This week, a friend shared with me her disappointment with her children’s orthodox, Yeshiva education, which I paraphrase:
“My sons come home from yeshiva, repeating stories about magical miracles that happened to some Rabbi. They’re being taught that we are to be more impressed with supposed, miraculous occurrences, than with natural law”.
I too recently witnessed this to some degree, when I asked a friend’s 9-year-old daughter Rochelle, what she had learned in Hebrew studies. She recited ideas, which clearly violated reason. But since they formed part of her “Hebrew” studies, she did not apply reason, and blindly accepted and strongly defended them. She unconditionally accepted all that was taught in the name of Torah. But this same girl will question sciences until she is blue in the face. Why the distinction? Because she has been poorly educated that Torah is not subject to reason, as is science.
This happens to be a predominant occurrence. And to make matters worse, on two separate occasions, I witnessed firsthand orthodox shul Rabbis endorsing their belief in miraculous occurrences. I’m not talking about the Torah’s miracles, but miracles purported about recent Torah personalities. Of course we wonder why such miracles never make the news, and are never seen by masses. And the reporting party – in this case the two Rabbis – did not witness the miracles firsthand. As a matter of fact, in all cases where I heard such accounts, the party relating the event to me did not witness anything firsthand. So why did these people accept these stories? They were fed this when they attended yeshiva, and so, the disease spirals downward.
Think about it: these Rabbis would not undergo surgery by voodoo doctor. No, both Rabbis would insist on “knowing” he is a full-fledged doctor, with the proper education and numerous successful operations under his belt before risking their lives. But in matters more crucial – matters of the soul – these Rabbis are ready to spread lies without the concern that they mislead others…a great crime, as Maimonides teaches:
“Four matters are great sins, for which God does not allow one to repent, and they are: 1) causing the masses to sin…” (Laws of Teshuva, 4:1)
Misleading the masses is the first sin Maimonides lists. Misleading people to accept a faulty way of thinking that directly opposes Torah thought is a philosophical sin at the least. This path destroys Torah.
The Rabbis’ messages were identically disturbing Torah violations, which I translate for you: “We must be impressed with those about whom we hear miraculous events. We must follow them unconditionally”. These Rabbis did not claim to see the events, but they repeated them to their captive audience, certainly with the wish to “ooh and aah” them. Perhaps teaching Torah has lost its impact for their congregants, after years of miraculous stories. But had these Rabbis replaced the names of those they sainted in these fables, with “Jesus” or “Mohammed”, they would be searching the Help Wanteds.
Why do Jews buy stories about “Rabbis” flying on animals, or walking on water?
Shouldn’t a Rabbi seek to impress his flock with God, not man?
The primary danger is that this practice endorses the Jesus phenomenon: where without evidence, we accept miracles, and deify a person, or raise him to some prophetic status. As proof to where this path leads, a vocal segment of Chabad deifies the Rebbe, calls him God, prays to him, and sends faxed letters to his grave…as proof that the Jesus phenomenon has been resurrected. Those in the Chabad camp who disagree, must repeatedly denounce such views. In contrast, Moses teaches the Jews to accept only “what your eyes saw”. (Deut. 4:9) Belief in second hand reports of miracles without mass compliance was not Moses’ way. Therefore, we must not deviate from Moses.
Now, what happens to children who are raised to blindly accept such stories? They do not learn to use their critical faculties…their Tzelem Elokim, which God gave us precisely to determine what makes sense, and what doesn’t. God designed the world with scientific laws and math, so that man might learn these sciences and witness a sensible system. This is what God deems most central to the human race, and why He granted us alone a soul. This realization of precise laws, that are consistent, allows man to build upon previous knowledge, upon the laws he learned yesterday, and progress further and uncover more truths. This is God’s system, that man follows a rational trend of thinking, and sees the consistent beauty in nature. It was this approach that Abraham used to discover God. And it is this same logical approach God desires we employ when approaching Him through Judaism. The Talmud teaches that the purpose of study is “svara”, definitions, an understanding of principles, not a blind faith in miracles, or in anything. But if we train our children to seek out miraculous stories, to be impressed with incomprehensible matters, they will become blind faith observers, where Judaism and Christianity share identical fundamentals. In essence – we will have made them into Christians. We will have taught them that using our minds is not preferred. But our greatest Rabbis toiled to explain the root of mitzvahs such as the Minchas Chinuch. They uncovered beautiful explanations for the philosophy of Judaism as seen in incomparable works authored by Maimonides, Saadia Gaon, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Radak, Nachmanides, Sforno…the list is endless. These leaders opposed the blind faith approach, and practice of extolling people whom purportedly experienced miracles. That is why they rejected Jesus.
God is the source of all knowledge. And knowledge is the set of truths that by definition explain matters of creation and God’s will, with “reason”. This means, that the only path to knowledge, is a path where reason guides every step. If we do not engage reason, then what we fathom are mere fantasies that do not reflect what is true and real. Therefore, if a teacher continues to repeat stories that he or she did not witness, or where there were no masses present…they do not teach Torah. They in fact teach lies, and train students to be impressed with fantasy, and not with reality. They oppose all our great Rabbis, starting with Moses.
We must urge our teachers not to repeat stories without proof, just as Moses did not wish the Jews to accept anything without proof. For if we follow a life where any story goes, we cannot say Christianity is wrong.
The distinguishing characteristic of Torah that makes Judaism true and all other religions false is the path of reason, the unwavering demand for proof. As concerned parents, you must be sensitive to the stories your children repeat, and not sit idly by, unless you do no care that your child may one day be more impressed with Jesus, than Rabbi so and so. Teachers must emulate the great Rabbis, and teach what they have toiled to preserve for us.
Torah is no less logical than the sciences. God created both, so they both must reflect wisdom, and a structure that is reasonable and based on proofs. So the next time you hear miraculous stories coming from your children’s mouths, contact the teacher or Rabbi, and demand proof, or their retraction in front of the class. If you do not act, then you are to blame for the continued loss of Torah, and these teachers’ students who eventually abandon Judaism because they found Christianity more emotionally appealing. Conversely, if the Torah’s proofs are taught, starting with the Fundamentals, then your children will be armed with the arguments to defend Judaism 100%. They will only grow in their devotion to the true God, and His true Religion.