knowledge, so that I know what to feed my pet American bald eagle and how to prepare it for him. Now I need to know: which one of these experts can I trust?

To me, it makes the most sense to say the guy with the full hour of observation! Why? Because in addition to the incredible powers of the mind, is something called “visualization” and “speculation.” I “consult” my general knowledge concerning the bald eagle and I improve upon the experience that I have concerning the feeding habits of the eagle using my powers of imagination.

Now imagination is a very remarkable power of the mind! Not all things “imagined” or “imaginary” are necessarily untrue. What they are is unobserved!

You see the power of imagery in the mind is so great that, essentially, if we have visualized it – it’s almost as if we had done it! It is for this reason that the power of visualization is given such praise nowadays, as it is key to a person’s personal success in almost any endeavor. The better a person can visualize him-or-her-self as having already achieved the goal or already having overcome that obstacle – the more likely it is that he will make that goal and hurdle that obstacle. Why? Because, even if in reality, I have only done it in my mind’s eye, to my mind I actually did it.

So too we tend to assume that if I can imagine it – it’s true. Many times, that is not the case!

Therefore, a secondary limitation to the human mind is to know how to distinguish between that which is real and that which is imaginary. Sometimes the line between the two is fragile, and we might assume that what we imagined is true, or that something true is only imaginary.



The Prerequisite for Knowledge



In three words: “Seek the Truth”.

Having said that we have to realize that there are one of two reasons why we don’t live up to this ideal: Either because I am not a seeker, or because I am biased, and therefore not objective.

We would all like to assume that we are objective, and the truth is that we are… some of the time. However, most of the time we are running on pre-conceived notions that we have concerning many things under the sun.

Our sages, ob”m, tell us – based on the Torah’s prohibition against a judge taking bribes – that when the Torah says, “Bribes blind the eyes of the wise and slur the words of the just9” that this is true under all circumstances. Even if the person receiving the bribe is given it with the understanding that he should rule as he feels is just!

So, the next question that to ask ourselves is “am I biased in my judgment? Am I accepting a sort of bribe?”

“Bribe?” you’re surely thinking, “From whom, per se, am I receiving a bribe”?

Answer: From your very own self! How? Let’s bring a few examples:

There is no-one in the world today who doesn’t know that it has been clearly demonstrated that there is a connection between smoking cigarettes and increased likelihood of sickness. (Come on guys! It’s even written on the box in big letters!) Despite this fact there are still many millions of people today who still smoke. How can they ignore the facts? Simple! They’re biased! They tell themselves “I am the exception to the rule” or “One more won’t hurt me” (they then repeat this to themselves as they slowly, but surely, finish the box and the carton).

It has similarly been demonstrated that there is a clear connection between obesity and health as well. Yet despite this fact there are many people who can’t stick to a diet or exercise regimen. It’s not because they didn’t come to such a decision. Many times, we have no problem shaking our addiction to food (“I’m not addicted Rabbi” my students tell me about their smart-phones, “why I can quit whenever I want to. In fact, I quit every single day”. Hmm. Not addicted?). Yet their conviction lasts… until they meet the ice-cream or the chocolate cake. Why? What changed? Their desire for X overcomes their logic and therefore the litany of excuses begins.

So, too, in the realm of G-d.

We all know that, at the end of the day, the conclusion that there IS a G-d is one that has consequences. Except the philosopher’s creed, there wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be anyone who claims that there IS a G-d… but no consequences. If there is a G-d, He has expectations of you and in not fulfilling those expectations, you can expect to get what’s coming to you! If there is no G-d, however, then there are also no “divine” consequences to your actions. Effectively you can do what you want, when you want, to whomever you want without any real or eternal effects. (More on this in the chapter entitled The Twilight Zone).

So, the question is: am I willing to accept the consequences of my conclusions concerning the subject at hand? Will I follow through with the consequences resulting from my search for understanding and knowledge? Am I a seeker of the Truth?


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