♫ “It’s the most awkward time of the year.” ♫
For Orthodox Jews, and to a lesser extent, non-Orthodox Jews, the “Holiday Season” is certainly the most awkward time of the year. Everyone around us is in a super festive mood, lights and colors of the season are everywhere, and everything seems to somehow connect to the Holidays. Drinks at your coffee shop change, the decor in all the stores, all the music, movies or television programming morph into Holiday Season themes. I was at the Third Street Promenade this week and one Holiday tune was blasting in the first store I entered. A few minutes later, the same song started playing in the next store. Even Disneyland feels completely different. It’s unavoidable.
I promised an essay on matters of faith in Orthodox Judaism. This is the first of a mini-series (within a series) on faith.
To the ancient Greek philosophers and medieval theologians, God’s existence was taken for granted. There was no debate about whether there was a God. They had two primary areas of dispute: the nature of this God, and the proper way to demonstrate God’s existence. Thus, we have many interpretations of how God acts and what He wants from man. We also have many arguments demonstrating to Believers that there is a God.
English is a confusing language. For example, take the word “proof.” In mathematics, proof A can prove X and therefore X is irrefutable. More often, a proof does not demonstrate objective truth. Usually, a proof is an argument in favor of X and it can be sufficient, insufficient, accepted, rejected, argued against, and teamed up with other proofs for X.
This creates a problem when we moderns discuss the existence of God. Torah literate Jews are accustomed to seeing the word “proof” in the context of demonstrating God’s existence, and there is a tendency to assume a”proof” is objectively determinative. But no God-proofs make an irrefutable point. They were not intended to function that way, and unsurprisingly, neither do they accomplish it.