How do we acquire faith?
Faith lies in man's heart, like a seed just waiting for warmth, moisture, and nutrients to make it sprout and blossom. There are three ways we can nurture it. One method is the contemplation of the world around us. The universe, with its unfathomable vastness and myriad forms of matter and of life, bespeaks a wisdom so great that man can barely grasp its dimensions, much less duplicate it. Our logic dictates that every object, every substance, and every creature, was brought into being by a Force greater than itself. So amazing a universe as that which surrounds us suggests that the magnitude of the Force which created it is far beyond our comprehension.
Another path to belief is the study of the Torah. The more we reflect on the infinite wisdom encapsulated within each word and letter of the Torah, the more deeply we are convinced of the infinite gap between ourselves, with the limitations of the human mind, and the Source of this wisdom who gave the Torah to the Jewish People over three thousand years ago.
A third avenue of investigation is history: The revelation at Mount Sinai has no parallel in history as testimony to the veracity of Torah. Let us explain:
It is not difficult to refute a claim to an event witnessed by only one individual, or a small group of people. Unlike any other faith, the Jews proclaim that the revelation at Sinai took place in the presence of over one million adult witnesses. The claim of an individual to a divine revelation cannot be authenticated; however, it is not feasible that a claim to a massive event of the proportions of the revelation the Torah describes as having taken place at Sinai might be fabricated and introduced to a national history after the supposed fact. One might just as easily attempt to introduce a King Henry the Ninth to the history of Great Britain, or a fourteenth state to the original thirteen colonies that rebelled against the British crown in 1776. Such a claim would be immediately rejected out of hand. Everyone will ask why they have never heard of the extra state in the past, and why there is no written record or even oral tradition of the “historical fact” in question.
The fact that the Torah lays claim to such a revelation, as witnessed by over a million souls, could not possibly have been fabricated and somehow foisted on later generations as the historical truth. This fact is in itself incontestable testimony to the historical authenticity of the Torah.
By observing the Shabbat, the Jew declares loud and clear, for all to hear: “The world has a Creator! It did not just spontaneously come into being!”
For the intellect, this is the logical result of cogent reasoning. Those who propose the theorem of spontaneous generation have no way to explain the fact that no new forms of life appear from time to time, as they are “spontaneously generated” by the same process through which the universe supposedly came into being.
For the mind, there may be no difficulty in accepted Creation as the only logical option. However, to drive the message home to the heart, we need action, not only thought. Greater effort is required to train the heart than to convince the mind. The Shabbat is the method Heaven has given us to internalize this message, to make it a part of our inner being. Through observing the Shabbat, the Jew makes his awareness of G-d as the Creator and ultimate Sovereign of the world an intrinsic part of his personality, a second nature which guides his actions every day of the week.
The fact that the Creator ceased His acts of creation on the seventh day, and, to this very day, did not recommence the process of creation by fashioning additional creatures, testifies to the fact that it is He and He alone who created the universe. The lesson of the Shabbat refutes the theories of those who maintain that the world has always existed. Were their theory correct, there is no reason the process of creation should be ongoing; it should never have come to a point of cessation. As a result, we should be witnessing the appearance of newly-created forms of life and components of the universe right down to, and including, our own times. Since we are witness to the fact that the process has indeed been terminated, this implies the existence of a Power which is in control of the universe and powerful enough to terminate it. By terminating His act of creation on the seventh day, G-d gave us an irrefutable proof of His status as the Creator.
Let us illustrate with an analogy. John Doe looks up during his stroll in the park and sees something strange moving through the air above him. His curiosity is piqued: Is this some strange object that someone tossed into the air, or is it a child's model rocket that has its own motor to propel it through the air?
Mr. Doe decides to watch its path of flight, so that he can determine which category this UFO falls into. If it is just some rocket-shaped object tossed into the air, it will be subject to the laws of gravity, follow a predictable, fixed trajectory, and fall back to the ground. But if this unidentifiable object goes once higher and then lower, if it turns once to the right then to the left, he can safely assume that it is propelled by a miniature motor burning its own fuel, and directed by remote control.
Just as this analysis applies to the flight of a model plane, so too does it apply to life in general. Any body which is subject to what we call the Laws of Nature must have been created by whatever Power which established these laws in the first place. However, a Power which can control the Laws of Nature, or defy them, is obviously above and beyond them, and therefore in control of them.
Logic tells us that there must be some supreme Power which is the original source of all substances and all energy which make up the universe. This Power created the world ex nihilo, out of nothing. (If it used pre-existing materials, whoever made those materials must be the supreme power.) As such, this Power is not subject to any laws; on the contrary, this Power is the source who established what we call “the laws of nature”. Likewise, it is not subject to any limitations, as are the physical phenomena with which we are familiar in this world.
If we read the opening chapters of Genesis and review the first week of Creation, it appears that with the onset of the first Shabbat, the world was complete, a fait accompli. At first reading, it seems that ever since that first Friday evening, the universe has continued to operate, of its own accord, according to the laws established when it was first fashioned and set in motion. There is no need for any intervention from without; it appears to be self-sustaining and permanently so.
However, this reading of the verses is superficial and incomplete. The laws of nature are an expression of G-d's ongoing will that the universe, as we know it, continue to exist. It is He who “powers” the galaxies and planets in their paths in the cosmos. It is He who wills the power of gravity to continue to exert its force, together with all sources of energy in the universe, those of which we are aware, and those yet to be discovered. Should He decide at any point not to infuse the universe with His will that it continue to exist, there would no longer be a universe.
What, then, is the role of the laws of nature? This is the “mode” in which G-d wishes the world to operate. In the prayers, we praise G-d for His continuous “life-support” for the universe: “who renews the act of creation continually, each day, in His goodness.” We thank G-d not only for the original Creation, thousands of years ago, but also for His continual supervision that insures that the Laws of nature continue to operate and keep the universe “on track.”
Herein we discover a fundamental difference between the view of the world adopted by other religions and that of Judaism. All agree that G-d is sovereign of the Heavens; Judaism addresses G-d as Master of Heaven and Earth. G-d is Sovereign here on earth, no less than in the Heavens. It follows that the laws of nature which prevail here on earth, as well as those of the cosmos, are also under His complete control and subservient to His will at all times.
This is the message of Shabbat: It is G-d who is the Author of creation, and His presence permeates both Heaven and Earth. He is not only in the Heavens, but is intimately involved in our lives and the lives of all His creatures here on earth. Thus the Shabbat testifies to the close bond between the People of Israel and their Creator.
The verse tells us: "And by the seventh day G-d completed His work which he had done, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done." (Genesis 2;2)
G-d did not abandon His Handiwork, partially finished, on the seventh day. The verse clearly tells us that He completed it, so that nothing was lacking. The only component to be added was the Shabbat, the purposeful, constructive cessation of the act of creation, which is called menuchah. The word alludes not only to rest and repose, but to accord and harmony. The introduction of the concept of menuchah into the newly created universe was an intrinsic part of the act of Creation. Each week, when we observe the Shabbat, we are living testimony to the fact that G-d continues to imbue the creation with life, both on Heaven and earth, and to guide man to combine the two into one, concordant whole.