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!

Comments

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: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…