“The Intellect and the Exodus” by Rabbi Jeremy Kagan— Finding Faith

Kagan, Jeremy. “The Intellect and the Exodus” Maggid, 2018.

Finding Faith

Amos Lassen

Faith (Emuna) is a difficult word to define just as it is a difficult quality to have. It is something quite nebulous and yet quite real. In modern times it is even all the more difficult than when we were a tribe among other cultures who were engaged in worship and faith seemed to surround us. Making all the more difficult is that faith doesn’t just happen—it must be developed and now that western culture has prevailed for thousands of years, we have been exposed to rationales that challenge faith and have changed the way we consciously see and act.

Regarding God and the concept of the divine, we seem to interpret them as ideas and not facts. To make it all the more difficult,God often seems to be in our vision of reality. We can only wonder how to achieve some kind of faith that is integrated, consistent with our rational context, yet still retains its Near Eastern soul?” Quite simply, can faith live in a world that is based on reality?

Having a degree in philosophy, I should not have found this to be a difficult exercise but I realized after an hour of thought that not only did I not have a renewed sense of faith but I had not much of an idea of what faith really is. I spend hours each week studying Torah either in a group or alone. Of course, I have trouble believing everything in it but I can say the same about the world today—I have trouble believing everything in it. I left Torah during my college years and then during the many years I lived in Israel and it wasn’t until about fifteen years that I began to study Torah again and while I do not see it as a panacea for all that is wrong in the world, I do often see it as blueprint for our lives and this brings both God and faith into the picture.

Let’s face it honestly; the world of the Torah is nothing like the world we live in today. The Torah is not reality but I worked hard to develop faith that would bring it into my life and make it as real as possible. It was only when I could accept that there is a distance between Torah and reality was I able to make some kind of sense of it all. I admittedly had a bit of the same problem as I plodded my way through Jeremy Kagan’s “The Intellect and the Exodus”. It is not an easy read but it is so rewarding. It is heavy and hard to read at first until you realize where is the attempting to take us; we are  challenged and out of those challenges, comes better understanding and, oh, yes,  faith.               

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