Summaries and Notes on Emunos Ve-Dei’os II

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Continued from here.

Essay 3: Chapter 2

Reasons for Commandments

God’s reasons are beyond our comprehension but the following can be suggested as [possible] reasons for various logical commandments:
1. Murder – it creates chaos and counters God’s intent in giving life
2. Adultery – people need to know whom their father is in order to respect and thank him, to receive knowledge from him, and to know his larger family in order to receive support from them
3. Theft – prevents settling the world and if everyone steals then there will be no productive enterprise and nothing to steal [sounds similar to one of the reasons in the Gemara why a professional gambler is inadmissible as a witness — he does not contribute to settling the world, i.e. if everyone gambled there would be no productive enterprise]4. Honesty – someone who recognizes his lies will be conflicted, which is unhealthy

Some people think that you should do whatever makes you happy. However, murder, theft, etc. makes one party happy but the other sad. Therefore, it contains opposites and is false [Anything that contains opposites is false — this sounds like some medieval philosophical concept that doesn’t fly in the modern world].

Click here to read moreThe idea that some of a kind of thing are permissible but others not — such as some days being holy, some food being allowed, etc. — is primarily a way to be obedient to God but also has some reasons:
1. Days of rest — to rest, acquire wisdom, add prayer, meet with others to study religion [Does he recommend studying philosophy (wisdom) on holidays? Note no mention of spending time with family.]2. Respect for the wise – so that we learn from them, we have them pray for us [Rav Kaffach creatively reinterprets this], we appreciate and emulate their righteousness, we encourage them to teach us
3. Prohibited animals — so we don’t worship them because who would worship something that he eats or views as impure [Here is a justification for NOT being a vegetarian]4. Prohibited relations — to avoid fights [over women]5. Impurity — to humble a person, so he appreciaes prayer and holy food when he has to avoid them while impure

You can find explanations for most non-logical commandments. [And others, the few not included in “most”, do they have explanations?]

Essay 3: Chapter 3

Why Prophets?

Some say that man’s intelligence is sufficient and we do not need revelation. However, there is a need for divine messengers not just for the non-logical commandments but also for the logical ones. [Does this refer just prophets or also to Torah scholars?] We can arrive at an obligation on our own but not the parameters of the required acts.
1. Prayer — what? when? where?
2. Adultery — then how do you get married?
3. theft — how do you properly acquire possessions?
4. Penalties for injury — physical penalties? monetary? how and how much?

[Why do the parameters need to be standardized? See Reflections of the Rav, pp. 104-105]

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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