Bereishit: Emuna Before Intellect

All the laws of creation are subservient to the purpose of creation. The purpose of creation is to for all the creations to gain awareness of The Creator and of His Monarchy...

4 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 20.09.15

And the earth was emptiness and the darkness upon the surface of the deep and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters. Hashem said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3)


The Torah now teaches us the first spiritual principle that's inherent in creation – darkness precedes light. The Torah relates that in the beginning everything was emptiness. In the original Hebrew, "chaotic emptiness" would be a better description. There was only darkness and disorder. But, from this situation of darkness and disorder emerged the first light of creation. Consequently, at the end of each day of creation, the Torah says, "And there was evening and there was morning" – the darkness always precedes the light and night comes before day.


The above principle manifests itself throughout creation. A seed degenerates before it germinates. An ugly cocoon precedes a beautiful butterfly. When a person throws a ball, he must first wind his arm; in order for the ball to be thrust forward, the arm must go back before it goes forward! By the same token, the Land of Israel had to be occupied by the idolatrous and immoral Canaanite nations before it was given to the Jewish People. This is also the reason that Esau was born before Jacob. In continuation of the darkness-precedes-light principle, we find in creation that the outer husk or peel comes before the fruit, evil comes before good, and pain comes before pleasure. Excruciating labor pains precede the joy of being blessed with a newborn baby.


All the above aspects are the product of the Divine edict, "And there was evening and there was morning". We have the responsibility to learn how to live within the framework of the laws of creation.


Emuna – the pure and complete belief in G-d, precedes intellect, just as darkness precedes light. First we must believe and only afterwards look for the logic of any given thing. When a person does the opposite and looks for logic before he believes, he goes against the first law of creation. As such, understanding Torah by way of logic without emuna is impossible.


There are many intrinsic laws in creation. Everyone understands that fire burns and that one cannot breathe without oxygen. We must eat in order to live. We don't wear sandals in the winter or a parka in the summer. We all live in consideration of these basic laws of creation. The law of emuna preceding intellect is no less an iron-clad spiritual law of creation that cold winters and warm summers are a physical law of creation.


All the laws of creation are subservient to the purpose of creation. The purpose of creation is to for all the creations to gain awareness of The Creator and of His Monarchy. They achieve this goal by learning and acquiring emuna. The holy Zohar says that this purpose of creation is "to know Him". Since emuna must precede knowledge and intellect, emuna is the prerequisite of accomplishing one's individual task on earth.


In every phase of life, emuna must precede intellect. Emuna resembles darkness – we believe in what we can't see. You don't need emuna to know that you are reading this book right now – your intellect is fully aware of that. But we do need emuna to believe in things that we don't yet see or understand. As such, whatever happens in our lives, we should always activate emuna before intellect and say, "This is what Hashem wants, and it's all for the best."


Isaiah the Prophet chastised the people telling them, "Your wisdom and your knowledge are the source of your troubles!" (Isaiah 47:10).


When a person puts intellect before emuna, his intellect will lead him badly astray. Without emuna, he won't realize that whatever is happening in his life comes from Hashem and is therefore all for the very best. The wisdom of emuna encompasses all wisdom. Therefore, when a person makes decisions without emuna, his chances of success are minimal at best.


In "Tale of the Seven Beggars", Rebbe Nachman of Breslev tells a story about the son of a king, which is an allegory about the souls of Israel that fell into the trap of heresy and intellectualism. Even though the king's son had positive character traits, and he'd ponder making penitence whenever he realized how far unsightly his deeds were, he'd nonetheless return to his evil habits every time his intellect gained the upper hand.


Rebbe Nachman reveals to us here that intellect without emuna is gravely dangerous. One's intellect distorts the truth, for the intellect is sorely tainted with subjectivity and self-interest. One who makes decisions without emuna is subservient to bodily lusts, appetites and habits, all of which have nothing to do with the truth. If the intellect is not first tempered by emuna, it will lead a person to doubt and heresy as it did to the king's son in Rebbe Nachman's allegory.


Suppose a person is having a challenge in life, whether it's a difficulty in marriage, with his children, at work, or with neighbors. With first applying emuna, the situation will deteriorate, for his intellect will always show him that he is right and justified. Without emuna, he won't even consider the other side, whether it's his wife, his child, his boss, or his employee. He'll be prone to arguments and antagonism. From here, the road ahead will be strewn with grief and stumbling blocks. Why? Because he failed to observe the first law of creation and to place emuna before intellect.


Now we can understand the prophet's rebuke: "Your wisdom and your knowledge are the source of your troubles!" Because you failed to place emuna before intellect, your troubles in life are only getting worse.


The wise individual who places emuna before intellect sees in every one of life's challenges a personal message from The Creator. This person can see a good side to everything and is capable of understanding that the other person could be right as well. By placing emuna before intellect, this individual enjoys a large measure of self-composure and is rarely hasty or superficial in his decision making. Consequently, his decisions are so much better, all as a result of his emuna preceding his intellect.

Tell us what you think!

Thank you for your comment!

It will be published after approval by the Editor.

Add a Comment

next article

What's the connection among Parashat Beshalach, Parshat Shirah, Tu B'Shvat, and Shovavim? RENEWAL! We are in a time of renewal for trees and for every Jew.