These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Beliefs as Truths

Posted on December 22, 2009 by David Bogomolny

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Beautiful Sunset from Window of Pardes

R. Levi Cooper, my Chassidut (Chassidism) teacher, has consistently inspired me with his wisdom. I’ve heard some of my own thoughts echoed back to me in Levi’s particularly articulate and reasoned way, and other insights of his have seeded entirely new contemplations in my mind.

In discussing the history of the Chassidut, RLC taught us that the Baal Shem Tov (BeSH”T) was not truly the founder of the modern Chassidic movement, as many people have been taught (and as Chassidic tradition holds true). The BeSH”T put his own spin upon an already existing Jewish philosophy, but Chassidism as we know it was propogated by the students of his disciple the Maggid of Mezrich. RLC, as an academic and historian, recognizes this difference between Chassidic lore and historic evidence, and suggested to us that it is possible to accept multiple, possibly irreconcilable truths, particularly in our era of readily available information.

For me, the key here lies in the concept of ‘belief’, which necessarily transcends fact. I regularly struggle with being accepting of my beliefs. I often find myself questioning these, which rest in the pit of my stomach and pulse through my body and mind. It’s an ongoing personal challenge to be accepting of my connection to and sense of the Unknowable.

Some months ago I saw a sign that read [Gd is not what you THINK], which reminded me of our class discussion on conflicting truths, and came to serve as a reminder for me that I should be more gentle with myself. I feel that science will never be able to resolve all of humanity’s many existential questions, and many of us necessarily gravitate towards the irrational – towards unprovable beliefs – to make sense of our lives, of our universe, of our realities. [Gd is not what you THINK] reminds me that I necessarily cannot wrap my mind around every troubling question that I may have – my beliefs are not what I THINK – they simply ARE.