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Is belief in G-d based on Divine revelation or intellectual discovery?

by Mrs. Sarah Levi

  

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There are different descriptions of the foundation and basis of belief in G-d.

The Rambam, the great philosopher and jurist, is commonly understood as being the proponent of an intellectual/rational/deduction-based Judaism as opposed to Rabbi Yehudah Halevi (author of the Kuzari) who used an emotional/mystical/revelation model. However, if you look close enough, you can see that Judaism recognizes a combination of intellectual inquiry and belief in revelation.

In a section of his comprehensive collection of Jewish law, the Rambam describes in fascinating detail how mankind moved from a belief in the one G-d that Adam and others believed in and spoke with at the beginning of Creation, to worshiping idols made out of clay. He paints a picture of a chain of misunderstandings, power struggles and lies.

If you look close enough, you can see that Judaism recognizes a combination of intellectual inquiry and belief in revelation
The earlier generations began worshiping nature in the mistaken belief that it was G-d’s will to honor His servants such as the sun and the moon. Later generations of “priests” and “prophets” fabricated stories, claiming they had received revelations describing what sort of temples to be built and what types of sacrifices to offer. This ultimately led all of mankind into idolatry.

The Rambam then recounts Abraham’s rediscovery of monotheism by use of his intellect and reason, and the establishment of a community that worshipped one G-d. However, that was not the happy ending. The Rambam concludes with “Abraham’s descendants moved into Egypt and began to lose their pure monotheism and revert to idolatry. When all seemed to be lost, G-d in His love sent us Moses the Prophet and G-d chose the Jewish People as His inheritance and instructed them how to serve Him.”

The Rambam’s long digression into the history of religion has a purpose: it is to tell us that yes, G-d can be known and discovered solely through the intellect, but only by a select few. For the rest of us, intellect alone is not enough, as we all know how easy it is to intellectually justify any behavior (with or without creating an alternative belief system) if we want to badly enough. This is why we must first base ourselves on the Divine Revelation at Sinai, and only then we can use our intellect to know G-d.


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Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
Rambam
Acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, widely known as Maimonides. Born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.