• Home
  • Parashah Insights
  • Ask the Rabbi
  • Festivals & Fasts
  • Articles
  • Books
  • About

    Faith in doubt/doubt in faith – Sh’mot

    In Ex. 4:8-9, God gives Moses various signs by which he can prove his credibility to the people. Hopefully the Israelites will read the signs and believe in Moses.

    The text however, recognises that the people may not believe and may not be convinced.

    This, of course, is the way of human experience. Some people see – physically or metaphorically – and believe. Some see but do not believe.

    These two categories are not all that there can be. A third option is possible – believers who cannot believe in this instance.

    As the rabbis put it, there are moments of gadlut emunah (greatness of faith) and moments of katnut emunah (littleness of faith).

    Believers all have these latter moments from time to time. Doubt is part of the faith experience. Generally one gets through the moment of doubt and one’s faith suffers no permanent injury.

    There is an aspect of the faith-doubt-faith process that is not often recognised.

    As believers have times of doubt, so non-believers have times of faith: moments when they are almost ready to believe. Rav Kook would have added, they are bound to believe in due course. He thought that, deep down, everyone is a religious person and wants to come to faith.

    Rav Kook is criticised as over-optimistic by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and others who argue that the Kook approach ignores the existence of ideological atheism. But someone ought to study the phenomenon which might be called “greatness of doubt” and “littleness of doubt”.

    What is it that sometimes motivates a doubter to see possibilities in faith, even if he/she is not prepared to do anything about it?

    Comments are closed.