Shabbos Parashas Ki Seitzei

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect), Chapter 6 (beginning)
Knowledge and recognition of the true nature of something comes in three forms: innate knowledge, knowledge through hearing, and knowledge through intellectual investigation. Innate knowledge comes from within a person’s own being and is implanted within him. It includes knowledge of things he himself made, actions he himself performed, and ideas he himself conceived. It includes also knowledge of his own native faculties and of the data they convey to him. Knowledge through hearing consists of information a person knows only because he heard it from others. Knowledge through intellectual investigation consists of knowledge that comes neither from within the person’s own being or from a report from another person, but instead is acquired through logical reasoning, whereby the person infers from what he knows something he did not know before.
Innate knowledge is very strong – it is certain, and therefore holds up forever. Knowledge through hearing can be of various strengths, depending on the trust a person has in the source from which he heard the information. We will discuss later the means though which this type of knowledge is acquired and contradicted. Knowledge through intellectual investigation is like a quarry of precious gemstone, for it is built up through deep, clear, and straight thinking.
In regard to processing information heard from others, there are three types of people. The first type is the person who believes and accepts everything he is told, without evaluating the information reported and the source reporting it to determine whether it is worthy of belief or not. This is the way of simpletons and fools, as Shlomo HaMelech says (Mishlei 14:15): “A simpleton believes everything.” It is not the proper way. In particular, the holy Torah warns us not to believe someone who seeks to contradict something that it states, even if the person has good credentials – for example, if he has performed signs and wonders. Thus it is written (Devarim 13:4): “Do not listen to the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream, for Hashem your God is testing you to know whether you love Hashem your God with all your heart and all your soul.” 
The second type is the stiff-necked person who does not believe anything. An example is Pharaoh, who hardened his heart even after seeing great signs and wonders; only when his masses were ravaged and his glory was cut down did his uncircumcised heart submit and accede to belief in Hashem. This type of stubbornness is a very bad trait. Such people are called “strong-hearted” (Yeshayah 46:12). Another example of this type of person is Achaz, king of Yehudah. Yeshayah told him (verse 7:11): “Request a sign for yourself from Hashem your God, either in the depths or in the heights.” But Achaz replied (ibid. 7:12): “I will not request; I will not test Hashem.” The reason for this response was described earlier in the passage (ibid. 7:9): “If you do not believe this, it is because you lack faith.” Believing in everything and believing in nothing are both very bad, and readily lead to sin.
The third type is the person who is a straight thinker with a wise heart, who believes what is worthy of belief and rejects what deserves to be rejected. Criteria for being worthy of belief include being consistent with the senses and being reported by a reliable person in whom we have never seen any crookedness or deceit, and who has no vested interest in the matter. Sometimes we have to believe something that goes against nature, because of the stature of the person reporting the information. But the statement must not contradict the Torah. We must not believe anything that is at odds with any detail of any mitzvah in the Torah, even if the person who said it satisfies all the criteria for reliability. If someone comes to nullify anything in the Torah, turn away from him and pass him by.
We will now elaborate on the three forms of knowledge that we identified at the outset. We begin with innate knowledge. In Avos 3:1, Akavya ben Mehallalel lists three things we should bear in mind to keep ourselves from coming to sin. The first is to know where we came from. An important message is being conveyed here. It is human nature for a person who encounters something he has never seen before and of whose nature he knows nothing to have a burning desire to comprehend it. Even if the matter in question has no bearing on him at all, a person still desires to know. All the more so, a person should have a desire to know where he and the rest of existence came from.
Let us consider the matter. Suppose Hashem has just now made you aware of yourself and the world around you. You recognize that you exist. You see that you are constructed with wondrous wisdom, with various organs and various capabilities. You find yourself in a grand world which is also constructed with wondrous wisdom. And you find within this world everything you need, from basic necessities to things that bring extra enjoyment. This world contains many different types of objects, including inanimate objects, plant life, and animal life. You stand amidst all these objects – you are affected by them, you make use of them, and you exercise dominion over them. And you do not recall or recognize what you are doing here. Who brought you into existence? Who brought into existence all the creations that surround you, right and left, above and below? Such a splendid palace! Brilliantly shining orbs bring you light both during the day and at nighttime. Your own self and all that you see are new, and you never knew or heard about how or why you and the world around you came to be.
Let us now consider for a moment an analogy. Suppose you wake up and you find yourself in the middle of the forest among the trees, in a house that was built for your honor. You have several servants who serve you and give you whatever you ask. And you have no recollection whatsoever of who brought you to the house and provided all the amenities you enjoy there. Surely you would be struck with a strong sense of wonder and amazement, and you would go around asking and investigating to try to find some explanation for all this.
All the more so you should be struck with wonder and amazement over the wondrous sight that you see – that you have been brought into existence and placed in world containing everything good. How could you not be utterly amazed?
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.