What is the role of faith? What is the relationship between faith and intellectual knowledge?
On the Sabbath day, the Levites sang in the Temple:
לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּקֶר חַסְדֶּךָ וֶאֱמוּנָתְךָ בַּלֵּילוֹת.
“To proclaim Your kindness in the morning, and Your faith in the nights.” (Psalms 92:3)
This verse contrasts two sets of opposing concepts. The first set is the duality of morning and night, while the second is the contrast between our awareness 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 nighttime?
The night is a time of preparation. We use the hours of darkness to rest and regain strength for daytime activities. The value of night is in its preparatory nature; the actual goal are 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 is as a necessary prerequisite for intellectual insight.
In his introduction to the “Guide for the Perplexed,” Maimonides employs the metaphor of lightning to describe Divine enlightenment. It is not a constant phenomenon, but it shines its illuminating light in sporadic pulses. The frequency of these radiant flashes of truth is a function of one’s spiritual level. For a great prophet like Moses, the flashes of Divine insight are so rapid that they appear to be a 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 reason fails to illuminate and guide us, during the hours 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 Berakhot 12)
Illustration image: Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash