In Parashah Vaeschanan there is a verse that states: “Veyadata Hayom Vehasheivosa El Levavecha / You shall know today and return unto your hearts” (Devarim 4:39). This pasuk embodies the very core of Judaism, which is belief in G-d. It examines the difference between belief versus objective reality, blind faith versus deductive reasoning and intellectual stimulation. Most importantly, it tells us that the Mitzvah to believe in G-d and the Mitzvah to know G-d are two different directives. The Alter Rebbe, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, in the introduction to “Shaar Hayichud V’haemunah, states that a Jew must have pure faith in G-d’s unity. Not only should we not question G-d’s existence, but it should be a faith of purity. What the Alter Rebbe means by this is that in regard to matters of faith that can be intellectually understood one must and is obliged to strive to comprehend them. Blind faith is not something Judaism believes in. Chassidic thought emphasize that Judaism promotes the aggressive pondering of the human mind to conclude that G-d exists and not leave this matter to faith. This in return will take us to contemplate this new acquired knowledge to the point in which it is internalized into our very being.
Why does the verse state “You shall know today?” The Mitzvah of Shema can give us some understanding of this. The first Mitzvah given to us after the giving of the Ten Commandments
at Mount Sinai was the Mitzvah of Shema. What still remains to be understood is why the verse mentions the Mitzvah at the end of the verses discussing the Jewish people entering the Land of Israel? The Mitzvah of Shema is an obligation that is subject to the person (body) and not just the land of Israel (location). To be able to understand all these we must first discern the difference between Daas (knowledge of G-d) and Emunah (Belief in G-d)
Daas of G-d and Emunah in G-d are listed as two separate commandments in the Torah. One Mitzvah is as the verse states: “Da Es Elokei Avicha / Know the G-d of your father.” We are commanded to know and try to the best of our knowledge to comprehend G-d. Another verse states: “Vayaminu BaHashem / And you shall believe in G-d.” Paradoxically, this Mitzvah commands us to believe in G-d above and beyond once intellectual capacity. We might ask ourselves what are we commanded to believe and what are we commanded to know? If one knows, why call it faith? And if he believes then he doesn’t need to know.
To believe that there is a greater power that enlivens everything and created the worlds from nothing is not a matter of belief or blind faith at all. We really don’t need Emunah to come to this conclusion. The world is proof that there exists a G-d. Just as every person feels that he exists even without seeing his soul, so too does the world scream in testimony of the life-force within it, which vivifies it and causes it to function. This is explained in the verse: “Mibesari Echzeh Eloka / From my flesh I see G-d.”
In general there are various proofs from the world that testify to G-d’s existence: 1.We see life in the world: The spheres constantly move, the wind blows, plants grow. How does this happen? Who is moving the world? Who is moving the sun?
2.Designer’s trademark: The complexity of the universe as a whole, and each individual creature in particular testify that there must be a designer as it could not have happened on its own. Just as a book can’t be written through the random spillage of ink.
3.The existence of time proves a Being before time: We witness the passage of time, hence corroborating the existence of time. Time by definition must have a beginning, otherwise there would never be a present. This raises the question of who created time and in essence, who created the universe (physical space), which is bound to time, and thus must have been created either together with time or after time, but not before time for there cant be a space without time. This forces a conclusion of the existence of a Being that created the universe. Since this Being created time, He cannot be bound by time, as otherwise He too would have to be created, and if He is created we go back to the original question of who created time. Thus there must be a Being that is not bound by time.
4.Cause and effect proves G-d’s existence: Everything has a cause. There must be one first cause that created the universe. What is that first cause? One cannot say the universe created itself, as that means it was around before it was created. One must thus conclude that something exists that doesn’t have a cause. This being is thus not bounded by time, He existed before time and space. We must then conclude that this primary existence is an infinite Being, otherwise, He too would have a cause, for how else did He become finite? If however the first existence is infinite, then by definition he is not bound by logistics of cause and effect, as part of being infinite means he always existed and will always exist and is all able. This brings us to recognize an infinite being, which is by definition causeless, can satisfy the question of how the first existence came about.
This four points in the testimony of the human mind to G-d’s existence is not considered faith / Emunah, but rather knowledge / Daas. Daas refers to knowledge that is so profound and deep that one actually feels it in his emotions. It represents applied contemplation and an internalization of a matter that make it a constant before one’s very eyes, and that one’s heart never departs from the awareness of it. So the Daas based commandment of “Veyadata Hayom / You shall know today,” means that a Jew should contemplate and integrate the reality of G-d’s existence on the cognitive level and to always live with that reality. In other words, one is required to deeply connect his soul with this reality by contemplating it in a vivid and animated way until he begins to actually experience the reality of His presence before him.
Just as a person can live his whole life not being cognizant of the air he breathes and how important it is for his survival, until one day he is drowning G-d forbid and he realizes that he totally depends on it and this becomes the only thing he can think about. A person can go his whole life without knowledge of G-d. In the back of his mind he knows there is a superior being, but he has never put too much thought into it. Until one day G-d becomes relevant to him, and he begins to question and ponder on the existence of G-d. One can escape the natural unawareness of G-d’s existence via contemplation and thoughtful observation. When we become sensitive to G-d’s world and creation by being aware of His presence everywhere, eventually will help change one’s very nature so that it will too begin acting in a way befitting before G-d, thus fulfilling the verse: “Shiviti Havaya L’negdi Tamid / I have set YHVH before me at all times.”
G-d relates to us in two different ways, one is known as “Mimalei Kol Almin,” the Divine creative light that fills all the worlds. This means that the only testimony we can experience of G-d in this world is the fact that He gives it life. What we lack however, is the vivid proof of His aspect of “Sovev Kol Almin,” the Divine light that surrounds all worlds. Both this forces are infinitely removed from the Being of G-d. They are merely external revelations of G-d’s existence for the sake of Creation. As we can see, the experience of the world undoubtedly testifies to the existence of a supernal power that enlivens it, it does not reveal what this power is or its capabilities. It naturally reveals more about the creations than it does about the Creator. It is precisely for this reason that we need to tap into Faith/Emunah. So there is a commandment that obliges us to know H”S to the best of our capacity, and this is done by learning Torah, which is H”S will and fulfilling His Mitzvot. And then we must understand that “the more I know, the more I know that I don’t know,” and this is when we must follow the directive to believe.
“Dwell on the Land and nurture Faith,” means that one is required to nurture his faith until it is set in his heart in a way that the Daas / knowledge is vividly felt. Through Torah, Mitzvots, and Prayer, one is able to draw down the level of “Sovev Kol Almin/ the surrounding light” into one’s very heart. This is the meaning of “Shema Yisrael Hashem,” that the level of Hashem that we believe in, “Hashem Echad,” will be drawn below into “Echad/One,” which are the boundaries of the worlds, the seven heavens and one earth. The Alter Rebbe teaches us in conclusion, that is not only to have knowledge of the testimony of the creation of the world and that G-d fills all the world, but rather to put the knowledge in our hearts and internalize it to the point that it becomes one with us.
Take the time each day to internalize your faith and knowledge of G-d’s existence. Think about it for a few minutes every day, and see how little by little your service of G-d and your Faith in Him will become one with you.
Taken from “Torah Or-Likkutei Torah” (Parashah Vaeschanan, pp.271-275)
Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein