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Guide To The Perplexed

Today, many scientists believe and assert that something doesn’t exist unless it can be seen, heard, smelled, or touched. While atoms fail this test, their existence can be proven indirectly, by the consequences that they cause.

This is a belief and these scientists are people of great faith. You see, one can have faith without having a god.

Had the Rambam lived during the 20th century, he would have probably written a book to prove the existence of the intangible aspects of Judaism using the indirect method. He would have thus demonstrated Judaism’s relevance within science. While we have no Rambam, the Association of Jewish Orthodox Scientists today does a commendable job.

The Rambam lived during the 12th century, when reality was measured in terms of conformance to the philosophy of Aristotle. According to the Aristotelian approach, something doesn’t exist unless it can be understood. Furthermore, nothing can exist outside the laws of nature that Aristotle defined.

The Rambam’s "Guide To The Perplexed" presents Judaism’s relevance within an Aristotelian framework. In contrast to mystical Kabbalistic writings, all of the Rambam's works reflect a rational approach to Judaism and thought.

The Rambam does not commit Judaism to Aristotle. Therefore, Judaism and vast portions of the "Guide To The Perplexed" maintain their integrity in the 20th century, even though the Aristotelian aspects of the Guide are no longer relevant.

This is in contrast to the Medieval Church which adopted and endorsed the Aristotelian framework. According to Aristotle, the sun revolves around the Earth. Had NASA existed during the Medieval period it would have been declared heretical. Astronauts would have been burned at the stake.

Judaism acknowledges that there are things which a person may not be able to understand within a single lifetime. We even find in the Talmud that questions are posed and are left unanswered.

One can thus be a practicing Jew and a self-fulfilled human being without understanding everything. A lack of understanding is not a justification for a person to reject that whatever happens is the Will of G-d, who is actively managing the world in a way that is consistent with its design as He knows it. His management is in the best long-term interests of its inhabitants, although we may not be able to immediately appreciate it.

Nevertheless, Judaism encourages study and research. A person is required to try and understand everything he or she is capable of understanding. This is reflected in our teaching: "It is not upon you to complete the work, yet you are not free to excuse yourself from it (Ethics Of The Fathers 2:21)."

Here’s a story which helps me understand that I can live within a reality of things which I can’t understand.

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The Crisis Of The Earthworms

[Igf]Igf is a lowly earthworm. A tremendous upheaval of earth destroyed his home (hole) and he and his family are now refugees.

He seeks council and comfort from Grytg, the Great Prophet Of The Earthworms. He poses two questions. One, where should the family resettle? Two, why did this happen?

Grytg enwraps himself within his gray feelers. Simple earthworms know only about earth, water, wriggling, eating, eliminating, and breeding. Grytg is not a simple earthworm. He quakes as visions of lofty worlds flash through his consciousness. He recovers and begins to speak.

He points his tail in the direction that Igf and his family should flee. That’s the easy part. However, he has no way to explain within his lifetime why this tragedy has happened. Igf pleads for a word of comfort.

Grytg could tell him about the world of Mike McGraw.

However, are higher causes and realms.

However, are higher causes and realms.

However, are higher causes and realms.

Grytg holds Igf’s feelers tightly and hopes that the word he says will provide some comfort to his lowly comrade.

He says: "SPUTNIK"

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In Loving Memory Of Our Father, Mr. Joseph Black (Yosef Ben Zelig) O"H
In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
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© 1996- by Harlan Black, JewishAmerica. All rights reserved.
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