For the last 20-something years, my arguments with my husband have progressed along the same, well-worn path.
I state something that to his ears sounds fantastic, unbelievable, incredible, and sooner or later, he tries to close the argument down with the statement: ‘that’s not logical.’
Who knew, that I’d married Mr Spock?
A lot of his ‘logical’ tendencies have been useful to me, because he’s forced me time and time again to find the ‘logical’ process underpinning what I’m grasping intuitively. Man, the arguments we’ve had, about everything from erev rav, to personality disorders, to how the human body really works, all the way up to how ‘emuna’ is meant to fit into the logical picture.
He’s forced me to pin things down logically again and again, and that’s mostly been very helpful.
But this week, when we were having another one of our ‘discussions’ about whether it’s really possible for Disney to be working with the CIA to put ‘mind control’ cues in its movies, and he delivered his that’s not logical statement again, I suddenly realized something massive:
Why is ‘logic’ the final arbiter of what’s right or wrong, here?
Because what is ‘logic’, ultimately? It’s whatever process or thought or argument you can cram into a human brain. It’s totally limited to human perception and understanding, and as we know, even the most intelligent humans only have a very small part of the picture. There is a time and place for ‘logic’ (more on that in a moment).
Human logic makes no space for God, and because it can’t tease out the ‘process’ behind miracles and other supernatural phenomena, it deals with them by pretending they don’t exist.
To put this in other words, the more a person believes that ‘logic’ is the final arbiter of right and wrong, truth and lie, the less likely it is for that person to have anything even approaching real emuna, or real emunat tzaddikim.
I know that’s a big statement, but I’m going to back it up.
First, let’s take a look at what logic actually is, and where it comes from. This is from Wikipedia:
Logic (from the Ancient Greek: λογική, romanized: logikḗ) is the systematic study of the form of valid inference, and the most general laws of truth. A valid inference is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the inference and its conclusion. In ordinary discourse, inferences may be signified by words such as therefore, thus, hence, ergo, and so on.
There is no universal agreement as to the exact scope and subject matter of logic (see § Rival conceptions, below), but it has traditionally included the classification of arguments, the systematic exposition of the ‘logical form’ common to all valid arguments, the study of proof and inference, including paradoxes and fallacies, and the study of syntax and semantics.
Historically, logic has been studied in philosophy (since ancient times) and mathematics (since the mid-19th century), and recently logic has been studied in cognitive science (encompasses computer science, linguistics, philosophy and psychology).
In other words, logic is a form of Greek-inspired philosophy.
So, whenever someone makes the ‘logic’ of a supposition the acid test of whether it’s ‘true’ or not, they are effectively operating out of a system of Greek heresy, instead of Jewish belief.
Let’s give some concrete examples.
There’s an idea in Judaism that if your finances are hitting the skids, you should make an effort to go and give even more money to charity. That way, you’ll sweeten whatever spiritual judgments are keeping you poor and constricted.
Now, does this sound logical?
At this point in time when you’re finding it hard to even scrape together the money for the rent, you’re meant to go and give even more money to charity?!?!
It’s totally illogical.
And yet, it works. I’ve lost count of the number of times that immediately after we paid a big whack of charity we couldn’t really afford, or a big pidyon that squeezed us financially, how much new business flowed in through my husband’s doors, afterwards.
Essentially, there is very little ‘logic’ behind any of the mitzvoth we keep, whether it’s avoiding shatnez, eating kosher, keeping Shabbat, paying 10% of our income to charity. Sure, Jews with a more philosophical bent have tried to make Judaism jive more with Greek philosophy by trying to assign reasons to mitzvoth that make sense to human logic.
All the mitzvoth we keep boils down to emuna, to faith, to the idea that we can’t understand everything, however big our brains are.
Behind all this talk of ‘logic’ there is so much arrogance, so much ga’avah.
It takes some real humility to admit that we still know so very little about what’s really going on, and that our ability to grasp what’s really going on in the world is actually incredibly limited.
So, when people start boasting about how ‘logical’ they are, and how they think ‘logically’, what they’re really saying is:
“I have very little emuna, and I’m incredibly arrogant.”
Now that we all know that, hopefully more of us will start to challenge ‘logic’s’ stranglehold on our public discourse.
All that said, logic and human reasoning still has a place in our lives.
God runs the world according to His spiritual rules, and we have to follow those rules to the best of our ability. If God has built the world in such a way eating fast-food usually makes us ill, and treating people badly usually makes us social lepers, and running in front of speeding cars on the highway usually makes us dead – we have to respect those rules.
Go right ahead, and make a logical calculation about whether you should dash across the road in front of that articulated lorry – but remember that all these logical ‘rules’ aren’t presenting the full picture of how God is actually running the world.
Illogical, miraculous and supernatural things are occurring to every single one of us, all the time.
Because God is running the world, and God is operating things at a level far, far beyond the boundaries of human logic.
So, to sum up.
From this moment forth, just telling me something is ‘not logical’ doesn’t automatically win the argument, or close down the discussion. Heretical Greeks made human ‘logic’ the arbiter of truth, and to put it bluntly, they can get stuffed.
A multitude of sins hides behind ‘logic’, including heresy, denial of God’s omnipresent role in the world, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, argumentation for its own sake, victory-seeking, and trying to make other people appear ‘small’ or ‘stupid’.
Logic is a false god, that’s keeping so many Jews away from really developing a genuine relationship with Hashem.
Once we start acknowledging that, and once more of us start relating to a logical frame of mind as some sort of severe spiritual disability, instead of lauding and praising it, that’s when we’ll jump a whole bunch nearer to the world actually getting fixed, and redemption really happening.
UPDATE: Thanks to Yosef for the link to this clip, which makes the point very nicely!
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