Faith vs. Knowledge
My Christian friends are always speaking about “faith.” To me this sounds a lot like blind faith. Is that really the essence of religion?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
I'm afraid that this is another case of a Christian concept being mis-associated with Judaism.
Let's first define our terms. What is faith?
Webster defines faith as "Belief without proof."
What is knowledge? "An acquaintance with truth, facts or principles through study or investigation."
Faith is usually a product of desire. Have you ever gotten a tip on the market that guarantees you're going to triple your money in a month? A lot of smart people have gotten fleeced because they ignored the evidence and went with their feelings.
Knowledge, on the other hand, is based on evidence. We know there's a place called China because we have too many products in our house saying "made in China." There's a lot of evidence for the existence of China, even though most of us have never been there.
Judaism unequivocally comes down on the side of knowledge, not faith. In Deuteronomy 4:39, the Torah says: "You shall know this day, and understand it well in your heart, that the Almighty is God; in the heaven above and the earth below, there is none other." (This verse is also contained in the prayer, "Aleynu.")
This verse tells us that it is not enough to simply know in your head, intellectually, that God is the Controller of everything. You must know it in your heart! This knowledge is much more profound than an intellectual knowledge. God gave us a brain because he wants us to think rationally about the world, our role in it, and our relationship with God.
A conviction based on desire or feelings alone has no place in Judaism. The Hebrew word "emunah," which is often translated as faith, does not describe a conviction based on feelings or desire. It describes a conviction that is based on evidence.
Once this knowledge is internalized, it effects how a person lives. A person with this knowledge could transform every breathing moment into a mitzvah, for he would do everything for the sake of the heaven. But this is not a "knowledge," that comes easily. Only intensive Torah learning and doing mitzvahs can achieve this knowledge. Every word of Torah we learn moves us just a little bit closer to that goal. And everyone is capable of that.
To learn more, read "The Knowing Heart," by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Feldheim.com). This entire book is an explanation of this verse!