e-list posting, June 2001
Why would a person who knows they're Jewish and cares about this, but who knows nothing of Torah, want to keep Shabbos?
One of the problems with outreach to Jews who know nothing of Torah, Shabbos, et al., is that they are not impressed by reasoning based on faith. For a person who can't find their faith (I don't think anyone ever truly loses their faith, but they sure may not know about it), telling them to believe or to "do before you understand" is not usually effective. After all, the 90% of Jews who are disaffected only respond to the usual exhortations to keep Shabbos, kosher, tefillin, etc., in very small numbers.
So why would a person who can't be reached this way consider starting to keep Shabbos, for example? Here's a possibility.
If we presume that Torah is truly all-inclusive (a good assumption!), then we must presume that from the proper perspective, Torah must include what I call "a science of consciousness." In other words, there must be some _objective_ reasons that can appeal to an objective mind that has not yet found their inner faith.
What sort of objective reason could there be for halachic observance of Shabbos? It's really fairly simple. These days, everyone is familiar with phenomena related to resonance. We know that if we want to receive a particular radio station, we have to _tune_ the radio to the right frequency. This is a physically objective process. If you want to receive, be connected to, have a sense of, communicate with, learn from, some source, then you must find a way to _resonate_ with it.
So here's the connection. A person who is Jewish, who wants to be connected to Jewish tradition and who feels a sense of being part of the history of the Jewish people, must "tune in" to the "Jewish frequency." Through all the ages, as a commandment, as a tradition, as a habit -- through all the ages -- the vast majority of Jews have worked and lived by a 7-day cycle. This is _objectively_ the predominant "Jewish frequency." (Of course, the entire ritual year is even a stronger resonance. But Shabbos is its linchpin.)
So a non-religious person who wishes to understand the soul of the history of his own people, who wishes to have a sense of greater connectedness not to Jewish religion per se, but to "Jewish being," can connect to this "Jewish energy" by tuning their own work-and-life cycle to the Jewish Shabbos frequency.
In other words, if a person is an academic scholar, and they are studying Jewish history, they'll have a better sense of it if they "tune themselves to its frequency."
If a person is singing Hatikvah, it will be deeper and purer, and more connected and more powerful, when they "tune themselves to its frequency."
Whatever a person is doing, if they want to have a sense of its Jewish roots, and if they want to partake of the energy and inspiration carried by 5000 years of Jewish history, then they "tune themselves to its frequency."
This sort of approach, based on objective reality, can reach people whose only faith (currently) is in objective reality. Surely, no modern person denies the necessity of tuning to the right frequency in order to get _anything_ to happen. (All objective machinery has frequencies of motion and rotation and process.)
Once a person starts keeping Shabbos -- even if only so they can "soak in Jewish energy" for their own personal reasons -- that opens the door to _receiving_ "Jewish energy." And of course, this is the Light in Torah, and it starts to be seeable, and any normal healthy person is naturally attracted to this Light, and starts to grow towards it, and towards Torah, and towards observance, and eventually, towards taking responsibility via halacha.
There's no need for us to abandon the 90% of Am Israel that currently cannot feel Torah and Hashem in their heart. If we believe that bad TV can seduce our children, why can we not believe that "good Shabbos" can seduce us (towards Torah) also?
The fact is that the "Light in Torah" is a lot brighter than the sun that all plants always reach for so they can grow. Negative threats are not required for a plant to reach for the sun. All that's required is a glimpse of its life-giving Light, and any decent, healthy, mature plant is going to use all of its lifes' energy to reach for it.
I am certain that the same is true for us. There is no need to complain about Shabbos violators. There is no need to chastise them, any more than there is a need to chastise a plant so that it will reach up instead of down. What's needed is to allow the Light in Torah to be felt and seen throughout Am Israel. Fortunately, because Torah includes ALL, it includes objective views of the Light it holds, that can be seen and felt by people who demand the objective.
The idea that there is a "science of consciousness" in Torah appeals to people who temporarily worship the idol of science, and who temporarily don't know about "the Light in Torah". This is a "gate" to Torah that is available, specifically because people have been lured into comfort in the secular, objective, material mode.
The benefit of resonating with the "Jewish Shabbos frequency" holds whether or not a person initially realizes their faith. It's objectively demonstrable. Of course, persons who have been keeping Shabbos all their lives never get to notice the difference, and they have a hard time understanding why Jews that don't keep Shabbos don't think like they do. But for people who either start or stop keeping Shabbos, the effect is clearly palpable in everything they do, and all but the most distant cannot fail to notice it.
There are many other examples of _objective_ demonstrations of Torah teachings, that could be made use of to reach the 90% who are disaffected. But of course, first, the community of observant Torah Jews has to actually recognize that persons who have not had their experience cannot appreciate their faith-based arguments.
I can even imagine a controlled experiment, where one group of Jews working on a serious and challenging project keeps Shabbos, and another group doesn't. It should be possible to sort out the conditions under which Shabbos observance enhances life and work performance, and once the necessary parameters are known, it should be possible to make use of them for real, objective demonstrations.
Of course, there's opposition to this. Some of us have been taught that it's wrong to provide rational reasons for Jewish belief. There's a tradition of this point of view.
But I hold with Rav Kook, and I believe that there is a deep and necessary connection between Judaism and objective reality. Human sciences that are looked to by non-observant people can be shown to derive from Torah principles, and can be shown to be more effectively understood and engaged when the connections between faith and reason are strengthened.
For a bit more on the relationship between the "God of Reason" and "God of Faith," have a look at <http://www.meru.org/science.html>, and other articles listed at <http://www.meru.org/essays.html#learning>
PS For the techies: As is fairly well-known, information is based on contrast. Plants get their negentropy from the contrast between the sun and the sky. (See "Man Bites Dog," at <http://www.meru.org/manbitesdog.html>.) Contrast does not have to be only static. It can be dynamic. A event in time is an anomaly that contrasts with time-before and time-after, without the event. A repeated event in time -- a weekly cycle, for example -- is like a clock that counts out events, and keeps them on the same frequency, and thus maintains their coherence. (For musicians: Just think of Shabbos as the metronome of the Jewish song.)
Coherence can also be thought of as a kind of resonance. There is a principle in engineering called "coherent addition." This is a way to bring a weak signal, buried in noise, up to the point where it is strong enough to be detected above the noise. It's a process of repetition. Meaningful information that is repeated with constant timing adds to itself in a linear fashion, while noise can be mathematically demonstrated to add more slowly, because being noise, it's out of step with itself, and its peaks and valleys often cancel. The gain in signal-to-noise is proportional to the square root of the number of repetitions of a coherent, albeit noisy, signal.
A person who keeps Shabbos for 100 Shabboses will have 10 times the sense of "Jewish connectedness" from keeping Shabbos as that of a person who only keeps Shabbos once.
Apparently, if all Jews keep Shabbos, it only takes two weeks to bring Moshiach. Thus, the power of resonance. And that's physics. And that's Torah. IMO.
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