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    Reason & above reason – B’chukkotai

    This week’s sidra, B’chukkotai, promises reward if we walk in God’s statutes and observe His commandments, and threatens punishment if we fail to do so.

    The reward is not only for obedience to those laws that are easier to comprehend, but even for observing the chukkim or statutes for which no rationale is given in the Torah.

    Not everything is obvious or immediately understandable. Some things we may never completely grasp.

    It is true that Edmond Fleg wrote in his famous little book about Judaism, “I am a Jew because the faith of Israel nowhere requires of me the abdication of the mind”. But though a Jew does not abdicate from the use of the intellect, and the whole tradition of Judaism is one of asking and seeking answers, reasoning and counter-reasoning, there are some things which are too difficult for our minds to fathom.

    It is the mark of a mature person to recognise that there are limits to human reason. The Psalmist wrote, “I do not exercise myself in things too great or things too wondrous for me” (Psalm 131:1).

    This is not to deny the inherent reasonableness of Judaism, but not everything is on a level accessible to every human being’s understanding.

    It is not true that, as the Yiddish phrase claims, m’tor nicht fregen – “one mustn’t ask”. One can and must ask, but not every answer will come easily or quickly.

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