"Perfect Knowledge"

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: I was thinking that the Torah idea of "emuna" is more accurately described as trust, as opposed to faith.

When you trust someone, they have already established that they come through for you in a relationship in a general way. Since, in the past, they have come through for you, even though in this particular you don't see how, you trust that it will be the same as it was in the past.

If a stranger said to me, "Trust me, it will be fine," I would be foolish to trust him since we have no relationship and he has not established that he is trustworthy. If my husband says, "Trust me, it will be fine," and many other times in the past he has come through, then I can trust
that it will work this time. Even if I can't conceive of a way that it will be fine.

Based on all of my knowledge and understanding, I can't understand how a particular situation will be successful. However, if I have established a trusting relationship with someone, and they tell me it will be successful, I can rationally trust them. Even though I don't know how the particular situation can possibly work, I am confident it will work because someone I trust says it will. I don't see the particular, but I trust the general relationship. That gives me confidence about the particular. That is emuna.

If you agree with that, I was wondering if you could explain to me if/how the 13 "Ani Ma'amin"s fit in to that. (Not each individual Ani Ma'amin; rather, the general concept of emuna of the Ani Ma'amins).

I sense that could be true, for example, with regard to Moshiach or T'chiyas Ha'meisim. It's not clear to me that Hashem will revive the dead, but if Hashem says He will, then I trust him because of our prior relationship.

I heard that the emuna of the 13 is really knowledge, but I don't remember what that means.

Any input you can give me will be appreciated,



Mesora: I appreciate your questions J, as you always think into the area and ask based on a framework and principles.

Your write, "It's not clear to me that Hashem will revive the dead,...". I understand it is far removed from our experiences, but I don't see why God's revival of the dead poses any problem. If we admit that the world was created from nothingness, isn't a revival from something less amazing, even more plausible? Talmud Sanhedrin takes this up, page 90b (the very last line), "An emperor said to Rabbi Gamliel, 'you maintain the dead will be revived, yet they are dust. Can dust come to life?' Thereupon the emperor's daughter said to the Rabbi, 'let me answer him'. She said (to her father) "In our town, there are two potters, one fashions from water, the other from clay. Who is superior?' The emperor responded, 'The one who fashions from water.' She replied, 'If God can make man fro water (semen) certainly he can make him from dust'. The school if Ishmael taught, it can be deduced from glassware: If glassware which is made by human breath, when broken, can be repaired, then certainly a person who is made from God's breath can be resurrected."

Getting back to your points, in all areas of Judaism, knowledge is the obligation, not blind faith. "Emuna" or "amen" does not mean to accept without rationale.

What does "emuna shlayma" mean? Does it mean "perfect faith"? Can one have "emuna chetzya" (half emuna)? Is "emuna" properly translated as "faith" or even as "belief"? Additionally, "perfect" implies an area that is subject to quantity. Faith is not subject to quantity. You either have faith, or you don't. If one argues that some possess more faith than others, I ask: Does "complete faith" shed any reflection on reality whatsoever? It does not. If so, what benefit is their to faith? One who believes, and the one who does not, are on equal footing. Neither is certain of reality until it occurs. So the mere belief in something is truly inconsequential. It plays no role in our mission to learn about truth.

Knowledge does have degrees - not regards apprehension of facts, as that too either exits or it does not. But knowledge does have degrees in terms of the stages on the road to conviction. At first, you learn an idea, but you may not be convinced of its certainty. After study, the mind can intellectually grasp this idea as necessarily true. Subsequent to intellectual apprehension, there is yet one more step - conviction. This is the point where a person not only admits a truth, but he then incorporates its value into his life. What prevents this second step? Emotional resistance. The Torah describes the necessity of man straddling both, rational and emotional conviction, (Deut. 4:39) "V'yadata hayom, vihashavosa al livavecha". "And you shall know it this day, and you shall cause it to rest in your heart...". "Know" refers to intellectual knowledge, and "heart" refers to emotional conviction. This I believe to be the explanation of "emuna shlayma". Maimonides teaches we must have not only intellectual apprehension, but also emotional conviction.

Certainly in the foundations of Judaism, one must use his faculty of reason divinely granted exclusive to man. Why would God give only one species the faculty of intelligence, if it were not for the purpose of engaging that faculty? And if we are to use this faculty, mustn't we use this in the most crucial of areas? I mean the knowledge of God? Again, faith plays no role. Even trust is not the goal. Our goal is to use our gift of intelligence, which is the only faculty capable of apprehending truths.

Some of the Thirteen Principles have to do with recognizing realities, some with the advent of future events. How does "emuna" apply to both? Regarding realities, we have addressed that here. We must comprehend these first 11 principles based on arguments. Even regarding the 12th and 13th, which deal with the affirmation in the coming of Messiah and with the Future World, we must use rationale, just as was done by the emperor's daughter quoted above. I would say that regarding the coming of the Messiah, we do "trust" in God's fulfillment of heralding in the era of the Messiah, in the sense that we do not say God deviates from His promises, or from His nature. But again, this type of trust means conviction in principles.

My personal opinion as to one reason for the necessity of the Messiah is as follows: Over many millennia, the originally given, Mosaic Judaism has severely been distorted. Today, some people's Judaism differs greatly from others. For the sake of reestablishing true Mosaic law, perhaps, God foresaw our era, and long ago planned the solution - the solution being a leader who is unanimously accepted by all Jews - Messiah. His authority even surpasses King Solomon - and this is no small point. Messiah must surpass great leaders if he is to have true authority. This is the definition of authority. Once established king, he will reaffirm all true concepts true to Moses' law, and nullify and dispel all false beliefs and assumptions. Judaism will return again to its pristine, unadulterated form as intended by God at Sinai.

Another question also forces us to deny the use of "belief" in relation to these Principles: Why should we translate "emuna" as belief, when we see that for each principle, Maimonides supports each with rational arguments? Which does a rational argument or a proof create: A belief, or a truth? Of course, it is the latter. Additionally, by what method did Maimonides arrive at his principles? Were they not the result of lengthy study, where he determined from areas of knowledge that these thirteen tenets are based on fundamental principles? This too teaches that the Thirteen Principles are rational ideas, essential to our knowledge of reality.



Reader: If knowledge is required, why is "emuna" used instead of the Hebrew word "daas"?

Mesora: Perhaps we must define the various terms applied to human, intellectual and psychological processes. God does not partake of human processes such as acquisition, as denoted by "chochma" which is acquired knowledge, or the knowledge to resolve issues. God has no issues to resolve. Nor is understanding - "binah" - appropriately applied to God. Similarly, God does not have the apparatus of reasoning, so we do not refer to God as using "sechel". God is somehow "knowledgeable", so we may properly say God knows, or has "daas". Man too has daas.

But perhaps Maimonides used "emuna" and not daas, as emuna means "conviction" or assuredness. Simple "daas", knowledge, is not sufficient here. Man has one component God does not. That is the instincts. For man to have knowledge alone, his dual nature as rational/instinctual is not yet permeated with an internal and complete realization and affirmation of a given principle. When do we say that a person lives by a value system, when he has 100% conviction, or "emuna" in that set of ideals. God's knowledge cannot bridge into a second framework which He has not, so emuna is not possible for Him. Man however has the hurdle of aligning his emotions with his knowledge. When he does, he has emuna. He has "made straight" his path.

"Knowledge" is the intellectual apprehension of some ideal, whereas "emuna" means that both aspects of man ascribe to such an ideal with no conflict.

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