Letters March 2015

Reader: If Emuna comes from reason, where does Bitachon comes from? Is it an “upgrade” of Emuna?

Rabbi: “Emuna” or conviction (as in “amen” said after hearing a blessing) as you said, is based on reason. We respond “amen” (this is true) to one who blesses God for any of His various gifts. We thereby testify to our conviction in this truth of God’s kindness. 

We are convinced of a given point when either, it complies with with reason, we experienced it, or it is based in God’s Torah, as Maimonides taught. “Bitachon” or trust does not exclusively concern reason, for it concerns God’s word and His promises. God is not confined to how our minds work, or natural law that He controls. For example, we are “convinced” that 2+2=4, but we “trust” God’s promises, as in His rewarding our good deeds; viz., that charity enriches us, although we don’t understand how diminishing wealth actually enriches us. 

One does not have bitachon about a witnessed event; one has conviction. But even though bitachon concerns God’s promises, it is not devoid of reason, since all Torah finds its basis in Revelation at Sinai, which is undisputed truth. Thus, we are convinced that Revelation occurred, and therefore we trust in all of God’s words that form part of His Torah communication.

Conviction concerns intelligence and reasoned truths. 

Bitachon concerns our beliefs and actual response to God’s promises.

Evil Eye

Reader: What do you think of the ability for one person to harm another by using the “Evil Eye”?

Rabbi: The understanding most people have is that the Evil Eye is some power one possesses to hurt another. But we must ask, as one is not born displaying such powers, at what point, and through what mechanism is this power acquired? What are the limitations of such power?  These questions unveil this understanding to be fallacy. 

The Rabbis referred to the Evil Eye as a person who will “look” (eye) viciously at others, suspect others, and cause unfair harm due to their “actions”, not mere sight. Such actions are evoked through jealousy, competition, or other infantile emotions. The Rabbis and intelligent people know there are no powers man possesses other than his muscular strength. This is why God commands us to kill a witch or warlock: as their professed abilities are false, and more so, as they obscure God as the sole power in the universe, they must be killed. But not because they possess any ability at all. The Hebrew term for witch is “mach’shayfa”, which the Talmud teaches is an acronym for conflicting with heaven (God). Ironically, if the witch had real powers, why can she not save herself from the death penalty? How can God even say she must be put to death, if this is impossible? The same can be said of the Evil Eye practitioner. Additionally, no evidence exists for either.

On a fundamental level, God’s system of justice, or Reward and Punishment, demands that only evil people are punished. Thus, for God to have created a power where infantile people can vent their jealousy and harm innocents, Reward and Punishment would have to be rejected. But, as we know Reward and Punishment is a perfect and just system, as our brilliant founder Abraham expressed, where only man is ignorant of God’s complete control and justice, we conclude from reason and from evidence that the Evil Eye, as is understood, is a fallacy.

Kabbala vs. Prophets

Reader:  What is the distinction between Kabbalistic works (Zohar, Tanya, etc.) and Prophets and Writings, that you claim the former possess flaws?

Rabbi:  Kabbalistic writings are not Divinely inspired, but are man-made and thus, they are subject to human error. In contrast, Prophets and Writings are God's communications through the Prophets. The tendency to deify authors of Kabbalistic is the source of the error, to view such writings as infallible. Jewish communities promote Rebbe worship, or Tzaddik worship, like Christian saints. People have become overly attached to man, and are less attached to God and His words. King Solomon rejects such deification of man, “For man is not righteous in the land who performs good and does not sin (Ecclesiastes, 7:20).” These are the words of the second wisest man to have ever lived. Yet, Jews today prefer to endorse a contrary view in order that they might feel there is an infallible rebbe or Tzaddik, to save them. Their personal desires for wealth, health, a shidduch or other needs drive them to deify flawed humans to lead them, and many times, these Rabbis rob misguided Jews, lying to them and creating the worst Chillul Hashem. Deifying authors of Kabbala by claiming their writings are without flaw is merely another expression of human worship, again violating King Solomon’s words. 

It's crucial that your goal be to validate "ideas”, not the author. That's the purpose and primary function of the intellect. Intelligence distinguishes truths from falsehoods, not one author from another. This being the case, it is clear that God's will is that man distinguish truth from fallacy, and abandon human deification. And if one reads in any work, regardless of the author, that there is a piece of God in a human, he must dismiss such heresy as this violates reason, and God's words to Moses, the Prophets and Writings.