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Basics of Emunah #2: Can Faith and Reason Co-Exist?

What is the Meaning of Faith?

1 hr 34 min

The images in the source sheets are from Eyes that See by Dr. Yaakov Brawer

Class Summary:

What is faith? Can faith and reason co-exist? What is the distinction between blind faith and visionary faith? 

Please leave your comment below!

  • YF

    Yechiel F. -5 years ago

    The Miracle of our Eyes.

    That demonstration of the Blind Spot, while impressive, is nothing compared to what I experience every day of my life.

    When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. In case you are not familiar with it, it is an eye disease that is normally hereditary and progressive (not in a political sense), and as of now has no known cure. It destroys the retina from the outside edge, inward toward the central vision, resulting in gradually losing the peripheral vision, leaving only a dwindling central vision sometimes referred to as “Tunnel vision". Depending on the rate of progression, one can lose their vision in relatively few years, or stretch it out till late in life.

    God was kind to me, and the progression to my eyes has paused for most of my life, baffling the experts, and allowing me to live my life without anyone knowing about my “problem” even though I am now 71. For sake of brevity I am leaving out many interesting details, but suffice to say that I was not totally surprised when about 15 years ago the progression restarted, and my window to the world started closing. But in spite of this, it took me a long time to figure out what really was going on, and that I should no longer be driving a car. And this is what I want to tell you about.

    You see the reason I was still driving was because although my eyesight was constricting, I did NOT know that I couldn’t see the things that I thought that I saw. It took me a long while to figure out that my actual sight was about the size of a grapefruit held at about an arm’s length. When I was behind the wheel of the car, or even now when I am being driven around, I think that I see the whole view in the windshield. What is happening is that I have gotten into the habit of “scanning” the scene in front of me, and my brain builds the picture in real time of what it knows should be there, resulting in me “seeing” a large image. But this image that the brain fills in is in high resolution, and if there is a pattern involved as when I walk over carpeting with elaborate weaves, the area surrounding my actual vision is filled in with the proper extrapolated pattern in Real-Time.

    This is good, and it is bad. It is good because I am not living in darkness as some pictures seem to depict “tunnel vision”. But it is bad because sometimes I lose concentration and forget that I am limited and tend to bump into things and people and trip over things. Also when I drop something on the floor, I have no idea where it is until I move back and scan the place where I dropped it.

    In your lecture about the eye’s Blind Spot, you mentioned that the eyes fill in the empty area of the Blind Spot, But I don’t think that a person with a healthy eyesight could ever fully imagine the Miracle that I have gotten to regard as “normal”.

    I hope this brief descriptive gives you enough insight to this Chesed from Hashem that allows me to live a near normal life without thoughts of self pity.

    Yechiel F.

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  • S

    Sara -6 years ago

    Lisa Wilson

    I got it when you told the story of Lisa Wilson.  

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  • Y

    yaakov -7 years ago

    I was listening recently to shiur you gave about the 5 components of the neshomoh, and how we know if we're in touch with our souls. In Parshas Ki Siso, Hashem tells Moishe that when yidden want their prayers to be heard, they should say rachum chanun vechullu. I was thinking, it's really funny to tell someone, "when I'm angry, say or do this and this, and I'll listen to you". But someone who is really in touch with themselves, knows what will get them out of their anger. Being that our neshomos are a cheilek eloikah mamosh, we should also be so deeply in touch with ourselves. Just a thought.

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  • J

    Jacob -7 years ago

    I the first Shiur in this serious available online?

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  • J

    Joe -8 years ago

    “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

    —C.S. Lewis

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  • RYJ

    Rabbi YY Jacobson -8 years ago

    במענה לשאלת כמה וכמה. הנה השאלה ששואלים כמה: אם מישהו מרגיש שאינו מאמין ואינו מקבל את המסורה הזו, או יש לו הרבה ספיקות ושאלות בזה, ושואל השאלות האלה, מה תענה לו? צריך להאמין באמונה שלימה. האם עי"ז יתחיל להאמין, ויסתלקו השאלות? אין המדובר אם שואל סתם מתוך כעס או שנאה או ליצנות. אלא מי שבאמת מעיקים לו שאלות אלו לפי הבנתו? האם עי"ז שיגידו לו שאסור לשאול, האם יתחיל להאמין באמונה טהורה? האם זוהי אפילו המשמעות של אמונה טהורה?
    או שעי"ז שלא יענו לו, השאלות רק יתגברו ויהי' משוכנע שאין תשובה? א"כ כל הציטוטים מספרים שאסור לשאול אינם שייכים לרובא דרובא של אלה שיש להם שאלות ומבוכות. כי אם יגידו להם לא לשאול ולא לחשוב זה לא יועיל מאומה. אדרבה.
    בשלמא מישהו תמים, אין ענין לחקירות ושאלות. אבל אם מישהו מסופק ואינו תמים, מהי תהיה התועלת לצעוק עליו שלא לשאול? הרי בכך יתשכנע למאה אחוז שאין תשובות. בתחלה קודם ששאל הי' עוד בגדר ספק שאולי יש תשובה, ועתה תהי' זאת בדרך ודאי שאין תשובה. וק"ל. וד"ל.

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  • Y

    yaakov -8 years ago

    מצאתי בספרי חסידות א. שמי שאינו רוצה להאמין לא יועיל לא כלום. ב. שאחר שמאמינים באמונה פשוטה, מותר לעסוק קצת בחקירה. ומצורף כאן תמונה.

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  • B

    boruch -8 years ago

    I would just like to share with you this quote on emunah which I just heard as it is relevant to the shiurim:

    "For someone who has emunah he has no questions, for someone who doesn't have emunah, 100 answers will not help"

    Thank you for the very inspiring and wonderful shiurim. Looking forward for the next series and any others.

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  • J

    Joel -8 years ago

    I understand your idea of faith, although I wouldn't call it faith, but rather bliss and/or bliss of דביקות.

    By definition faith means confidence or trust in a belief not based on proof; or it may refer to a particular system of religious belief. So to say that it means something else is just a deception in my view.

    You have asked great questions and you've asked them perfectly so I was sure you will answer them accordingly. But instead all I heard was an explanation of how belief overrides common sense (in some arbitrary, philosophical way) which isn't exactly in direct relation to the questions.

    I know there's one more shiur left, and I would expect that the explanation and proof be provided according to the very good questions you raised, and according to your own explanation that belief is not a rational way to explain religion.

    Please also note that I'm not alone on this, I've heard many people who were at the shiur say that they're sure that you will not disappoint them and the answers will surely follow. People are thirsty for truth. Please be open and honest about it if there's a claim of proof for Judaism, or is it just blind faith just like all the other religions out there.
    As far as I know, all religions make very similar claims, so I would like to see some hard indisputable evidence and proof.

    Seeing is not believing, believing is believing.

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    • JK

      Jonathan Kahanovitch -8 years ago

      Chill, he knows what he's doing

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  • TP

    THE Parsha -8 years ago

    I have been asked to post the question that I had on Emunah to this group so that if others share the same questions they may see Rabbi Jacobsons response.

    Rabbi YY, you are a ray of light in a sometimes really dark world, you display courage and leadership when many others seem afraid to do so. I feel blessed that you are part of the Monsey community and I have told you this in person that I am sure the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT"L is proud of you for continuing his mission.

    My question is a simple one and it is more on the rational side of Emunah and as such may not be germane to the current series. I have been taught that the Yetzer Hara is pure evil and that even Hashem called it bad (Gemara Sukah), and Kviyachol "regrets" its creation. I have been taught that all evil in this world and the yet unrealized Geualah Sheleimah is due the Yetzer Hara and all of its functions.

    When G-d created the world we know that it was created as a perfect model that reflects its creators perfection, with the ability to be bocher in Tov or Ra as a mimic of Hashem.
    How can we then understand that in maaseh Bereishis, within the first 12 hours it all “went to hell”. I know that many explanations exist about what Adam and Chava were thinking and how they were duped and had they only waited until Shabbos it would have changed everything. They all answer the question of what happened and maybe why, but they do not answer the basic question of “how” on the Kviyachol design. If the Yetzer Hara is indeed so terrible and so against Hashems Ratzon, how could it possible enter within the first hours of maaseh Bereshis? And if it was "part of the plan" than what is so devastating about the Yetzer Hara? I doubt that a 6000 year design by the master craftsman just had an irreversible "oops" mistake during the first day of Mans existence.

    Thank you,


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  • M

    mendel -8 years ago

    Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman's kovetz maamarim number 1 is connected to this theme. There he sets forth (possibly without knowing it and for sure without naming it) Festinger’s Rule of Cognitive Dissonance. It is consistent with last week’s shiur ( Thursday night ) that we adapt our reality to our emotional needs of justification -- our reality is somewhat invented, contrived, or as you pointed out stitched together.

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  • E

    elie -8 years ago

    The first thing I would ask any atheist asking for proof of G-d is, "what sort of proof would be sufficient that would convince you to change your belief ?" They will never answer because they are fixed in their beliefs. this sets the stage showing that they really wont believe anything anyways and are stuck.

    He doesnt really want an answer, much like the rasha at the seder, its a question to disprove - not to discover the truth...

    I am saying that when he asks for proof of G-d he knows there isnt any and we fall into the trap of trying to bring proof via science, but trying to answer scientifically is much like your point of the 7 inch holes in the net. the net is the problem. Unless we follow the Rambam that via nature we know there is Hashem. My approach would be to attack science and evolution that it is still a theory full of holes and missing links. Prove evolution I would demand to the atheist !!!

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  • HS

    Happy shnitzel -8 years ago

    First question is if I was born a non jew or even if i was born a jew how do I discover the sixth sense and all together how do I know there is a sixth sense. It sound even at the end of the lecture us believing in gd is beyond logic and the only way to really believe is thru the soul. This means I really gotta believe I have a soul so in essence what you did was push off the questions of belief in God and now all those questions remain regarding the soul and you are telling me to ' just ' believe in the soul. This is all good regarding a jew ( thats if he feel his soul) but it sounds that for a non jew it only makes sence that they should not believe in god . Hope I asked my questions clear enough! Thank you for your all of your brilliant lectures. Gd bless you!

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    • Anonymous -6 years ago

      I did not see a response to this question. PLEASE andwer it. How can a non jew get to this realization?

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  • A

    Anonymous -8 years ago

    I'm posting an email conversation I had with Rabbi Jacobson, perhaps someone can benefit, maybe feel less alone. Its not all about Emuna, but its all interrelated.


    I have few emunah based questions - all of them centered around one single theme.

    As someone struggling with mental illness, how do I know/believe that my struggles are from Hashem and not from my own shortcomings as a weak person?

    I have a personality disorder, (amongst other diagnosis,) which is a fancy way of saying I have bad middos. I work hard and fight each day, however sometimes I feel like it ain't fair. Why would Hashem punish me this way? Or maybe he isn't punishing me - this is all my own doing? For years I haven't shown my face to HaShem, so ashamed was I of myself. Recently, in my journey to heal and find myself I have started to reconnect with Hashem. I love him so much and so badly want to be good, but it's sooo hard for me. So my question I guess is this; if I reach out to Him for help, and I believe He can help me, then I feel angry that He hurt me like this in the first place.

    If my personality disorder is my tafkid on this world - and it prevents me from doing the "normal" mitzvos - like having kids right now- will I still be able to go in Gan Eden? Maybe I should be having kids - maybe I don't work hard enough at 'fixing' myself.. These feelings of guilt and the incompetence as a good Jew hurts me every day.

    A personality disorder effects the very core of the person, making the disorder hard to separate as an independent entity. We see the world with distorted vision, namely in black and white. Judaism, or as how I know Judaism, is full of wonderful greys but a messy blur to my color-blind world. I hope you can help me see the world, Hashems world, as is, in clear view.

    Sorry for going on a tangent. To sum it up,

    How much is in my control? How much is up to Hashem.

    P.S. Please don't respond that I simply have to try my best - I'm never good enough. My best is never the best I can be. I fall through constantly, even when I try my best - maybe I only think I try my best, but can do so much more.
    Is there some magic formula to know when you are enough? Or are we ever enough? I would die if I weren't constantly evolving and growing as a person, but at what point can we sit back and say, "Hashem, for today, I am enough. Today, I'm doing the best I can."

    Because really, all I want is to feel/know that I'm doing His will in the way He wants... From me. I don't want to serve your tafkid, I want to serve mines. I want to stop feeling like I'm a 'mistake.' ️Because really, a normal person would never hurt or destroy like I've done. But if I can change (which I am doing) and connect to Hashem, (my real purpose) maybe my life is worth living. Maybe then I'm not a mistake.

    Thank you for listening. Please feel free to contact me if my questions aren't clear enough.

    Rabbi Jacobson responded;

    Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks so much for sharing all you did and so candidly.
    Second, in response to your question, I'd love to address it in the shuirim. But I do want to mention a few points:
    A. I do not think Hashem is punishing you at all. I think that is a gross mistake and unfair to you and your journey. You are not punished. You are sent. Not sold but sent, as discussed Friday night.

    B. There is no reason for guilt and stress - these feelings come from the external part in you which does not want you to be close to your true beautiful self. Guilt and stress do not make us better people, they distance us from Hashem.

    C. Every moment think what you can do that moment to be close to your source of life -- and if you are doing that, that is the ultimate you can achieve in that moment. with hashem there is joy, serenity and acceptance.

    D. Do not worry about Gan Eden. Hashem is your biggest fan, and all challenges are not punishments or signs of his hate toward you. Do not feel you are always doing the wrong thing and are evil and will be punished. That is all the yatzer hara speaking nonsense.

    E.. You are not a mistake. You are G-d's light here on earth. You are infinite and have infinite value.


    It gives me tremendous chizuk that a presumedly very busy Rabbi cares enough to take the time to respond. Thank you!

    I am excited to look through the documents and the link you sent.

    If I can be bold enough to suggest, maybe it would be worthwhile to run a series on mental illness and the relationship with Hashem? I'm sure I'm not the only one struggling with this. It would be a tremendous chessed.

    To put it in perspective, as a Jew I am supposed to believe that Hashem loves me like a father. But what if my own parent, the one person who is supposed to love me unconditionally, abandoned me? If the closest comparison the human mind can comprehend is the loving and hopefully unconditional relationship of a parent and child - and that very vital bond is flawed - it leaves one with a very skewed view on love. On trust. On relationships as a whole. But at least humans tend to be vocal in their displeasure so you have some gauge to measure against. With Hashem, it's obviously different and not visceral or concrete, making it so much more difficult to do 'right'. Which again is probably flawed thinking as Hashem doesn't necessarily want perfection, but our imperfect perfect best. And that's where the dysfunctional voice inside you starts messing with your head, 'enough is never good enough.' Maybe if I would put on a burka.... Maybe if I were more submissive.... If I were to daven more... And so the cycle goes... Spiraling down from negative talk to downright depression and eventually defiance and anger. Which is a hotbed for sin. And subsequently there's guilt - self-harm and worse. When one reaches rock-bottom the damage left in its wake is enormous and sometimes irreparable. And to think all this started by a simple belief that you can't be loved? With a self-hatred that's so deep you are willing to sacrifice everything, so as not to feel it? How sad and ugly is that? If every Jew were to know, and believe - 100% - that Hashem loves them, no-matter-what! how many journeys can have a different ending?! I almost died and almost lost my kids forever. It shouldn't have to be like this. Nobody deserves to feel that desperate.

    My journey is incredibly difficult - but so tremendously beautiful in many ways. Things people take for granted I have to self-teach. I have to learn that making a mistake doesn't make me unworthy. That love shouldn't have to be earned, but be a birthright. That inherently, each human being, each neshama is beautiful and so so worthy.

    I know one day iy"h I will not only find the answers that talk to me, but hopefully pay it forward to others struggling like me. And that would make it all worthwhile.

    Thank you for helping me on my journey!

    And one last response from the Rabbi,

    Thanks, I am happy to address it, in the right time. i hope in one of the future lectures. bli neder.
    you are a source of inspiration and a source of light and will become this for many many others.

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  • RYJ

    Rabbi YY Jacobson -8 years ago

    Here is another email exchange:

    I listened to one of your Emunah classes (the one that ends with the Matt Wilson story). 1) There are millions more where we don't see this Pintele Yid revealing itself?

    2) regarding Sechel vs. Emunah, isn;t our Emunah also part of our being, and therefore also limited? IOW, is our Sechel is limited because it is our Sechel, why isn't our Emunah as well?

    1. Of course, but when you see it emerge many times, it is obvious that something is there, even if often does not come to the surface. We know this to be true of many many throughout history. So it is not a fluke. See Tanya ch. 18-19.

    2. Emunah is a gift from above--it is Hashem's presence dwelling in the soul. So it allows us to experience that us which is beyond the"self." (See Tanya chapter 18-19 ibid., at length). It is the Divine reality that is “embedded” within us. This is explained by the Maharal in Gevuras Hashem (quoted and explained in Likkutei Sichos vol. 25 Lech Lecha.) See at length in a book by Rabbi Yoel Kahn, “The Essence of a Jew.”

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  • S

    shmuel -8 years ago

    much less than 0.2% of the world population argues for what is true and right..... there is a strength in numbers but there is spirit in being meat mikol hamyim that is palatable
    Leo Baeck - A minority is always compelled to think. That is the blessing of being in the minority

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  • E

    elijah -8 years ago

    The first thing I would ask any atheist asking for proof of G-d is, "what sort of proof would be sufficient that would convince you to change your belief ?"

    They will never answer because they are fixed in thier beliefs. this sets the stage showing that they really wont believe anything anyways and are stuck.

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  • RYJ

    Rabbi YY Jacobson -8 years ago

    Someone emailed this comment: Let's get straight to the point, you asked the exact same questions I do, you explained it pretty well and raised my anticipation to the top but you failed to answer the question. You made me laugh out loud.

    How about emunah is so high that it doesn't exist? How about its all an illusion? Why can't you say the same of marijuana?
    I mean is this the answer, its higher than logic?
    Can't Islam say the same thing?

    You asked the question perfectly and logically, I'm waiting for a logical answer. Otherwise I will stay at my agnostic/atheistic views. It's all a bunch of fluff and outdated.

    We can have 100 people preach for infinity, but if all you have is agendas and bias, its all hot air. Sorry to be so blunt, but I was quite annoyed.

    Here is my response: Thanks so much for your email. As stated clearly, I was not addressing the rational approach; the rational basis for the foundations of Judaism, but simply explaining what role does emunah serve, if things can be discussed rationally. Does faith only exist because we are afraid of a reasonable conversation? Is faith our sole basis for knowing our religion is "true?" If so it seems weak and primitive. And, as you said, not unlike Islam etc.
    Hence the explanation in this class, that faith is never intended to eclipse and undermine reason, but rather it plays a unique role in terms of experience, as discussed.

    But of course, needless to say, and I hope to get to this, we must use reason to weed out "faiths" that may be absurd, dangerous and based on irrational premises. That is the role of Chakirah, to investigate the claims of Judaism, rationally.

    Islam can claim that its faith is higher than logic, but it might be threatened by logic, because it can't stand up to its rigorous scrutiny. Same with Christianity. Hence the vital need for reason in Judaism, to weed out illogical and absurd notions. After that one can appreciate and the blessing of and gift of Emunah.

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    • JMK

      Jonathan Michael Kahanovitch -8 years ago

      i suggest to the listener to go put on tfillin, one time, then a few more times, experience a shabbos, go to visit the grave of the lubavitcher rebbe and say "dear G-d, I have doubts, can you clean them up, can you revel yourself?", after some faithful acts to test the waters, then comeback and ask your questions.

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  • Z

    Zev -8 years ago

    Where can I find the first shiur of the series?

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    • RYJ

      Rabbi YY Jacobson -8 years ago

      We had a problem with it; we will redo it and post it.

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      • JMK

        Jonathan Michael Kahanovitch -8 years ago

        i wondered the same thing.

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  • DB

    David Benveniste -8 years ago


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The Emunah Series

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • December 24, 2015
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  • 12 Tevet 5776
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