Wednesday, 29 August 2007


Originally published 8/29/07, 3:03 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
The disclosure that Mother Teresa had doubts has seemed to raise eyebrows. Faith is seen as precluding doubt; one who believes should not doubt. It seems for many that Mother Teresa's doubts reflect a weakness in her. As a person of God, she was expected to have absolute faith.

The problem with this whole frame of reference is that doubt really says nothing about God. Doubt reflects the reality of the human condition. When one doubts what one is really doubting is not God but rather oneself, one's perception of the truth, one's ability to know. If Mother Teresa actually had doubts, my perception of her has actually improved. But then again, I'm not a Catholic but rather a Jew committed to Torah -- and to me doubt is necessary to actually relate to God.

The one who has no doubts, who is so sure of his/her thoughts and his conclusions, really cannot hear God but only himself/herself. It is only with doubt that one is able to hear the other and the Other. Doubt opens one to possibilities, to the opportunity that one may be wrong and learn from outside oneself. And this is really the whole process of Torah study. It demands dialogue, discussion and argument. It demands divergent opinions. It demands for one to find an answer outside of oneself -- always with some doubt and therefore without absolute surety and open to a new idea.

The human being can only relate to God if the human being recognizes his/her own weaknesses. This can only emerge if one doubts oneself. While it may be true that with doubt one never knows for sure about anything -- but isn't that the reality in any event. To postulate simple faith without thought is simply to project a fantasy. God, though, wants the human being to struggle in the attempt to know reality. God specifically speaks to the questioner, for the questioner is the only one who can grasp God, to the extent humanly possible. Without the question you can never know what God is really saying.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

One of my rebbeim once said "Life is one big safek." The world is coloured in shades of gray (of course, with some exceptions). Doubt is natural. But too much doubt can be debilitating.

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

I eseentialy agree with RBH but I would term it this way.

"ki lo machshevotai machshevoteichem!"

"v'lo yasiguhu masigei haguf"

We as material human beings cannot fathom God. Dobut, As RNH points out IS a problem with the human factor. We are all human, fallbile and capable of error. Contemplating the absolute Divnie is next to impossible. Both Gnostic and Kabbalistic tradtions have tried to bridge this gap with what might be termed "intermediaries".

Since we cannot truly grasp God the way we grasp something tactile Doubt is inevitabel.

And even if we BELIEVE in God can we KNOW God. And yet that is the modern Kafich rendition of Rambam that the requirement is to KNOW God.