Just in time for Shavuos!
What better occasion than when we received the Torah to work on strengthening our emunah in Hashem?
And with Rabbi Avrohom Katz’s groundbreaking book on emunah, Now I Know, you’ll be treated to a first-class learning experience that will educate, clarify, and even entertain you!
It’s not for nothing that this prolific author is the esteemed menahel of Beis Chaya Rochel Seminary in Gateshead, England. See why his students love his classes and the way he simplifies and explains lofty concepts and principles. In Now I Know you, too, can enter his classroom, pull up a seat, and join the animated discussion as you learn how emunah in Hashem is not really “belief” at all, but actually hard-core, genuine knowledge that we can know just as we know that the sky is blue!
Below is an excerpt from this exceptional book.
The New Car
Acquiring a new car is always a pleasure. The look is clean, the lines are smooth, the tires are pristine and firm, and the car’s emblem gives a confident feeling. Although strange at first, the controls become familiar with the passage of time. People’s admiring comments add to the appreciation. “Nice car you’ve got there”; “Tis’chadesh on your new car!”; “Fabulous car, that one…” As new features are discovered – climate control, assisted parking, keyless locking, lane-keeping aid, cruise control – so does the recognition of the level of design and planning that has produced this vehicle.
The seats are comfortable – soft leather, and are adjustable by the press of a button. The gentle turn of another knob switches on the engine, while the softest pressure on the accelerator pedal releases the handbrake. The car even has a voice! Press the button with the human profile and a mechanical monotone voice asks, “What do you want to do?” Tell the voice that you would like to access the navigation system, and it will obligingly instruct you how to proceed. Fancy talking to your car!
After the euphoria and novelty has faded somewhat, rational thoughts begin to develop. A car is a machine, designed with a singular purpose – to convey its passenger from one location to another in safety and comfort. It has an engine in which fuel is combusted, providing the energy to move pistons which in turn move rods connected to four circular rubber-covered wheels. A steering wheel permits the human driver to exercise his freedom of will to guide the vehicle in the direction of his choice, while the accelerator and break increase and inhibit the velocity. An ambient atmosphere is provided by air heaters and coolers, while an array of lights, powered by a battery, signal to the driver behind you of your desire to brake or change directions, while the twin-beams of light in front illuminate the darkness. Fuel is limited to specifics; not orange juice or dry wine or even carbonated water will provide the necessary combustion – only petroleum will suffice.
On one hand, the car is greatly appreciated. It is a marvelous machine; it enables people to undertake journeys in a fraction of the time that their great-grandfather’s horse-drawn carriage could trundle along. Great-Grandpa would have marveled at the speed and comfort afforded by your car; indeed, it joins the telephone and electricity as discoveries that have transformed our lives.
On the other hand, we are aware of its limitations. When I talk to my car, and it dutifully passes the pre-programmed question, “What would you like to do?” and I say, “Learn the whole of Shas and be an ehrliche Yid,” the poor pre-programmed mechanical voice is flummoxed and exclaims, “Please type in the first line of your address!” The car cannot climb stairs, will never smile, cannot prevent the driver hitting a brick wall, will not self-repair if scratched, or self-inflate its tires if they deflate. The windshield washer needs to be filled with soapy water, preferably with an anti-freezing additive; doors need to be manually closed; the windshield cannot see; the engine needs to be regularly serviced; and don’t forget to change the oil.
Despite its limitations (it is only a machine, after all), the knowledge that it was designed and crafted by a superior intelligence is axiomatic – self-evidently true. The first question asked by any car’s admirer will be, “What make is it?” The question pre-supposes that no machine pops into existence by itself. The admirer, on closer scrutiny, will observe that wheels run more smoothly on rubber than on iron and that round-shaped wheels are more efficient than square ones; a toughened glass windshield gives clearer visibility than tissue paper; brakes that slows the wheel’s rotation are more effective than throwing an anchor out of the window, and electrically powered blinkers are more efficient than the driver shouting out, “I’m turning right!” (given that the driver in the car behind would most likely not hear the shouts). Seeing the myriad of details, he understands instinctively that human intelligence designed it all, and his question will only be, “Which company – is it Ford, Volvo, BMW, Nissan…?” And when you respond, “Volvo V90,” he will purse his lips appreciatively and say, “V90…not bad!”
If it is axiomatic that the car – with all its limitations – is the product of Mr. Skoda’s brilliant team of designers, then it should be even more axiomatic that Mr. Volvo or Mr. Skoda, Henry Ford or Lord Rolls-Royce, and all the other gifted manufacturers of cars are, likewise, designed by a supreme intelligence. If no machine exists that either created itself, or popped into existence by random forces, then the super-super complex machine that we call a human being must obey the same criteria. A simple kal v’chomer.
The car’s owner’s manual lists in its index approximately five hundred different functions and components – hood release, seat adjustment, etc. – each of which is comprehendible and relatively simple. By contrast, a basic volume of Principles of Anatomy and Physiology contains some ten thousand entries in its index, from abdomen and veins to zymogenic cells, and each of the entries is complex beyond belief.
Take the mechanism of blood coagulation. When a pressurized blood-circulation system is punctured, a clot must form quickly to prevent the leakage of all the blood, as would happen if a plastic bottle of orange juice would spring a leak. If blood congeals in the wrong time or place, though, the clot may block circulation, with serious consequences. Furthermore, a clot has to stop bleeding all along the length of the cut, sealing it completely. Yet blood-clotting must be confined to the cut, or the entire blood system of the body might solidify, which is not conducive to a long life. Consequently, the clotting of blood must be tightly controlled so that the clot forms only when and where it is required…
The multi-staged cascade of chemical reactions requires every component of the process to be present – this one an activator, that one an accelerator, another one an inhibitor – for the whole thing to work. The absence of a single link in the chain-reaction will spell tragedy. When a mohel declares that a baby is yellow, he is telling us that one of the coagulatory factors has not yet been released, hence the danger in performing an operation. When said mohel clears the baby for a bris, he is informing us that a process of mind-numbing complexity is fully functioning. In the relief that follows his pronouncement, we are paying homage to the Designer of a life-saving mechanism on which our very existence depends – and therein lies the essence of a great truth…
Any system that needs all its components to work for it to perform the task is called minimal function. It must have the ability to accomplish its tasks in physically realistic circumstances. In order to lock your front door, you need a locking mechanism in the door, preferably at the edge; a groove in the doorpost; and a key to turn the lock. And don’t forget the door. Every one of those components is vital and irreplaceable (irreducibly complex) and every one of the components has to function correctly for it to work at all (minimal function). If there was a door but it was too wide for the aperture in the wall, if the lock was rusted and did not turn, if the groove in the doorpost was higher than the lock’s bolt, if the key did not fit the key-hole – then the whole operation could not function and you might want to think of barricading the door with your freezer to discourage unwanted visitors.
In any machine – as simple as a door lock – the absence of a single component that would render the system unusable might not be disastrous; there are alternatives and contingency plans that could be activated to guarantee security (think of an armed guard). But if life depended on the full functioning of that system, and the absence of a single component would disable the system on which life depends, then we understand well how that system must have been perfect from the very beginning.
In the same way that a cursory glance at a car will prompt the question, “That’s a good car – what make is it?” similarly, even superficial knowledge of how our own bodies work will clearly convince the thinking person that we, too, have a Designer and a Master Manufacturer – Bereishis bara Elokim.
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