Facts Versus Faith? A Critique of “Why Faith Matters”: A Ten Commandments’ Tale

consumerism drives individuals to seek larger and more profitable markets. both compromise and sacrifice come with this philosophy. for example, “kosher” delis led to the advent of the “kosher style” establishments. with the change, traditional corn beef and pastrami sandwiches-unchained by kashrut laws and costly supervision- could be offered both at lower prices and with non-kosher additions. for example, the famous langers’ #19 sandwich with the added swiss cheese to its pastrami in conjunction with its unique jewish doubled baked rye bread created unholy and unworldly signature masterpiece. the “kosher style” label further enabled them make profit by remaining open on the sabbath.

with this in mind, rabbi david wolpe’s “why faith matters” reaches outside of judaism to explore faith. his conclusion essentially is that faith, as studies show, can lead one to live a better life. he wrote, and noted in a review, that “on balance, religion increases social stability, enabling people to live happier, more productive and better lives. that does not demonstrate religion’s truth. it does remind us, however, that we are creatures designed to flourish — to heal and to help — when we believe.”

faith- belief in god, within religions, however, is different. while merriam webster defines faith as “belief and trust in and loyalty to god. : belief in the doctrines of a religion. : firm belief even in the absence of proof. d. : complete confidence”, the definition misses the nuances of any particular religions faith or beliefs. further, the definition explores the assumption that belief is absent proof.

abandoning facts from faith is not something foreign to rabbi wolpe. he controversial spoke in sermon questioning the historicity of the exodus. with this comes the argument that “while it did not happen, the story is true.”

christians and jews’ beliefs in god differ. in some respect, their pathway towards god are quite different. i hear of and read of christians experiencing god. they feel the holy spirit come to them. was this experience real? certainly, some of these individuals speak with convincing conviction.

faith within judaism, however, markedly differs from christianity. as a jewish child, we are raised with the belief of the ancestral god of abraham, isaac & jacob. one encountering god, is neither a pre-requisite or part of the religion.

from a non-theological perspective, judaism connects to god via the torah. their relationship to the master of the universe is via his thoughts and commandments. jewish people, non-theologically, can interact with god; for those having a good life thank god, those having troubles in their life pray to god, and those experiencing existential moments connect with god. lastly, for a special few, there are those called by the master of the universe to act as his representative- a prophet.

long ago, the college student, and future rabbi, david wolfe, was my summer camp division leader. for those working with him, it was apparent that his charisma, eloquence, intelligence, and good looks would take him far in life. as such, his family’s existential health concerns detailed in the book expanding his point of view. his book details how both he and his wife fought cancer.

the torah, god’s presence comes at unique times with respect to typical individuals. tears of the most vulnerable, hagar, abraham’s concubine, and the collective tears of the children of israel in bondage, were moments sparking divine intervention. arguably, the jewish faith believes that these tears were real and that god is capable of hearing them. the deliverance of the children of israel from bondage is no fairy tale ala tolkein. rather, scholarship from the likes of richard elliott friedman and joshua berman reveal compelling evidence that there was an exodus. with this in mind, it is no surprise that academia recognizes one of the earliest written parts of the torah to be the song of the sea, the chronicle of the moses’s parting of the red sea.

thus, arguably, for the jewish faith belief in god, for an individual, is not something that comes at someone with immediacy. it is not something apparent at one’s circumcision or bar or bar mitzvah. for many, faith and belief in god is formulated over one’s life journey. through experiences, relationships, successes and failures, the indicia of the master of the universe’s presence can be apparent. with life, there are some whose life experiences drive them away from belief. there are others whose life experiences drive them closer. lastly, there are those in the middle who haven’t made up their mind.

thus, for those on the fence, “why faith matters” may offer an appealing message.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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