05 February 2009

If only I could have been there.

Many many many moons ago, back in my yeshiva days, I was learning with someone in the Beis-Medrash. The Sugya had something to do with the miracles in the Bais Hamikdosh and I remarked that it would have been amazing to witness that. So my Chavrusah said, "that's what you'd want to see? I'd want to see Krias Yam Suf. After all that's the foundation of our beliefs."

And rightly so!!!

However, there is a Gemara (sorry, I'm terrible at details) about a Tanna Chastising a talmud for agreeing with his rav about an unusual event at sea because he witnessed the same thing. And he called him a non-believer because the implication was, had the talmid not seen it with his own eyes, he would not have believed it.

Looking back now, I can't help but marvel at my own naivete. I can't know for certain, but I suspect that my Chavrusah was displaying some sign of skepticism. After all, when I expressed my feelings about seeing the actual events in the Bais Hamikdosh, there was some skepticism there about everyone bowing down at the same time and not being crowded. You know, like maybe Chazal were exaggerating just a wee bit?

Yet, I did not project my own feelings upon my Chavrusah because he was talking about undeniable events that I took for granted.

But now, for me it's "seeing is believing". And I've learned that only seeing is believing. And sometimes even seeing is not believing!

It's been several years now that I've been exposed to critical thinking and what I find most amazing is how believers, and I include my former self, do not automatically question Jewish Orthodoxy just based on the very existence of other religions. (Maybe it's because we are kept away from people of other faiths, are taught not to engage with them religiously and don't realize just how strong their faith is. But that's a whole nother story).

Jewish believers like to poopoo the other religions by claiming that Judaism stands up to scrutiny much better than other religions. Let's concede the issue, even though Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians and Mormons might not. But believers are missing the point! To me, the easily exposed flaws in other religions makes skepticism all the stronger. If people could get snookered in this day and age (a mere hundred and fifty years ago) into following a Joseph Smith, if people in 1978 could be induced into drinking the Kool-aid, then it underlies exactly how credible and unthinking people could be!!!

I'll stick with seeing is believing. And even then, that's a maybe.

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