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Embarking on a journey of faith:

Have you ever looked up at the vast expanse of the cosmos and wondered about the universe's origins, the very fabric of reality itself? Have you pondered the intricate workings of nature, the delicate balance of life, and the profound mysteries that lie beyond our comprehension? If so, get ready to be captivated by a dialogue transcending the boundaries of time and culture – a conversation between a Rabbi and a Khazar that delves into the profound depths of knowledge, faith, and the divine.
This captivating exchange challenges our assumptions, inviting us to question our understanding of creation, the role of reason, and the very nature of belief. It guides us through a labyrinth of philosophical inquiry, exploring the intricate relationship between faith and reason and illuminating the path toward achieving true spiritual fulfillment.
Prepare to challenge your mind and awaken your spirit as you embark on this transformative intellectual journey with the Rabbi and the Khazar. Let their wisdom guide you, leading to a profound understanding of yourself, the world around you, and the mysteries that define existence.

Chosen or Chosen One?
Unveiling the Rabbi's Argument for Jewish Exceptionalism

  1. Al Khazari: If I had supported my arguments by reference to a negro people, i.e. a people not united upon the common law, thy answer would have been correct. Now what is thy opinion of the philosophers who, as the result of their careful researches, agree that the world is without beginning, and here it does not concern tens of thousands, and not millions, but unlimited numbers of years. 

  2. The Rabbi: There is an excuse for the Philosophers. Being Grecians, science, and religion did not come to them as inheritances. They belong to the descendants of Japheth, who inhabited the north, whilst that knowledge coming from Adam, and supported by the divine influence, is only to be found among the progeny of Shem, who represented the successors of Noah and constituted, as it were, his essence. This knowledge has always been connected with this essence, and will always remain so. The Greeks only received it when they became powerful, from Persia. The Persians had it from the Chaldaeans. It was only then that the famous [Greek] Philosophers arose, but as soon as Rome assumed political leadership they produced no philosopher worthy of the name. 
  3. Al Khazari: Does this mean that Aristotle's philosophy is not deserving of credence? 
  4. The Rabbi: Certainly. He exerted his mind because he had no tradition from any reliable source at his disposal. He meditated on the beginning and end of the world, but found as much difficulty in the theory of a beginning as in that of eternity. Finally, these abstract speculations which made for eternity, prevailed, and he found no reason to inquire into the chronology or derivation of those who lived before him. Had he lived among a people with well-authenticated and generally acknowledged traditions, he would have applied his deductions and arguments to establish the theory of creation, however difficult, instead of eternity, which is even much more difficult to accept. 
  5. Al Khazari: Is there any decisive proof?
  6. The Rabbi: Where could we find one for such a question? Heaven forbid that there should be anything in the Bible to contradict that which is manifest or proved! On the other hand, it tells of miracles and the changes of ordinary, things newly arising, or changing one into the other. This proves that the Creator of the world is able to accomplish what He will, and whenever He will. The question of eternity and creation is obscure, whilst the arguments are evenly balanced. The theory of creation derives greater weight from the prophetic tradition of Adam, Noah, and Moses, which is more deserving of credence than mere speculation. If, after all, a believer in the Law finds himself compelled to admit an eternal matter and the existence of many worlds prior to this one, this would not impair his belief that this world was created at a certain epoch, and that Adam and Noah were the first human beings. 
  7. Al Khazari: Thus far I find these arguments quite satisfactory. Should we continue our conversation, I will trouble thee to adduce more decisive proofs. Now take up the thread of thy earlier exposition, how the great conviction settled in thy soul, that the Creator of body and spirit, soul, intellect and angels--He who is too high, holy and exalted for the mind still less for the senses to grasp--that He holds intercourse. with creatures made of low and contemptible material, wonderful as this may seem. For the smallest worm shows the wonders of His wisdom in a manner beyond the human mind. 
  8. The Rabbi: Thou hast forestalled much of my intended answer to thee. Dost thou ascribe the wisdom apparent in the creation of an ant (for example) to a sphere or star, or to any other object, to the exclusion of the Almighty Creator, who weighs and gives everything its due, giving neither too much nor too little? 
  9. Al Khazari: This is ascribed to the action of Nature.
  10. The Rabbi: What is Nature? 
  11. Al Khazari: As far as philosophy teaches, it is a certain power; only we do not know what it really is. No doubt philosophers know. 
  12. The Rabbi: They know as much as we do. Aristotle defined it as the beginning and primary cause through which a thing either moves or rests, not by accidents, but on account of its innate essence. 
  13. Al Khazari: This would mean that the thing that moves or rests on its own account has a cause through which it moves or rests. This cause is Nature. 
  14. The Rabbi: This opinion is the result of diligent research, criticism, and discrimination between accidental and natural occurrences. These things astonish those who hear them, but nothing else springs from the knowledge of nature. 
  15. Al Khazari: All I can see is, that they have misled us by these names, and caused us to place another being on a par with God, if we say that Nature is wise and active. Speaking in their sense, we might even say: possessed of intelligence. 
  16. The Rabbi: Certainly; but the elements, moon, sun, and stars have powers such as warming, cooling, moistening, drying, etc., but do not merit that wisdom should be ascribed to them, or be reckoned more than a function. Forming, measuring, producing, however, and all that shows an intention, can only be ascribed to the All-wise and Almighty. There is no harm in calling the power which arranges matter by means of heat and cooling, 'Nature,' but all intelligence must be denied it. So must the faculty of creating the embryo be denied to human beings, because they only aid matter in receiving human form from its wise Creator. Thou must not deem it improbable that exalted divine traces should be visible in this material world, when this matter is prepared to receive them. Here are to be found the roots of faith as well as of unbelief. 
  17. Al Khazari: How is this possible?
  18. The Rabbi: These conditions which render man fit to receive this divine influence do not lie within him. It is impossible for him to gauge their quantity or quality, and even if their essence were known, neither their time, place, and connexion, nor suitability could be discovered. For this, inspired and detailed instruction is necessary. He who has been thus inspired, and obeys the teaching in every respect with a pure mind, is a believer. Whosoever strives by speculation and deduction to prepare the conditions for the reception of this inspiration, or by divining, as is found in the writings of astrologers, trying to call down supernatural beings, or manufacturing talismans, such a man is an unbeliever. He may bring offerings and burn incense in the name of speculation and conjecture, whilst he is, in reality, ignorant of that which he should do, how much, in which way, by what means, in which place, by whom, in which manner, and many other details, the enumeration of which would lead too far. He is like an ignoramus who enters the surgery of a physician famous for the curative power of his medicines. The physician is not at home, but people come for medicines. The fool dispenses them out of the jars, knowing nothing of the contents, nor how much should be given to each person. Thus he kills with the very medicine which should have cured them. Should he by chance have effected a cure with one of the drugs, the people will turn to him and say that he helped them, till they discover that he deceived them, or they seek other advice and cling to this without noticing that the real cure was effected by the skill of the learned physician who prepared the medicines and explained the proper manner in which they were to be administered. He also taught the patients what food and drink, exercise and rest, etc., was necessary, likewise what air was the best, and which place of repose Like unto the patients duped by the ignoramus, so were men, with few exceptions, before the time of Moses. They were deceived by astrological and physical rules, wandered from law to law, from god to god, or adopted a plurality at the same time. They forgot their guide and master, and regarded their false gods as helping causes, whilst they are in reality damaging causes, according to their construction and arrangement. Profitable on its own account is the divine influence, hurtful on its own account the absence thereof. 

Questions to sharpen understanding of the Text above:

  1. Contrasting Beliefs: How does the Rabbi view the source of knowledge about creation compared to Al Khazari and the Greek philosophers? (paragraph 63)
  2. Strengths and Weaknesses: According to the Rabbi, what are the strengths and weaknesses of reason and tradition in understanding creation? (paragraph 64-67)
  3. The Power Behind Creation: Who does the Rabbi believe is ultimately responsible for the wonders of creation, even small things like an ant? (paragraph 68-69)
  4. Nature vs. God: What is the Rabbi's critique of the concept of "Nature" as presented by Al Khazari? (paragraph 70-77)
  5. Conditions for Faith: According to the Rabbi, what are the conditions necessary for achieving faith and what are some of the pitfalls to avoid? (paragraph 77-79) Bonus:
  6. Analogy Explained: Explain the analogy of the ignorant man in the physician's surgery and how it relates to the Rabbi's point about faith. (paragraph 79)
  7. Historical Context: How does the passage reflect the historical tension between religion and philosophy?
  8. The Rabbi's Purpose: What is the Rabbi's main goal in this conversation with Al Khazari?
    Two Bonus Questions
  9. The Role of Reason and Faith: To what extent does the passage reconcile the roles of reason and faith in understanding the divine and the natural world? How does the Rabbi's perspective challenge or complement philosophical approaches to knowledge and belief?

  10. Universalism vs. Particularism: Does the Rabbi's emphasis on the prophetic tradition of Adam, Noah, and Moses imply a universalist view of salvation or revelation? How does the passage address the relationship between different belief systems and the pursuit of truth?


Insights of this class from the Chavruta program group Zoom session: 


"The Sorcerer's Apprentice", The Kuzari, and Socrates' Trial: A Fascinating Journey into Knowledge, Responsibility, and Truth


**The Magic Went Haywire:**


Imagine a young, excited, and impatient apprentice. The old sorcerer has left the house, leaving the apprentice responsible for the chores. Eager to cut corners, the apprentice decides to use magic. He casts a spell on the broom to fill the bathtub with water but loses control of the magic. The broom keeps filling the bathtub, flooding the house and causing chaos.


**Initial Lesson: Responsibility for Limited Knowledge**


The story of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is a simple yet powerful parable. Walt Disney shows us the danger of using power or knowledge we don't fully possess. The apprentice, out of irresponsibility, causes significant damage.


**Socrates' Trial: The Limits of Reason and the Search for Truth**


The figure of Socrates, accused of corrupting the youth and disbelieving in the gods, is another example of the humble search for truth. Socrates admitted that he didn't know many things and was open to learning and listening to different opinions. He claimed that he had no prophetic or superhuman knowledge and that he sought truth through critical thinking and open dialogue.


**The Distinction Between Logic and Reason and Prophecy:**


Socrates distinguished between the world of logic and reason, which he called "Plato's world," and the world of prophecy, which he considered a particular revelation. He claimed that he understood nothing of it and that divine truth was given to us through the true prophets.


**The Kuzari: Connecting with the Creator Through Revelation**


The Kuzari deepens the message. In its view, we cannot reach the connection with the divine on our own. We need divine revelation to understand how to connect to the world's Creator and thus give us meaning in our lives.


**Questions Without Absolute Answers in Reason:**


Many fundamental questions do not have a definitive answer in Platonic reason and science in general. Questions such as: Is the world ancient or existing? Does man have free will?


**The Human Choice and the Certain Preference:**


Immanuel Kant, a famous German philosopher, argued that reason cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. We, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, tend to believe in a Creator of the world, even if there is no absolute evidence for it. This belief stems from preference since this is what we have received from the prophets, and this approach leads us to live according to divine moral values.


**The Connection with the Creator: A Condition and an Obligation**


The connection with the Creator is possible but does not arise from our insights. We, like the sorcerer's apprentice, guess at the actions that will lead to connection with the world's Creator. To do pleasing deeds to God, we must act according to the instructions from the prophets, the 'masters' whom the Creator of the world guides.


**The Need for Humility, Openness to Learning, and Constant Search:**


"The Sorcerer's Apprentice," The Kuzari, and Socrates' Trial teach us that there are no shortcuts. The only way to reach a deep understanding is through humility, openness to learning, and a constant search for truth. And yet, we will always have to choose whether to rely on human reason, even though it cannot provide an answer or to rely on the answers given in the prophetic tradition.


**Are we ready to take responsibility for our knowledge, use it correctly, and always strive to learn and grow?**


**Are we listening to the sages of Israel, who are the 'dynasty of secret keepers'?**


**Will we witness in our time the return of prophecy as promised by the prophet Joel?**


    Unlocking UnderstandingA Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Texts

    1. Listen and Engage: The first step is actively listening to the Text during your initial read-through. Try to understand the main topics discussed in it.

    2. Comprehend the Text: After your initial read-through, try to understand the author's main ideas. Try to capture the spirit of the Text and its underlying purpose.

    3. Imagination and Connection: Use your understanding of the Text to relate it to familiar scenarios or phenomena you know about. How do the topics discussed in the Text compare to real-life situations?

    4. Delve Deeper into the Text: Once you've grasped the essential components of the Text, revisit it. Try comprehending finer details such as numerical data, examples, and analyses that help you understand the subject matter more deeply.

    5. Reread with Purpose: After delving deeper into the Text, reread it. This time, try to understand the point at which the Text was written without focusing solely on the details. Concentrate on the main ideas and central purpose of the Text.

    With dedication and perseverance, you can unlock the secrets of any text and gain invaluable insights that will enrich your understanding of the world around you. Active engagement is crucial for achieving success in your reading endeavors. Listening attentively, understanding deeply, and connecting the Text to your experiences is essential. Take the time to delve into the finer details, and don't be afraid to ask questions or seek help when needed.

    Embrace the power of knowledge and embark on a transformative learning adventure!

    Enjoying the content? are you reading it on your own?

    "The Rabbi: The faculty of speech is to transmit the idea of the speaker into the soul of the hearer. Such intention, however, can only be carried out to perfection by means of oral communication. This is better than writing. The proverb is: 'From the mouths of scholars, but not from the mouth of books.'" (Kuzari)

    Consider joining our "Chavruta" program. Learn these text with a study partner!


    we are approaching the end of the current study cycle. If you are intersted in the program, please fill out the registration form, and we will update when a new study cycle opens.

    In the meantime, you are welcome to listen to recordings of the lessons given in the 1st cycle

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    Brit Olam team



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