title.jpg (23972 bytes) subscribe

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues


"And Moshe stretched out his hand over the Sea, and Hashem moved the Sea with a strong east wind all the night, and He turned the sea to dry land and the waters split" (Shemos 14:21).

My Rebby, shlita, (may he be well and have a refuah sheleimah soon), often repeated the explanation of the Ramban z"l, that Hashem deliberately caused a strong wind to blow so that the skeptic would be able to argue that it is the wind that is splitting the Sea naturally; not a supernatural miracle from Hashem.

This actually seems quite strange. Had a strong wind ever succeeded in splitting the Sea before? Furthermore, the Sages taught that the Sea was split into twelve parts, one for each of the Tribes to march through. In addition, there were many other miracles which occurred that night. Surely, even if one might believe that the strong wind could split the Sea; how could it possibly perform all of those other supernatural acts?

The answer is that one who claims that he does not believe in the Power of Hashem usually does not do so as a result of logical, intellectual arguments. As a matter of fact, to believe in G-d, one does not have to be a great philosopher. Otherwise, says Reb Elchanan Wasserman, ztvk"l, how could the Torah expect a 13 year old boy and a 12 year old girl to fulfill the commandment of believing in Hashem?

The truth is that, given the alternatives, it is much more logically sound to believe in Hashem than to disbelieve in him. What makes it difficult for one to believe is not his brain, but his heart. In other words, people realize that if they were to acknowledge that there is a Creator who created the world and all that is within it, including him, then the obvious next question must be - Why did He create us? Surely, the Almighty was not just bored one day and decided to create all that exists. He must have had a reason. And if so, then I must be part of some Super Plan; I must have some mission to accomplish. It follows, then, that the Creator must have expressed His Super Plan and my goal in life in some instruction manual. And that means that I am not free to do whatever I may desire; I am limited by the rules and regulations that the Creator has decreed. All of this contradicts the will of one's heart to indulge in every possible thrill that exists; even those that are harmful to his being.

Therefore, one's heart does not allow one's brain to operate properly and comprehend the simple tenet that the world was created by G-d.

The Midrash (Temurah, chapter 3) relates that a disbeliever once approached Rabi Akiva and asked him, "Who created the world?" "The world was created by Hashem, Blessed Be He," answered Rabi Akiva. "Prove it," he countered. "Who wove your garment?," asked Rabi Akiva. "A weaver, of course," he replied. "Prove it," demanded Rabi Akiva. The venerable Sage then explained, "Just as the garment testifies to the weaver, the door to the carpenter, and the house to the builder, so the entire world testifies to the Holy One, Blessed Be He, Who created it."

But the Torah warns that bribery makes even the wise man blind (Devarim 16:19) and everyone is bribed by his Yetzer Hara to disregard even that which is right before his very eyes. Therefore, Reb Elchanan says, to be a true believer, one does not have to be a great philosopher. He only has to be honest with himself and really want to know the truth. This honesty is what the Torah demands of a bar mitzvah boy and a bas mitzvah girl.

But one who is not honest will even argue that the strong wind split the Sea, as illogical as that line of reasoning is, just to prevent himself from admitting the truth which he does not want to accept.

It is told that the great Torah Luminary, Reb Chaim Soloveichik ztvk"l, the Rav of Brisk, had a student who went astray from the path of observant Jews. After many years, they finally met and Reb Chaim was shocked at his former student's appearance and situation. When the young man admitted that he neither observes Shabbos nor the Kashrus laws, nor does he put on tefillin in the morning, Reb Chaim asked him for an explanation. His response to the Rabbi was that he has very strong questions concerning religious Jewish philosophy and he cannot be observant with these doubts haunting him.

Reb Chaim presented his former student with a challenge. "If I were to answer all of your questions, would you return to being observant?" the Rabbi asked. "Absolutely," came the quick response. "But, with all due respect, Rabbi, I really doubt that you can answer them. They are very, very strong questions."

"I'm not afraid of your questions, no matter how strong they may seem to you. I can guarantee you that I have all of the answers. But first I must ask you something. When did these questions develop in your mind? Before you desecrated the Shabbos or after; before you ate non-kosher or after; before you stopped putting on tefillin or after? Please give me an honest answer."

The young man thought for a moment and then replied, "To be honest, Rabbi, all of the questions came after I became non religious. But that is irrelevant to me. Now I am bothered by them tremendously and if you can answer them, I promise that I'll repent and become religious once again."

Reb Chaim sighed and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said. "But I cannot help you."

The fellow was shocked and asked, "But why not, Rebby? You said that you have all of the answers and I promised that if you relieve me of my doubts that I would become observant again. Why are you suddenly backing out?"

Reb Chaim explained. "I do have all of the answers. But they are answers for questions. You, however, don't have questions. You have answers. And for answers I have no answers. You stopped putting on tefillin because you were too lazy to get up early in the morning. You ate non kosher because you are a glutton. You stopped keeping Shabbos because you don't want to be restricted. But you once learned in yeshiva; so your conscience bothered you and you found that you still were not enjoying life. Therefore, you had to come up with answers to relieve yourself of those terrible, guilty feelings. These answers are what you call 'questions' on Judaism. But they are not real and so I cannot disperse them intellectually. As long as you are not honest with yourself, you will never accept the truth. Your evil heart will prevent your brain from working properly. Therefore, I cannot help you until you help yourself."

May we all be honest, and then we will be privileged to see the truth before our eyes, and we will be truly happy, in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel