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Thought for the Day: T'shuva, Torah, and Monotheism

I am not great at pure mathematics.  Pure mathematics is all about theorems and proofs.  I am much better at practical math, like we use in theoretical physics.  (Don't mind me, I'm just solidifying my nerd status.)  None the less, I needed to take some advanced math classes in graduate school.  After struggling for a few weeks, I finally discovered the issue: I can't prove something I don't believe.  (That means, of course, that I will never make a good mathematician nor politician; I can live with that.)  The only way I could ever rigorously prove anything was to first spend some time learning how to believe it was true.  Once I believed it, I could sit down to do the work to prove it.

It comes out there were three steps: know intellectually that something was true, then work to get a gut feel that it was true, and finally do the work to rigorously prove it was true.  I just saw a Mabit that tells me I was learning in graduate school how to be a Jew.  The Mabit, in his discussion of t'shuva, notes that t'shuva is an all encompassing mitzvah.  That is, even though t'shuva is motivated by a particular sin, the t'shuva itself is not just the fulfillment of a mitzvah in HaShem's Torah, it is actually movement toward HaShem Himself.  There are two other mitzvos like that, in fact: talmud torah and denial of other gods (ie, believing in monotheism).

The Mabit goes further and notes the most astounding correspondence between our physical selves, our spiritual selves, and these mitzvos.  Monotheism corresponds to the highest level of our neshama, the seichal/intellect, which finds its home in our brain.  Talmud torah, without which no avodas HaShem is possible is connected with our leiv/mind, which finds its home in our heart.  T'shuva is connected with the most basic feelings of wanting to return to our Father/Creator and its home is in the kidneys.

All three -- a clear, intellectual knowledge of the Truth, an emotional stirring to move toward that Truth, and a plan to get there -- are all crucial elements in becoming a perfected being.  As we say in Aleinu (d'varim 4:39): You shall know intellectually and clearly today not later, this is urgent and place into your mind learning and using the Torah as a guide that HaShem is G-d in heaven above and the earth below; there is none other.


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