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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

My Reply

I want to say before posting this that these are my thoughts and that no one should take them as any kind of halachic statement or formal Judaic stance. I know that my understanding of Torah is at best shallow and I hope that I am not misrepresenting it too badly, but I don't want anyone to take my word for anything more than my opinion. The statement from yesterday was: If G-d does things because they are good, then G-d answers to a higher power (the Good). But if G-d decides what is good, then it is arbitrary (whatever G-d says IS good, no matter what you think about it or your reason tells you or your experience reveals). My reply was: We know that everything that G-d does or commands us to do is for our good, whether we understand the reasoning and meaning behind it or not. I don’t think we can rely on our reason and experience to tell us what is good, because everyone has different experiences and sees things in different ways. For example, take stealing. Say a person walks into a store, takes an item off the shelf and walks out without paying for it. The person does not get caught, nothing bad happens to him. He ends up with a free item. Sounds like stealing is good. But if you look at it from the perspective of the storeowner, he has been deprived of the income that item would have generated and if it happens on a large scale, he will go out of business. So, if we decide from our experiences what is good, then good is relative and no one ends up gaining anything. So we have to rely on G-d to tell us what is good. Is what is good arbitrary? In Jewish tradition, there are certain things that we are commanded to do that we accept without questioning. These commandments are called chukim. We can come up with logical reasons for these commandment, but we admit that we do not know the actual reasons behind them. An example of this is the prohibition between wearing garments with both wool and linen in them. We have no idea why G-d tells us not wear this combination of fibers, but we know that there must be some reason for it or the rule would not be there. And we know that the reason is for the good of those who follow the rule. So does G-d have to answer to a higher power, that of the Good? If all acts that G-d does or commandments that He gives us are good, and can’t possibly be bad, then aren’t we limiting G-d? Maybe it is a matter of choice. G-d could choose to do that which is bad, but He doesn’t because He loves us and only wants the best for us. Another possible answer is that G-d’s universe is quite different from ours. I was looking in a book called The Way of G-d by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato. The book says that one of the things we must accept about G-d is His simplicity. There is no way for us to understand the world as G-d does. It is out of our conception. Maybe in G-d’s world, there is no bad. There is not even a capacity for it. The only thing is good, therefore G-d is not bound by anything in His world, He only works with what he has, which is good. I would love to hear anyone else's thoughts on this, I am not completely satisfied with my response but am having a hard time grappling with the question.

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