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Why should I believe in G-d?

by Rabbi Yossi Jacobson

  

Library » Holidays » Shavuot » Essays | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The Short Answer: 

Belief in a divine creator of life, protects the sanctity of, and provides purpose for, life.

The Askmoses Answer:

"beLIeVE and Let LIVE" 

Two Tablets

According to the Hebrew Bible,1 the Ten Commandments were engraved on two separate tablets. Why? Was G-d so short of granite that He needed to use two tablets instead of one?

The answer—proposed by Talmudic sages2 two thousand years ago—is astounding. The Ten Commandments, they suggested, were engraved on two tablets, five on each stone, so that they would be read in two directions—vertically and horizontally. Read vertically, they follow the well-known order. But read horizontally, Commandment No. 1 is followed directly by Commandment No. 6: "I am the Lord your G-d—You shall not murder." History has proven that this juxtaposition is critical.

Two groups have made an attempt to divorce Commandment No. 1 from Commandment No. 6—to sever the idea of a Creator who conceived the world for a moral purpose from the imperative to honor the life of another human being. The first group were the philosophers of the Enlightenment; the second group were religious leaders in many and diverse ages. The result for both was moral defeat.

Two groups have made an attempt to divorce Commandment No. 1 from Commandment No. 6:to sever the idea of a Creator from the imperative to honor life
The End of Enlightenment

The thinkers of the Enlightenment ushered in the Age of Reason and the modern secular era, founded on the ethos that the great ideal of "You shall not murder" did not require the prerequisite of "I am the Lord Your G-d" in order to be sustained. Faith in G-d was unnecessary to ensure moral behavior; faith in man was enough—reason alone could guide humanity into an age of liberty and toward the achievement of moral greatness.

The Holocaust spelled the end of this faith in human progress based on human reason. In Auschwitz, the belief that modern man felt a natural empathy for others was forever vanquished. The gas chambers were not invented by a primitive and illiterate people. On the contrary, this people excelled in sciences and the arts but nevertheless sent 1.5 million children and 4.5 million adults to their deaths solely because they were Jews. SS guards would spend a day in Auschwitz, gassing as many as 12,000 human beings, and then return home in the evening to pet their dogs and laugh with their wives. As the smoke of children ascended from the crematoriums, these charming romantics would enjoy good wine, beautiful women, and the moving music of Bach and Wagner. They murdered millions in the name of a developed ethic, and they justified genocide on purely rational grounds.

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 31:18
  • 2. Mechilta Parshat Yitro chapter 8

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Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
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.