Friday, January 11, 2008
[scroll from the mezuzah]
Perhaps the most striking and original concept of Judaism is monotheism – the belief in one God.
Looking at the world around us, there seem to be endless separate and even conflicting forces – rain, wind, fire, the sun, the moon, plants, animals, disease, birth, death, etc. The conclusion drawn by most people in earlier times was that each of these forces was controlled by a superhuman, but not supremely powerful, being and these beings were constantly interacting with each other and even fighting with each other. Humans might hope to appease these gods through sacrificial offerings or various rituals. This was the early paganism still practiced in some places today.
Modern man laughs at this; however actually, modern science is not much different. The modern scientist still believes that the universe is controlled by laws of nature. If you ask a scientist, what causes lightening, he will not reply “Thor did it”, but rather he will reply that the laws of physics cause a lighting flash, however he will still be at a loss to explain where these laws come from and why they exist. Some laws of nature seem to be contradictory, such as the laws of quantum mechanics and general relativity. The attempt to create one theory of everything is still very elusive. So instead of gods who must be appeased with sacrifices, we have today laws of nature, which we must simply try to understand and cope with as best we can. That may be a step in the right direction, however it still has its limits.
Judaism from day one has taken an entirely different approach: “Know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else.” Deuteronomy 4:39. We are not at the hands of bizarre superheroes or mysterious forces of nature. Rather, behind the scenes, there is one lord and master who is orchestrating everything. Furthermore, he is a judge and a lawgiver. Mere sacrifice is not enough; he demands obedience, as the next verse states “And thou shalt keep His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.”
This is truly the theory of everything and it greatly simplifies our understanding of the universe. Yes, there are many forces of nature, however one Creator made them and one divine Ruler established them and manipulates them according to His wishes. He is the one God whom we must serve and the one Lawgiver whom we must obey. This is an amazing example of Occam’s Razor. This idea is so sensible, that the majority of mankind now accepts it. But it all began with a few Jews in the Middle East several thousand years ago.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:57 PM