The Beverly Hills tycoon was dismayed by his son’s decision to study in a yeshiva instead of joining the family business. After several years the son returned home to his father’s sardonic question: So what have you got to show for your years of study? “I know that there is a God,” replied the young man. Angrily the father leapt to his feet and pointed out the window at the gardener patiently mowing the vast lawns. “He also knows there is a God,” shouted the older man. “No father,” the boy quietly responded. “He believes there is a God; I know.”
The challenge to the person of faith is to acquire so clear an understanding of how the world really works, that God’s role becomes obvious. It’s not a matter of fervent proclamations of faith or moments of spiritual epiphany. Instead, it takes disciplined devotion. It’s not easy, but neither is body building. In both cases, devotees consider the effort worthwhile; what is more, both provide highs along the way.
The path to knowing God, for me, is the Torah which I find to be a comprehensive blueprint of all reality. I do not mean the book of stories that many view as nothing but mythology for children or, at best, for adults with childlike minds. No, I mean the majestic and mysterious data stream of 304,805 Hebrew letters making up a Torah scroll and the ancient Jewish wisdom that accompanies them.
Think of the fifty million or so lines of software code that make up a computer operating system such as Windows 10. These lines of code are written using the conventional alpha-numeric characters found on any typewriter keyboard. The lines contain many easily recognizable words like “and,” “go to,” and “stop.” It is not hard to imagine that with a little ingenuity and effort the characters, words, and numbers could be cunningly arranged to read as a piece of prose. Thus one might encounter the core code of a modern computer operating system and mistakenly assume that it just a lengthy, but badly written, poem whilst remaining oblivious to its higher software purpose. We would endlessly debate the veracity of the saga and the identity of the author without ever realizing the inestimable value the document possesses when used as an operating system rather than as an improbable narrative. The Torah is planet earth’s operating system thinly disguised as a piece of literature.
As such, its laws are every bit as binding as is, say, Sir Isaac Newton’s famous law of gravitation, published in 1666. Which is to say they do not proscribe as much as they describe. Torah laws do not inform us what we should do in the way that the highway code tells us to adhere to the speed limit. They describe the inevitability of cause and effect over time in human societies. It is mistaken to suppose that until the 17th century, Englishmen were free to float above the countryside like untethered helium balloons until Newton ruthlessly suppressed their freedoms with his oppressive new gravity law. Likewise, Torah laws are binding whether we wisely accept them as the rules of the game or whether we attempt to temporarily dismiss them with a defiant shake of the fist. It is the difference between living what seems to be an absurd and random existence and living in an ordered world of rules that are never easy but always consistent. This is a lot like the difference between a rioting hoodlum and a law-abiding patriot. One resents laws while the other is grateful for them.
Torah laws are designed to do far more than promote decency; they are intended to produce holiness. If a nation’s trendsetters are hedonistic, the people will become depraved. If the trendsetters are only decent, the people will be hedonistic. For the people to be decent, the trendsetters must be holy. This has always been God’s intended role for the Jew in every country. It also explains why those nations that played host to vital and faithful Jewish communities frequently enjoyed tranquility and prosperity.
We relive God’s giving the Torah to Moses on Sinai 3,329 years ago this Tuesday night, May 30th, during the festival of Pentecost or as we call it, Shavuoth. This was the entire goal of the deliverance from Egypt.
Without conviction in an ultimate Messianic deliverance, it would be hard for hope and optimism to exist. We would all wallow in the gloom and pessimism that now mostly pervades secular left progressivism. If the nukes don’t get you, global warming will. They are right. With no vision of a supernatural redemption down the road, we must take the only rational alternative. Overcrowding, a meteorite collision, food shortages, an unstoppable epidemic; these are only details. The one certainty is hopeless oblivion. And if the end is oblivion, well nothing much really matters in the interim. By eliminating the promise of that glorious day on which God will be one and His Name will be one, we gradually but inexorably introduce into society the nihilism of body piercings, public vulgarity, and cowardly leaders.
After a catastrophic crash, countless investigators gather to find out why the airplane fell out of the sky. I can provide an answer in only one word — gravity. The real question is why did it ever remain airborne? It remained airborne because it had engines that could convert chemical energy into thrust and wings that could convert thrust into lift. Remove any of these elements and the natural condition of gravity will predominate. I do not even have to believe in gravity for these events to unfold. The story of western civilization and America is the story of an airplane running out of fuel. What then transpires is entirely natural and predictable.
The good news is that if enough of us wish it, the fuel tanks can be replenished. Those of us who believe that America’s greatness is based on God’s protection and adherence to His codes of conduct need to acknowledge and respect theological differences while joining together to reclaim America’s moral and ethical Biblical foundation. America will once again draw nourishment, inspiration and direction from the Bible. Do I believe we can save our country by doing so? No, I know it.
19 thoughts on “Do I Believe Or Do I Know?”
Rabbi, I so appreciate your writings, also those of your wife. As a christian I love what we call the Old Testament and the treasures that you bring to light through ancient Jewish wisdom. As a christian I believe/know that the New Testament is in the Old concealed, the Old testament is in the New revealed. I too know this wonderful God that we both share and believe Jews and Christians are a bit like step siblings. Thank you brother for your work. May our Father bless you and Susan richly.
Like many other Christian believers that post comments here, I do so appreciate your great ability to make the words of the Torah come alive, we as Christians don’t pay enough attention to the “Old Testament” at times which is a mistake because it is the fundamental foundation upon which our Christian beliefs are based, providing the backdrop for our understanding of the “New Testament” which would otherwise be lacking sense and leave us devoid of it’s reason and purpose.
Thank you, Rabbi. I’ve been reading your Thought Tools since the first issue. I always appreciate them.
I believe you said on your podcast that you were going to re-release America’s Real War with an update. Will that be coming soon? Is there going to be a Kindle version? (I’m very short on bookshelf space, so I have to buy my books in electronic editions as much as possible).
Your post nailed it! I’ve been thinking of these things for some time now. The way you put it into words…. thank you!!!
Thanks once again for your thoughtful message of hope and deliverance through attention to the Torah and its messages, both apparent and concealed. What I loved the most from your TCT show was the descriptive example of How the World Really Works: no matter who leans too far out a 20th storey window, whether a saintly man or a scoundrel, he will lose balance and fall, most likely to meet his end on this planet. I hope many more will absorb your message, how the leaders of a civilisation must be holy. And I believe our President is showing signs of doing so. Blessings!
We appreciate your letter, James,
and we’re happy you get to see our TV show as well.
Because our president is not a “Clinton” I can forgive him almost anything but, like you, I am even more hopeful than that.
your kind words encourage me. I believe it’s important to debunk the stupid claim that science and Biblical faith are in conflict.
I too “know” 🙂 it’s important to assert the logical and scientific foundation(s) of our faith. Often it is Christians (which I am) who promote the idea that faith by definition requires you to let go of science.
Thanks for all of the wisdom.
I think this is one of the best “sermons” I’ve ever heard… it speaks to me as a scientist…
Regarding those of the Progressive Secular Left who refuse to acknowledge the existence of their Creator; “The fool says in his heart, there is no God” (Psalms 14:1 & 53:1)
In terms of those who give only mental assent as opposed to that which is faith, allow me to share this interesting story which ties into Rabbi Lapin’s commentary.
Faith is more than just hearing and giving mental assent, faith requires action and trust as an outward response, here is an excellent example of faith; During the winter of 1858, the 34-year-old French acrobat named Jean François Gravelet, better known as Monsieur Charles Blondin, traveled to Niagara Falls hoping to become the first person to make the crossing on a tightrope. He drew an enormous crowd and he said, “Do you believe that I can make the 1300 foot crossing over the falls on this tightrope?” The crowd roared saying, “Yes you can we believe in you!” Then Blondin said, “Do you think I can do the crossing with a man on my back?” The crowd responded once again saying, “Yes, we know you can do it!” Then Blondin said, who will trust me enough to get on my back for the crossing?” The remainder of the story is a perfect example of faith and how it works between the Savior and those who trust in his salvation. Blondin successfully made the crossing, appearing on the Canadian end of the rope with his manager Harry Colcord clinging to his back. Blondin gave Mr. Colcord the following instructions: “Look up, Harry, you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place you become a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, you sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself, trust me lest you fall to your death.”
This is the relationship God expects of those who truly believe in Him.
When I was just a child, I believed. One day as an adult, after hitting rock bottom, I set out to know God. I spent five years of devoting every spare minute I had to doing so, and learning about myself in the process. After five years, God led me to the man he always meant for me to find. A man he first showed to me when I was 18 and living the wrong life. I didn’t know then as I only believed in God, I didn’t know God.
Twenty years of only believing and it has been twenty plus years of knowing God. He even led me to your weekly Thought Tools in 2008. I have been reading your words for a long time now and you still nail the Truth every time.
You are one of a kind.
So needed this Word Rabbi & I thank Abba for bringing it through you. I rarely watch the news, & many associates are perplexed at this decision. In my view, the news has now become the “gospel” for a hopeless generation; with corresponding fruit in the culture of peoples. Blessings to you, your family & ministry of teachings.
Thank you Angela–
The mistake of generations has been to assume there is such a thing as ‘news’ without a values viewpoint. Simply by selecting what to headline you are already expressing values. And that is fine. As long as we know.
Wonderful! This is one reason we Christians need you. Somewhere along the way we lost much of the understanding of our roots.
Good to feel needed. Nay, it is vital to feel needed. For us all. Best sound in the world–“Come here Daddy, I need you!”
GR8full for the information, now for me to go out and use it…..
Teacher- immediately upon reading your always awesome Thought Tool did it occur to me to think, “He KNOWS what he is talking about because he KNOWS the God of Israel”.
As you also know, many if not most of us who grow impatient waiting for yet another brilliant Thought Tool email from you are “knowers” of the Jewish Messiah who has already come and is coming again soon. “This has always been God’s intended role for the Jew in every country.”
Amen! Rabbi, I too am blessed by the wisdom you share from knowing the God of the Torah.
I am perplexed by many Jews inability to see “Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) in the pages of the Torah and the entire “Old Testament.”
Thank you Donna–
we appreciate your encouraging words.
I am sorry you’re perplexed but we don’t do theology at all on this site though in the opening chapter of my book America’s Real War I do explain what worries you.
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