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Thought for the Day: Resurrection and World to Come (After Life) are Integral Jewish Beliefs

I have started a new series of taped shiurim (I know those recordings wouldn't know  tape from Adam, but I am old enough to think of all recordings as "taped") by Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky on Da Ma Shetashiv/know how to answer an apikoros (I had no idea that word only applied to Jewish apostates; cool!).  I like this genre of shiur.  First, you cover a lot of ground vis a vis Jewish thought.  Second, I know this apikoros (a very irritating one, actually, who always stars at me while I brushing my teeth) that is a real tough customer and he always needs to hear the same answers said a new way; over and over again.

R' Lopiansky started with a nice introduction of some necessary conditions before you even think to begin a discussion.  He presented an interesting thought experiment.  Suppose you had the opportunity to meet an aborigine who was very intelligent, but had never before seen a computer.  (To get an idea of how he feels, try asking your teenager about his iPhone...)  You could explain to him in broad terms how a computer works: you give it some input data to work on, it then follows a set of programmed steps to analyze that data, then present you with some results that you need.  He is intrigued and wants to know all the details.  At that point, you need to tell him that you are willing, but that you will need to first give him some background knowledge.  The more detailed he wants, the more background you'll need to cover first.  To really give him everything, you'll then need to actually spend several years teaching about things such as electricity, magnetism, material science, semiconductors, and so on.  Note that the vast majority of that bulk of knowledge will have nothing at all to do with computers, per se.  At that point you both make an assessment of whether the investment of time and energy is worth it.

Reality, being as it contains computers, is at least as complex.  Somehow, though, people think they can start right in with questions like, "Oh yeah?  So how does your all good God let the holocaust happen?"; then, before you can even catch your breath, "and birth defects!  Explain that, smart guy!"  When I was first becoming religious (within the first year or two), the rabbi said he would prepare to discuss abortion with us at the all night learning we would do on Shavuous that year.  One fellow was particularly excited about the prospect of showing the rabbi the error of the Torah position.  We started at about 10:00PM and the rabbi handed out a thick stack of papers to each of us; "This is the background material we need to start addressing the question."  The very excited fellow finally left, very bored and disappointed, about 1:30AM.  He had coming looking for a fun argument and not to actually understand the issues.

I would like to add another dimension to the thought experiment.  Suppose the aborigine agreed to the need for understanding the background material, but added his own condition: "One thing: I don't believe in electricity and magnetism.  So even though it might take you longer, please keep those topics out of the discussion.  I want to really understand computers, so I don't want any of that 'invisible force field' stuff that you physicists believe in cluttering up the discussion."  Obviously, there is no reason to even begin.  There is clearly no way to have a meaningful dialog.

I've had discussions where people say, "Look... I would love to understand how you guys justify belief in an all good God when there is clearly so much evil in the world, but don't go talking about resurrection of the dead or heaven and hell; I know you Torah guys believe in that stuff, but I just want to understand about good and evil.  'K?"  Since resurrection and after-life are right at the core of why this world was created and how spirituality interacts with physicality, there is obviously no reason to even begin the discussion.  There is clearly no way to have a meaningful dialog.

I wish I would remember that when I buy into starting those discussions...


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