Purim – Rationale vs. the Soul

By Rabbi Dovid Markel


“Once, a chassid came to the Tzemach Tzedek and bemoaned the fact that he had doubts in his faith of God and the Torah. The Rebbe asked him: “Why do questions in faith bother you?” The chassid emotionally responded: “What is the question?! I am a Jew.” Upon hearing this, the Rebbe responded: “The fact that you are bothered by your lack of faith, proves that in your heart of hearts you indeed believe.”

Purim is the expression of “ad d’lo yada,” choosing God in a manner that transcends logic and reason.

In our service of God, there are as well two manners in which we can operate.

We can choose to serve God because we have intellectual proofs to His existence and we rationally decided that serving God is in our best interest, or we can connect to God because the essence of our soul instinctively relates to Him in a way that cannot be confined to reason, as it completely surpasses rationality.

While during the year the objective of our service of God is to permeate the faculties of our minds, on Purim we are capable of connecting to deeper levels of our soul than we ordinarily relate to and can serve the Almighty through our soul—unadulterated by reason.

This is expressed in the Purim story, in that in order to annul the decree against the Jews, the Jewish people had a self-sacrifice that surpassed reason for the duration of a year. This degree of self-sacrifice can only come from the essence of the soul that is one with God.

It is for this reason as well that we call the holiday Purim after the lottery that Haman threw. We make a raffle when we are unable to rationally choose between two things – this was done on the Purim story, both in the manner that God chose the Jewish People and in the manner that we chose God.

Although rationally the Jewish People at the time were at a state where denouncing their Judaism was more rational than retaining it, as the edict of annihilation was solely on the Jew (see the previous post for an extensive discussion regarding this), they nevertheless chose to live and die as Jews.

Although the Jewish People – at that time – were mired in sin, and Haman placed a raffle to reach the point where evil is equal to goodness, God nevertheless chose the Jewish people.

While we often view logic, rationale and reason to be the greatest human experience, and the ultimate manner to access truth, logic has essential flaws.

A.) Assuming that someone would be able to conclusively prove the truth of God, Torah etc. their arguments would only be relevant to an extremely narrow audience of people that are able to understand their arguments and believe them to be conclusive.

If God were to expect mankind to believe in him based on reason alone he would need to make every one that he wants to believe in him with the intellectual capacity to prove him based on intellect.

For if a person is deficient in his mental faculties and does not believe in God, what can be expected of him as he wasn’t given the tools to truly comprehend him.

There is a halachic clause (Bava Kamma 28b) “Divine Law prescribed exemption in cases of an accident – Ones, Rachma patrei.” This is because a person cannot be held accountable for something beyond his ability.

That being said: If God wished that man should rely on his intellect to choose God, it would be impossible to hold someone accountable for their lack of choice, if *their* intellect does not prove God, Torah etc.

A person who has not intellectually matured to the point that he has the ability to prove the existence of God would not be held responsible for his lack of belief and the fallout of that in his lack of adherence to the commandments.

From the very fact, that man has as of yet has been unable to conclusively prove Him (and Torah) – beyond a shadow of a doubt for many people – it is extremely difficult to say that God wished that intellect be the basis for one’s faith.

B.) Intellect fails though to conclusively prove anything, both because the evidence is lacking and because it is an intrinsic failing of intellect.

By definition when you explain something in one fashion it is entirely possible that there will be another explanation to explain the same phenomena, or there may be a realization that the phenomenon that was being discussed isn’t the true phenomena and the reason for the result was due to a mistake in the data.

This is part of the limit of any scientific theory; all that it can be called is a theory. A theory or hypothesis by definition is a proposed explanation for certain phenomena but it can by no means claim that anything that it states is a fact. It must be aware of the possibility that at some later date this fact will be questioned.

Modern science is aware that the mind constructs patterns and has a natural inclination to look for logical patterns. The apophenia of the eye is equally present in the mind and we create patterns where they don’t exist.

Indeed, it is for this very reason that modern scientific inquiry is much more interested in empiricism than logical arguments. The barometer to know if something is true is not if you can construct a sound argument that something is true or false but if you can test it.

However, in a matter that cannot be tested empirically, such as God or Torah, one is back at square one, with the essential failings of the mind.

It is due to this that postmodernist philosophers have mainly given up on discussions of finding a *true* ethical system, and rather lean towards moral relativism – anything can be true as long as it is cohesive.

Rather than look for objective morality, today we look for an extremely subjective one that is primarily emotional rather than rational. There is no right or wrong besides “I won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt me.” Or “as long as two consenting people do something, who am I to say that they are wrong?”

We have given up on reason, besides for empirical testable proof.

That being said, on the subject of God, the data is impossible to be tested. No matter what data that we find in the world, the whole premise of God is that he exists outside of it. Each point of data can be argued to prove a creator or be apathetic to Him – but logic at the end of the day is insufficient.

Today science realizes that all that we observe in the world may not reflect what is actually in nature at all, but merely a product of the senses that we have to observe nature.

We use the mind, and the five senses to experience what we “call” objective reality, but surely if we had a finer tool we’d perhaps realize that all our assumption about the actual state of reality were incorrect and a product of our mental apophenia.

An example that expresses this: When someone with down syndrome or the like makes objective statements about deep reasoning, we often are amused by their naive’ perceptions. They simply do not have the IQ to process certain thoughts that we assume can be referred to as “correct.”

But do we? We are just as mentally deficient on the ultimate scale as the most mentally deficient individual – an IQ of 180 is only considered brilliant when comparing to standard IQ but is obviously stupid when compared to reason and logic itself. Compared to an IQ of 500, even the IQ of 180 is a veritable monkey.

I think it is important for man to get off his high horse of obsessing over the mind and logic – it is a useful tool, but it is surely a deficient one. At the end of the day, our logic too is predicated upon reams of mental biases and insufficient data.

Herein is expressed the idea of choosing God in a manner of “ad d’lo yada.”

When a person wishes to relate to something, he must do so using the proper tools. To “touch” logic, the hand is insufficient, one must use the mind.

Were a person to say, “logic does not exist because I cannot touch it, anyone who would hear him say that would surely laugh at him.”

It is not that logic does not exist, you are simply using the wrong tool to experience it.

There are certain spectrums of light that are not available to the naked eye, and certain waves that are not available to the naked ear. To see them, one may need special glasses, and to hear certain sounds one may need a radio etc.

Just as for each object, one needs the tool to experience it, the same is with God. Were God to be some pure form of intellect (as Maimonides argued) the tool to experience God would be the mind, but He isn’t.

God is God an entity that exists completely outside all paradigms and constructs of creation. To experience God, one likewise needs the same tool – Godliness.

It is specifically in the soul – a veritable piece of The Divine – where mankind, can experience God and conclusively know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that Moshe is True, and his Torah is true.

In the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s famous discourse (Byom Ashtei Asar 5731) he has a lengthy discussion on the tension between choosing God rationally and the choice of the soul.

The Midrash (Eicha Rabba, 3:23) explains the verse (Eicha 3:24) “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,” with an allegory of a king that comes to a city accompanied by dukes and ministers.

One person, says “I choose to serve the duke,” another says “I wish to serve the minister.” There was one smart person that makes the logical choice and choose the king.

The Midrash explains: some people choose idolatry, but the intelligent individual chooses oGd . The Midrash concludes “this is what the verse states ”The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul.”

The Rebbe is bothered by a simple question: “Is choosing God the logical conclusion, or merely the choice of the soul?”

After a lengthy conversation of how the choice for God is a rational one, the Rebbe ultimately concludes (Ch. 7 ) that the mind is fundamentally biased and will always choose the choice that is better for its selfish desires.

What a person views as rational often is not. Indeed, the only way for a person to have true logic, if it’s *first* predicated on the choice of the soul. Doing so removes the bias so that the rational mind will as well conclude that there is a God and that it Torah is true.

Meaning to say, the Rebbe admits that the rational mind will not choose God on it’s own without first having faith. This is akin to the famous quote “that arguments for faith will only convince a believer.”

Faith – explains the Rebbe – removes the natural biases and deficiencies of logic to help a person attain truth in his mind as well. Ultimately though the starting place for faith is the soul, not the mind.

Faith, emunah as described in Chassidus is the testament that (based on Tanya, Ch. 18) “a yid, nisht er ken, un nisht er vil zein upgerisin fun elokut.”

“A chassid came to the Alter Rebbe in a private audience telling the Rebbe that all that he does is not truthful, as he has some ulterior motive. He went on to say, that even this that he’s coming to the Rebbe to tell him about is also with an ulterior motive. Even this that he’s admitting this is also not completely for the sake of truth. He went on and on in this matter until he fainted – as he finally reached a place of truth.”

On Purim, chassidus asks a person to do this digging. If he digs and digs, he’ll perhaps uncover the depth and core of our being.

It’s the rest of the year that we wear a costume, on Purim our true “I” comes to the fore.

For good or the opposite, the way people are on Purim often indicates their true self – who they wish they could be the whole year.

It is also a day where we have a chance – like Yom Kippur – to reach into the very depth of our being and express our true “I,” that after all that is said and done what truly matters is that our “I” is one with the ultimate “I,” God Himself.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38a) remarks “When wine goes in, secrets come out.”

There are two types of secrets that a person can express when inebriated, secrets that the individual is aware of and secrets that even the individual himself does not know.

Often, our conscious, rational mind covers over the unconscious aspect of our identity – we live a life in accordance to the person we think we are, but forget the true “I” that has become covered up by layers upon layers of our experiences.

When we say a l’chaim our conscious mind becomes discombobulated, often letting a deeper part of ourselves express itself.

It is for this reason that the Talmud (Eiruvin 65a) relates that if one wants to know a person’s true colors, they should look at how he conducts himself when drunk. It is those choices that are spontaneous rather than calculated, where a person sees who he is at his core.

The Tanya (Ch. 18) teaches that there is a secret love that is hidden within each and every Jew. He may not be aware of it and even deny its very existence, but the latent love that each Jew has for God is embedded deeply within all of our souls.

It is this secret that we should search for when saying L’chaim – the deep unbreakable connection that the soul has for God, Torah, and the Jewish People.

L’chaim may we dig to the depth of our souls, and reach a place of “ad d’lo yada” The place where the soul touches the Divine and we feel G-d with the entirety of our being!


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