Wiederblank, Rabbi Natanel. “ Illuminating Jewish Thought: Faith, Philosophy and Knowledge of God”, Maggid, 2021.
Believing in God
A good subtitle to Rabbi Natanel Wiederblank’s “Illuminating Jewish Thought” would be simply, “Why?”. We consider questions such as if we can prove that God exists, and if we can’t, why should we believe? What must we believe and what if we don’t? What does the Torah say about the age of the universe? Why study philosophy? What is machshava (thought)? By carefully studying traditional Jewish sources and considering their application to timeless and contemporary problems, we attempt here to get answers to these questions. The answers are in the Torah but they are not explicit. Studying Torah teaches us to think, we must dig and discern and we are often befuddled by the holy writings. Somewhere there is a guide to living a meaningful religious life but we must dig to reveal the theological foundations of Jewish faith.
Divided into four major parts beginning with “Machshava,” which is defined as “non-halachic parts of Oral Law,” or non-legal thoughts of Jewish tradition. According to Rabbi Wiederblank these include aggada, philosophy, and mysticism. Each of these is important and each contributes to Jewish thought. To truly understand, we must study all three. In this part, we learn about the thoughts of Maimonides, mystics, and rabbis on these subjects. The second part of the book aggada or non-legal portions of the Talmud. These are stories, parables, history, non-legal ideas, etc. The two other parts of the book are about with belief in and knowing God, and view of what it means to do so.
This is a mystical approach to the Jewish religion but one does not need a background in mysticism to understand it. Rationality is also included but from the opinion of the author.
Here we get an elucidation and illumination of the incomprehensible by the combination of the belief in God with philosophical schools of thought.