Know or Believe? - ואתחנן

Wednesday, 26 July, 2023 - 2:27 pm

Know or Believe? 

In his words to the Jewish people, reminding them of the great revelation at Sinai and enjoining them to remain loyal to G-d, Moses tells the Jewish people not to believe in G-d, but rather to “know” G-d: 

You have been shown, in order to know that the Lord He is G-d; there is none else besides Him… And you shall know this day and consider it in your heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth below; there is none else. (Deuteronomy 4:35-39)

Faith in G-d is mentioned earlier in the Torah, at the crossing of the sea, where the Torah tells us: 

And Israel saw the great hand, which the Lord had used upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in Moses, His servant. (Exodus 14:31)

What did Moses mean when he said we must know G-d? Is knowing G-d the same as believing in G-d?

Unlike the popular phrase “seeing is believing”, Chasidic Philosophy explains that faith is not necessary for something that could be seen or sensed. Therefore, faith is not required in order to know that one has a soul, since the effects of the soul are clearly evident, as the body is alive and infused with consciousness. The same is true regarding the soul of the universe. As the book of Job states: “from my flesh I can see G-d”; meaning that just as we can sense our own soul bringing our body to life, so too we can sense the soul of the world, which is G-d Himself, within the life that we see around us. 

Faith is required not in order to establish the existence of G-d, but rather in order to relate to the full extent of G-d’s infinity and transcendence. For the ray of Divine energy vivifying creation is insignificant in relation to the essence of G-d. It is the essence of G-d which no mind can grasp and which can only be accessed through faith.  

When Moses tells us to know G-d, he is telling us to sense the presence of G-d within creation. Moses is telling us that when we look around and see life on earth with all its beauty and elegance, we are sensing the soul of the universe; we are sensing the presence of G-d. 

(Adapted from Lekuteui Torah, Veyadatah Halom 4:1) 


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