Please enable JavaScript in your browser to experience all the custom features of our site.

RabbiHorowitz.com
Please Use Our New Website
still under constructions
to purchase safety books and educational materials
https://thebrightbeginnings.com

Mr. Harry Skydell, Chairman
Mr. Mark Karasick, Vice Chairman
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Director
Rabbi Avrohom M. Gluck, Director of Operations
The first 1000 members will have a chance to win a
16 GB
iPod
touch
with Rabbi Horowitz audio

Membership Benefits:

  • Save articles to your favorites folder.
  • Save and print selected articles in a PDF journal.
  • Receive emails containing the latest comments on your favorite articles.
  • Mark articles as "READ".
  • More member features coming soon...

Raffle Rules:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. To enter, complete the signup form and join as a member. Incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries shall become the property of CJFL. CJFL is not responsible for lost, misdirected or delayed entries.

The contest is open to the general public. Members need to be at least 18 years old. Identification must be produced on request. Employees of CJFL, its raffle sponsor, advertising and promotional agencies and their respective affiliates and associates and such employees' immediate family members and persons with whom such employees are domiciled are excluded from this raffle. ALL PREVIOUSLY REGISTERED MEMBERS WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY ENTERED INTO THIS RAFFLE. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. Decisions of the raffle judges are final - no substitutions will be available. By claiming the prize, the winner authorizes the use, without additional compensation of his or her name and/or likeness (first initial and last name) and municipality of residence for promotion and/or advertising purposes in any manner and in any medium (including without limitation, radio broadcasts, newspapers and other publications and in television or film releases, slides, videotape, distribution over the internet and picture date storage) which CJFL may deem appropriate. In accepting the prize, the winner, acknowledges that CJFL may not be held liable for any loss, damages or injury associated with accepting or using this prize. CJFL retains the rights, in its absolute and sole discretion, to make substitutions of equivalent kind or approximate value in the event of the unavailability of any prize or component of the prize for any reason whatsoever. This contest is subject to all federal, provincial and municipal laws. CJFL reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this raffle at any time without prior notice. One entry per person.


Escaping Subjectivity
Excerpted from: "Making Sense of Suffering"
by Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner
Publication: Torah.org

  Rated by 5 users   |   Viewed 7615 times since 12/29/08   |   7 Comments
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size    [ Change Font Size ] Email This Article to a Friend
   

12/29/08

Each of us likes to think of himself as an objective, dispassionate seeker of truth. And we would like to believe in our capacity to achieve objective understanding. In reality, however, our intellectual activities -- especially our search for the meaning and purpose of life -- are inevitably colored by our desires. There is no escaping our subjectivity.

The choice of topics to which we direct our mental energies are themselves a function of some pre-existing will or desire. Why does one person walk into a bookstore and gravitate to the section on Chinese cookbooks, while another browses through the works of Greek philosophy? Only some of pre-existing connection to one body of knowledge or another can explain the choice.

If subjectivity plays such a large role in the selection of information from which we forge our understanding, then it necessarily colors the results of those efforts as well. Different raw material inevitably yields different results.

Desire and will determine not only what information a person processes, but how it affects him. One can acquire factual knowledge without an affinity or interest in those facts, but information thus acquired will never change one's vision of himself or the world. That is what our Sages meant when they said, "A person does not learn Torah except from a place (i.e. a topic) that his heart desires" (Talmud - Avoda Zara 19a).

The emphasis here is on the word "learn." Without interest, education cannot take place. All successful educators are superior motivators, for without motivation teaching is impossible. Before we learn Torah for the first time every day, we recite the blessing. Within that blessing we include a short prayer that G-d should make the words of Torah sweet in our mouths (Talmud - Brachot 11b).

No other mitzvah is preceded by a similar petition: Before we put on tefillin, for instance, we do not ask G-d to please make the mitzvah enjoyable. But learning Torah is different. Without the sweetness, we cannot internalize the Torah.

Recognition of the correlation between our interest and our ability to absorb leads to some disturbing conclusions. For interest and desire are not only a means of internalizing knowledge; they are also a means of coloring it. If we pay attention only to those bits of information that interests us, then there is obviously a large subjective component to any intellectual investigation. Information that we perceive as beneficial to us takes on an exaggerated importance, and other information that threatens us in some way is filtered out.

The Torah makes this very point in the Shema, the basic affirmation of Jewish faith. In the third paragraph of the Shema, we are enjoined, "Do not go astray after your hearts..." (Numbers 15:39). The Talmud interprets "going astray after one's heart" as referring to the pursuit of false ideologies and distorted beliefs about G-d (Talmud - Brachot 12b).

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, one of the great leaders of European Jewry in the generation leading up to the Holocaust, asked: If the Torah warns against false ideologies and philosophies, why does it speak of the heart and not the mind? He answers: False beliefs are raised not so much by a defective intelligence as by a perverted heart. The heart is the seat of our desires and will, and those desires are the source of all distorted thinking.

To be sure, it is possible to reduce one's subjectivity. To the extent that a person gains control of his desires, he reduces the problem of bias. That is why purification of character is a precondition for greatness in Torah study.

Yet no matter how much we minimize our self-interest, the challenge raised by suffering confronts us with other inherent limitations. The ultimate answers to our questions necessarily depend on knowledge of G-d's ways and how He runs the world. As finite beings, however, we cannot know the ways of an infinite G-d. Our intellect cannot comprehend His.

As Maimonides writes: "His wisdom is not like the wisdom of the wisest of people, and the difference between Him and His creatures is not merely quantitative, but absolute."

Confronted with these barriers to intellectual understanding, what are we to do? Should we simply throw up our hands? Such a response is deeply unsatisfying. It is also un-Jewish.

Judaism, more than any other religion, demands rigorous, ongoing intellectual effort. We are not, of course, only thinking creatures, but as Jews and human beings, intellect is a crucial part of our essence. Any relationship with G-d that does not engage our intellect fails to move us at the deepest levels of our beings. We must pursue our intellectual inquiries as far as we can, even as we remain mindful of our inherent limitations. We can neither abjure our intellect nor fully depend upon it.

Judaism does not view thought as the sole source of knowledge or truth. Nor does it limit truth to only those statements that can be verified in the same way as a logical proposition. Limiting our knowledge of the world to what can be philosophically or scientifically proven trivializes thought by confining it to a very narrow sphere. It equates the powerful, but limited, vision of science with the entirety of reality, and thereby excludes from the realm of legitimate inquiry all moral questions, as well as the nature of G-d and our relationship to Him.

G-d in His essence is unknowable, but that does not mean He does not exist. The totality of His ways is unfathomable, but that does not mean He has no ways.

Intellectual endeavor remains crucial, but it must be coupled with another element: trust. Trust is what we are left with when we have gone as far as we can toward intellectual understanding and have still not obtained satisfactory answers. Trust is the certainty that there is sense to G-d's ways -- even when we are denied access to those ways.


Excerpted with permission from "MAKING SENSE OF SUFFERING" Published by ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd., Brooklyn, NY http://www.artscroll.com



To sign up for Rabbi Horowitz’s weekly emails, please click here.


Reader's Comments:      Rating & Comments Policy      Rate & Write a Comment!
 Average Rating:              Rated by 5 users    (7 comments)
Subscribe to this Article
(by subscribing you will receive email notification
when new comments are posted)
There are no comments yet. Click above to write the first comment.
Dear Readers:

Please visit our Parenting Resource listing to learn about agencies and services that you can make use of. If you know of an agency that can be of assistance to others, kindly drop an email to our site administrator at admin@RabbiHorowitz.com and pass along the information to him.

I ask that you please consider supporting the work we are doing to improve the lives of our children. Click on these links to learn more about our teen and parent mentoring program that serves hundreds of teens and their families, or our KESHER program, now in 20 schools in 4 states. Your financial support can allow us to expand these services and help more children.

If you believe in the governing principles of this website – to help effect positive change through the candid discussions of the real issues we collectively face, please consider becoming a daily, weekly or monthly sponsor of this website and help defray the costs of it’s maintenance.



Working with Families and Educators on Behalf of our Children

This site is managed by The Center for Jewish Family Life, Inc., 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952
Project Y.E.S. was founded by Agudath Israel of America
The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES - 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952 (845) 352-7100 ext. 114 Fax: (845) 352-9593
email: email@kosherjewishparenting.com


Advertisements