The Heart and Mind of Faith
It was the Rambam’s judgment that Aristotle reached the
highest level of wisdom that is possible for a human being to reach, short of
prophecy. Yet, we know that Aristotle did not believe in G-d. (It may be that he
did make some profession of faith late in life, but certainly for the most part
he did not believe.) Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman poses the following question: If
as great a thinker as Aristotle did not come to believe in G-d through his
philosophy, how can the Torah demand that belief of a bar mitzvah or
bas mitzvah? And how could it be that they are liable to be punished for it
if they don’t succeed where Aristotle failed?
Another question: It says in the Torah that you shoudn’t go
after your heart and your eyes. "Your eyes" refers to false beliefs; "Your
heart" refers to your immoral desires. The sequence of the phrases implies that
one will lead to the other. But how does following your heart lead to false
beliefs? The heart is the seat of emotion, not the intellect.
The Chovos HaLevovos says that if one considers an
artifact such as a book, there are two ways to explain its existence: either it
was written by an author, or that there was an infinite amount of paper on the
table for an infinite amount of time, during which the wind was blowing the
papers, and there was ink on the table. The ink spilled onto the papers many
different times, and in one of those times, the book was produced by accident.
Whatever we see in the world is either the result of accident or intelligent
The truth is that both are possible. Given enough time and
material, it is possible that the book could have been the result of random
combinations of ink and paper. Which is more probable? Most normal people would
say that the book is the result of intelligent labor, not of accident.
The theory of evolution tries to answer the question: If
there is no Creator, how did everything get here? However, once G-d is
introduced, evolutionary theory becomes irrelevant. G-d could have created
everything over time, or all at once; there’s no need for a theory of evolution.
Not that evolution necessarily contradicts Judaism. G-d could have created the
world along evolutionary lines; but it’s not necessary to say so. Only if one
rejects the possibility of a Creator does the need for a theory of evolution
But evolution depends on an endless series of accidents
occurring over vast stretches of historical time. It conjures up a process that
is mathematically extremely tenuous; the odds against it overwhelming.
The same person who will never accept that the book was the
result of a million random combinations of materials will nevertheless affirm
his belief in the tale of evolution, a process infinitely more complex and
infinitely less probable. To his mind, the whole world is an accident; but a
comparatively simple thing such as a book or a clock must be the product of
The objective observer will look at the world and reason that
there must be a Creator. It is not his mind that deters a person from reaching
that conclusion, it is heart—he does not want to believe in a Creator. That is
why he is willing to believe in that which is illogical and improbable—because
the alternative is so much less attractive to him. That is why going after your
heart precedes going after your eyes; because the desires of the heart lead one
to false ideas.
Regarding the prohibition of putting a stumbling block before
the blind, Chazal tell us that it means that we should not provide another
person with the means to sin. Why, asks the Rambam, is such a person called
"blind"? He’s not blind, he’s wicked. He just wants what’s forbidden. He answers
that it’s because his heart’s desires blind his eyes to the truth. If he would
open his eyes, if he could be objective, he would see that it’s wrong.
This explains how it could be that the greatest philosopher
can be an atheist, whereas an ordinary Jewish boy or girl is expected to believe
in G‑d. One is blinded by his desires; the other is taught to see things