Duality in Faith

 Faith is a higher faculty than reason. -Henry Christopher Bailey


Jewish philosophy is filled with duality. The Sfat Emet in 5633 (1873) highlights a whole string of related dualities in this week’s Torah reading. There is the classic differentiation between this physical, material world and the next metaphysical, spiritual world. There is the ongoing duality of man’s evil inclination which is constantly warring against man’s good inclination. There is the biblical duality of the ten plagues that led to the Exodus from Egypt versus the subsequent miraculous Splitting of the Sea which is considered an even greater level of divine involvement. The Sfat Emet sees all these dualities not necessarily as opposites, but rather more as complimentary stages, with a lower level and a higher level of the spectrum in question.

The Sfat Emet also explains that there is a duality in matters of faith. There is the faith of the person who doesn’t know anything about God’s divinity. Nonetheless, he believes in God, or perhaps even because of his ignorance, it allows him to have simple faith. That simple faith then enables the believer to learn more about God, to understand God more, to reach for God and connect with Him. This was the faith of the people of Israel as they leave Egypt.

The other faith, the more refined, sophisticated, developed faith, is one based on knowledge of God. That is the faith which Moses reached. Moses’ understanding of God gave him a much more serious, comprehensive and clearer connection to God. The classic analogy is that Moses was able to “see” God through a clear window, while the rest of us, including other prophets, can only perceive God through an opaque window.

May our faith, perception and connection to God carry us through difficult times.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Gila Weinberg on the publication of her excellent book, Not So Grim, Jewish Fairy Tales.


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