Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Making a Rational Choice to Embrace Orthodox Judaism

I once had a very enlightening conversation with a self-proclaimed atheist.  We were discussing "Pascal's Wager"; a straightforward cost/benefit analysis.  Pascal argued that belief in G-d (and following His directives) was logical from a simple cost/benefit analysis.  If the atheist is correct, then he will end up with a finite gain (the pleasure that the theist eschewed), and the theist will end up with a finite loss (all that crab).  If the theist, on the other hand, is correct, then he ends up with an infinite reward and the atheist is doomed to nothingness (or worse) for all eternity.  Since one cannot know until the game (ie, life) is over which path is correct, any reasonable person will choose to be a theist.  Straightforward, no?  (There is lots of discussion and analysis, but it boils down to this.)

The enlightening part of the conversation for me was the atheist's argument.  "Well, you see, that's nonsense.  If I chose to believe just because it was expedient, this G-d would see right through that and I wouldn't gain anything."  I was astounded that someone would create something he didn't believe in, then give it features designed to let him uncreate it.  (Pretty clever, in a warped sort of way.)  Most conversations with atheists end up that way, so I have mostly given up.  By the way, you may have noticed that Pascal's Wager doesn't help you choose which religion (another "reason" that atheists dismiss it... sigh...).  Don't worry, that can be worked out using a similar cost/benefit/risk analysis; as follows.

George has been diagnosed with a fatal disease.  If he does nothing he will be dead within the year.  His doctor informs him, however, that there are three courses of treatment (call them A, B, and C) that claim to offer a cure.  The problem is that there is not enough data to know with certainty which is the right treatment for George's condition.  Here is what is known:
  • The treatments are mutually contradictory; only one treatment can be chosen.
  • Choosing the wrong course of treatment will not affect the prognosis, except perhaps some improvement in quality of life.
  • Each course of treatment requires some change to lifestyle; some more, some less.
Given those choices, George can:
  1. Do nothing; live out his year and be done with it.
  2. Pick one treatment at random, based on how he feels about the of the treatment.
  3. Investigate the available evidence (of which there is an abundance) in collaboration with experts, provisionally choose one course as soon as possible, and then continue to investigate for new/changed evidence
Obviously (3) is the most prudent.  (That's an understatement, of course.  Any other choice is recklessly foolish.)

Is your entire life (which always ends in death) worth less investigation?  In fact, the S'porno (parshas Nitzavim) says that Moshe Rabeinu was exhorting the people to do exactly that: make an investigation to determine for yourself how much sense the Torah makes and how far from reason everything else is.  The Torah can not only stand up to your scrutiny; it demands it!


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…