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If someone is very unsure about Torah, enough to be agnostic, yet accepts the possibility that Torah may be true and chooses to follow Orthodox halacha... then what would you say are some major challenges, and what are some answers to these?

For example, davening with honesty; ethical dilemmas regarding humaneness to humans or animals on Shabbat etc. (if unsure that the Torah approach is necessary).

How can such a person present honesty in some of the liturgical prayers? Is it by thinking of theirself as davening in the voice of the nation, rather than of theirself individually, or separately stating that these prayers are with the intention that they may be right? And what to do when ethical questions arise that aren't answered even by halachically acceptable leniency... if one isn't sure which value system to follow?

I guess that in this day and age, this is more likely to apply to animal suffering or shortening an animal's end of life suffering, if no gentile is present, on Shabbat or such. But there is also the question of spending money on halachic responsibilities rather than charity or other responsibilities.

  • I'm sorry, can you focus the question on a specific issue? – Al Berko Oct 27 at 17:29
  • Rabbi Micah Goodman says that if you take religion seriously you cannot take G-d seriously. He says that that is why G-d is a threat to religion. Because when one takes G-d seriously they cannot take religion seriously. That is, do the mitzvot because it benefits you, not G-d. Many secular Israelis believe in G-d but not in religion. The Guide for the Perplexed bridges the two worlds and tries to make amends. Maimonides’ G-d is different from Maimonides’ religion. That is why he wrote the Guide. The perplexity is not Athens vs Jerusalem. It tries to have G-d and religion coexist. – Turk Hill Oct 27 at 17:43
  • I do not have "THE" answer for you, but I would encourage you to keep trying (it is truly AMAZING that you are continuing to keep halacha despite having these very serious doubts!) and read through this 5 part series on a closely related topic: library.yctorah.org/lindenbaum/… . Keep up the good work, @Leora! – Josh K Oct 27 at 18:10
  • @JoshK That was a nice comment but why do you think Leora is struggling to keep the mitzvot? I didn't find any indications. – Turk Hill Oct 27 at 18:22
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    Welcome @Leora to Mi Yodeya. – Turk Hill Oct 27 at 18:30
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It is perfectly acceptable to struggle with these issues. Indeed, it is the exact fulfillment of the Yerushalmi Haggigah (1:7) which states, "Said R. Chiyah the son of Aba, “[God said:] ‘Had they abandoned Me,’ I could forgive it, had only they kept My Torah, for had they abandoned Me and kept My Torah, the yeast [or ‘the light’] in it would have brought them close to me.” What you are doing is extremely commendable, as it is much harder to keep halacha (or try to) without a belief system underpinning it than it is if you have a strong belief in G-d.

Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, has this to say about someone in your predicament (same link as above): "I know that to have belief in an age of skepticism and reason can be a truly formidable challenge. You have not indicated if you wish to find, or are open to finding, belief. If you are, this passage points to a path. In addition to the observance of mitzvot, the phrase, “keeping My Torah,” in this passage refers also to the study of Torah. I do not know whether you devote time to the study of Torah, but if not, I would encourage you to. It is my hope that your continued observance of halakha coupled with the study of Torah, connecting to God’s Torah both in body and in mind, will help cultivate a sense of something that exists beyond our physical world. Although his did not follow the traditional Jewish conception, even Albert Einstein believed in God."

In other words, try to find some time for Torah study, and "Keep on Keeping on", eventually the answers will come to you.

  • Helpful perspective, thanks. I guess my main question here is, what happens when Torah requirements and personal ethical feelings happen to conflict, if someone isn't sure which has more validity? – Leora Oct 27 at 23:28
  • Thanks. I really like the Chabad movement, though I don't like the dynamics of the relationship they have with their last Rebbe. It reminds me too much of (unintentional) narcissistic abuse in the garments of religious values, which I've seen elsewhere a few times. But I do find they have some really helpful insights and beautiful/wise approaches. – Leora Oct 27 at 23:35

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