What is the role of faith? What is the relationship between faith and intellectual understanding?
On the Sabbath, the Levites sang in the Temple:
“To tell of Your kindness in the morning; and in the nights — Your faith.” (Ps. 92:3)
The verse contrasts two pairs of opposites. The first pair is the morning and the night, while the second is our recognition of God’s kindness, and our faith in Him. The daily prayers also reflect this dichotomy. In the morning we recite the prayer, “Emet Veyatziv” ("True and Certain"), while in the evening we say, “Emet VaEmunah” ("Truth and Faith").
In what way does knowledge of God’s nature correspond to the morning, while faith belongs to the night? Also, why does the verse mention morning first, when the (Jewish) day starts in the evening?
Night is a time of preparation. We sleep at night to regain strength for our daytime activities. The value of night is in its preparatory nature; the actual goal is the activities of the day.
Like the night, faith serves to prepare us. The final goal, spiritual perfection, lies in clear awareness of the nature of God. But without faith, one would not perform mitzvot nor refine character traits, both of which ultimately lead to true enlightenment. Faith serves as a necessary prerequisite for intellectual insight.
In his introduction to the “Guide for the Perplexed,” Maimonides used the metaphor of lightning to describe divine enlightenment. It is not a constant phenomenon, but rather it shines its brilliant truth in pulses. The frequency of these lightning bolts of truth is a function of one’s spiritual level. For a great prophet like Moses, the lightning flashes are so rapid that they appear to be a single continuous light. For others, the light appears and vanishes, like “the flame of the rotating sword” (Gen. 3:24).
Here lies the second role of faith. When the intellect is well illuminated, we can recognize the truth of the Torah by its light. But faith is needed for those times when the light of the intellect does not shine, during the hours of night when spiritual darkness reigns.
The verse mentions day before night to indicate this second aspect of faith. After the light of day, which intermittently enlightens the intellect, faith serves as a reserve source of illumination during periods of darkness.
(adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p. 65, on Berachot 12)