Letters Oct. 2008

Reader: I am a Catholic writer who is married to a Reform Jew. As you may know, Pope John Paul II often referred to the Jewish people as our "elder brothers in faith." My goal in registering here is to grow in my understanding of the Jewish faith that Catholicism claims as its roots. OK... now to my question...

Regarding the following quote from Torah from Sinai: “The religionist believes first in God and then in his mind and senses, while the man of Torah, who bases himself on evidence, accepts his mind and his senses and then proceeds to recognize God and His Torah by means of these tools. Only the man of Torah perceives God as a reality as his ideas concerning God register on the same part of his mind that all ideas concerning reality do.”

According to Rabbi Chait’s description above, would Abraham be considered more akin to the "religionist," or to the "man of Torah?"

Mesora: Abraham is akin to the "man of Torah". He discovered God using his mind, similar to a scientist who discovers God through the universe. In contrast, the religionist first accepts any notion of God – not based on a rational approach. As Rabbi Chait says, he does not approach God using his sense of reality. Such an individual operates on a purely emotional, religious path, not based on anything he has witnessed in the universe. This latter religionist is not following reason, but religious emotion. He therefore construes an idea of God that is not based in reality. A critique. 

The "man of Torah" has "ideas concerning God that register on the same part of his mind that all ideas concerning reality do". The "man of Torah" lives in reality. That was Abraham, and that is why God selected him to teach all who followed him. (Gen. 18:19)