According to the answers to the question "How do we know that God exists" it seems some (if not most) Jews on this site believe there is no way to verify whether or not God even exists.

If this view is correct, how can God expect people to view religious service as a duty and be subject to punishment in the afterlife for failing to live up to it.

After all, there is no way to even know whether He even exists. Are we expected to be religious out of doubt? How could God expect us to devote ourselves 100% to Him (pray to Him, trust in Him, give up our lives for Him if needed, etc.) if we cannot be sure He even exists?

(note that I personally totally disagree with this view, but I am asking according to it.)

I am not asking for proofs of God or Judaism.

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    @ray Can you explain why philosophical proofs won't nullify free will, while miracle based proofs would? That seems to be an important premise of your question.
    – Double AA
    Jan 19, 2014 at 21:33
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    what, we're supposed to "play it safe" like in Pascal's wager? very unsatisfying. and an intelligent person will always have a doubt in the back of his mind.
    – ray
    Jan 19, 2014 at 22:02
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    this view creates certain problems. for example how can we be expected to fully place our trust in God. you can't do that completely if you're not sure if He even exists.
    – ray
    Jan 20, 2014 at 7:05
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    @ray What does that even mean? You are using vague undefined terms again... I just demonstrated that you could be totally committed to something you are unsure of. Isn't that all your question asked? If you always feel worried then you are paranoid. What do you want from me?
    – Double AA
    Jan 20, 2014 at 14:52
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    @ray You are wrong. You can believe 100%, just like you believe 100% that Barack Obama is still the President of the USA even though he may have just been assassinated and you haven't heard yet. You would even stake your life on it. Only if you are paranoid would you not believe it 100%.
    – Double AA
    Jan 20, 2014 at 18:28

11 Answers 11


Philosophical proof is not all there is to finding god, we can find god through faith and tradition. Maybe god expects us to believe in him through faith and tradition alone. Since there are no counter-evidence to his existence and our forefathers all claim that they heard him at Sinai, god expects us to take that leap of faith and accept his Torah and not resort to skepticism (the hallmark of our modern age).

I'm not saying this answer is satisfying or convincing, i'm just questioning your basic premise that there is no reason to believe in god if there are no philosophical proofs to prove his existence!


Perhaps it's backwards. Proof of His existence would force us to be religious. Something forced can't be considered a "duty*". Only when we are not forced, are we able to be commanded to use our free will to enjoin Hashem in a relationship, to commit to His ways, and to serve Him. Only when we are not forced are we able to receive reward and punishment. See part 1 of Derech Hashem to walk through the full reasoning of this.

Let me ask the opposite - why didn't Hashem make it impossible to believe in Him? The answer, which is taught as the meaning of His Name "El Shaddai", is the same: in order to be able to give reward**, He has to perfectly "calibrate" how hard it is for us to believe in Him, until He is hidden "enough". As many answers here have pointed out, there is much going for believing in Him, arguably more than there is for not believing in Him.

Either way, this is the only range of "hiddenness" available for reward and punishment, and we trust He is Just in His judgements on how much emunah we had vs how much emunah it was expected we should have. Indeed, it can be so challenging in this generation because, as many gedolim have pointed out, this is a generation of tinokei shenishba - children raised in captivity. We are so far from Sinai, and in such darkness that we are much less culpable, if at all, for our low emuna. See The Tinok Shenishbah written by Rabbi Chaim Rapoport for the London Beth Din in 5757 on this point.

* i.e. a mitzva
** and punishment, although basic reasoning as well as fundamental Jewish belief is that the reward is the point

  • Perhaps include something about Tinok Shenishba. Im shocked that hasnt been brought up yet.
    – zunior
    Jan 2 at 22:36
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    Pascal’s central argument in “Pensées” for believing in God did not rest on proof of God’s existence. On the contrary, Pascal argued that God’s existence cannot be proved because, for him, God is hidden – a “deus absconditus.” He wrote that “there is enough light for those whose only desire is to see, and enough darkness for those of the opposite disposition,” but ultimately no certainty was possible – and so humans faced a choice.
    – Nahum
    Jan 3 at 14:55
  • משך חכמה שמות – הקדמות כי החמה וירח המה משכילים ומוכרחים לעשות רצון קונם לא מצד הכרח רק מה שמשיגים רצון השי"ת ומצד זה סיבת השגתם היא הכרחיותם וזה שתקנו ז"ל ששים ושמחים לעשות רצון קונם וזה נכלל במה שכתב רבינו שם פ"ג הלכה ט' משבחים ומפארים ליוצרם כמו המלאכים
    – Nahum
    Jan 3 at 14:57
  • @Nahum very interesting, thank you. I was also thinking of a "Jewish version" of Pascal's wager for this question, but decided against it. He says it's better to behave, on the tiny chance of eternal hell. I think our version would be more like "if there's even a chance that all the good things in my life, including my life itself, is a precious, undeserved gift from a loving Creator, then how can I not be grateful and try to live righteously in a way pleasing to Him?"
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 3 at 14:59

Your question is based on your opinion of '(if not most) Jews on this site' which is not relevant to the question of what God expects from us if he seems to be unknowable empirically. It's good that you "personally disagree with this", because in order to follow something (like belief in God) you'd better be able to verify the truth for yourself; at least to the level of "this is compelling enough, compared with other possibilities".

There are less objective proofs like mathematical proofs of a God (e.g. Kalaam/Cosmological arguments) which base their proofs on mathematical logic - but are basically 'first cause' arguments. This is, perhaps, the closest we can get to an objective 'knowing'. Once a rational belief in God is accepted; naturally more subjective arguments follow about belief in the God as perceived by the Jews.

For this you begin to get into arguments that hinge on Kuzari/revelation type arguments then there is a more subjective nature to this.

I think, for all these arguments on this forum, we needn't set an unprecedentedly high standard for absolute proofs with respect to rationalising God - which people seem to think is really needed. The minimal standard should be "is this better than any other option" and then "how now shall i act"?

I agree with the suggestion in your question that we should really rationalise the belief in God to ourselves, otherwise whats the point in practicing anything? However, having said this, probably the majority of Jews in the world have not come to a rational belief in the Jewish God. Atheists make this point all the time: "the likelihood is that you're born into the religion of your parents - how likely is it that you are therefore correct? Inheriting a religious status from your ancestors does nothing towards telling you whether that belief system is true".

I think its imperative to come to a rational basis for believing in God, otherwise, I agree, "whats the point"?

  • I'm pointing out that the "God chose to not have a proof of his existence in the world" in your question is subject to opinions that you have read. But the reality is that we should seek a rational answer to the question of God. There must be a level at which we can access this question, otherwise practice by rote of non-verifiable inherited status/religion is meaningless and probably wrong i.e. most people are born into whatever (false) religion they inherit from their parents - and we cant all be right.
    – bondonk
    Feb 1, 2017 at 20:35
  • once you believe in God such as by studying the divine wisdom all around us then should be trivial to show that one religion must be correct, dont u think?
    – ray
    Feb 1, 2017 at 21:03
  • Not at all. I've found that different religions tackle this problem very differently. Jews are hard-wired-technical and this is the approach we feel is legitimate. However, a Buddhist also seeks unity and spirituality and sees the oneness of creation through kindness, meditation and spirituality; his concept of God is far more 'connected' than your average Jew. To him the technical aspects of halacha speaks nothing but mundane to him. Recounted from personal experiences with Buddhists and Hindus.
    – bondonk
    Feb 1, 2017 at 21:27
  • just curious how they explain the wisdom in the human body? do they attribute it some infinite regress of humans for example?
    – ray
    Feb 1, 2017 at 21:58
  • Hindus believe in a creator that has many parts. Buddhists dont believe in a god but that we can tap into 'the universe' and experience oneness with it all, etc. call it what you like, its something outer-body, or infinite. I think they would all resonate with the concept of dveikut i.e. being at one with something infinite.
    – bondonk
    Feb 2, 2017 at 7:15

I have a long proof (see link) for the Jews receiving the Torah at Har Sinai (made by Rabbi Shenker, compiled by me). If this holds, necessarily the Torah is true, and, therefore, so is G-d.


  • The question wasn't for evidence. If was about duty in absence of evidence.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 7, 2018 at 6:10
  • @mevaqesh I'm sorry, I must have glossed over that. Regardless, I believe that since evidence is extant, it would logically follow that we are obligated to follow G-d's laws.
    – Sam Miller
    Jan 7, 2018 at 6:28

The posuk in Isaiah 1:3 reads"An ox knows its owner and the ass his master's crib but Israel does not know my people does not consider".

This attitude is strange and unnatural.

Instinctively and naturally man(through the mass goodness in and surrounding him)should come to the realization that there is a God and that God wants something of us.

Habitually man senses who his master is and whom he shall turn.This is programmed knowledge in the human being the same as by an ass who does not even possess knowledge.

Man is not in need of full proof of a creator to(act as though he) know(s) of his existence.

Just as an ox so too a man possesses this instinct with its failure stemming from a sickness within us.

When ready to mature to drive and pursue your accountability, one shall reach and attain.

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    The question presupposes an absence of compelling evidence. How does this address that? Are you simply denying the question's assumption, or are you saying that although there isn't full proof, there is enough evidence to create a duty? Remember to include clarifications in the post.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 11, 2018 at 5:20

In the Book the Kuzari the story goes like this: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/kuzari.html

  1. The Rabbi replied: I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, who led the children of Israel out of Egypt with signs and miracles; who fed them in the desert and gave them the land, after having made them traverse the sea and the Jordan in a miraculous way; who sent Moses with His law, and subsequently thousands of prophets, who confirmed His law by promises to the observant. and threats to the disobedient. Our belief is comprised in the Torah -- a very large domain.

  2. (The Kuzar King replied:) I had not intended to ask any Jew, because I am aware of their reduced condition and narrow-minded views, as their misery left them nothing commendable. Now shouldst thou, O Jew, not have said that thou believest in the Creator of the world, its Governor and Guide, and in Him who created and keeps thee, and such attributes which serve as evidence for every believer, and for the sake of which Re pursues justice in order to resemble the Creator in His wisdom and justice?

  3. The Rabbi: That which thou dost express is religion based on speculation and system, the research of thought, but open to many doubts. Now ask the philosophers, and thou wilt find that they do not agree on one action or one principle, since some doctrines can be established by arguments, which are only partially satisfactory, and still much less capable of being proved.

Being religious is not dependent on the existence of Gd, but rather on Gd's interaction with the Jewish people. (I.e. the difference between Gd who created the universe, and the Gd of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, who took us out of Egypt.. a historical reality whether you believe in it or not.)

You can philosophize and argue about whether Gd exists, and attribute the history of the Jewish people to some other label if you really want to, but that history is there and self evident.

This is emphasized in the first Commandment:

"“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." (Exodus 20:2)

Today, we are blessed with the Jewish exiles gathered into Israel, which previous generations did not have laid out so clearly before them.

Devarim (30:3)

3 that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.4 If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee. And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.


There's a difference between being having enough evidence to be able to prove to a sceptical person that God exists and being satisfied that there is enough evidence yourself. I'm happy to believe that God exists based on my personal experiences, but I can't prove it to anyone else.

I think that if we had rock solid evidence that God exists then that would impede our free will.


This question is a good one.

But the fact of the matter is... there is proof..and alot!

See this video called Torah and Science (https://youtu.be/oTnduqzS3hY).It prooves that the Torah is divine beyond doubt. Once there is actual proof, this whole discussion becomes irrelevant.


This article at simpletoremember shows the transmission of the Torah from Hashem to Moshe and down to Rabbi Yerucham Lebovitz (1936).

Moshe was convinced of the existence of Hashem and this belief was passed down through the generations.

This is the way we know that He exists.

  • not asking for proofs
    – ray
    Jan 22, 2017 at 6:10
  • This is only a link. Please explain what you mean Jan 22, 2017 at 12:07
  • @Reuben I have edited your answer to bring out what I think you mean in a clearer way. Feel free to reverse the edit. Jan 22, 2017 at 12:11
  • How is this convincing, even if it were somehow verifiable? It's not even a chain, he doesn't show when people overlapped, and sometimes the years he gives are 100 years from the next one. And when you add in the missing 166 years from the Jewish calendar it's almost impossible to put Ezra in contact with Shimon Hatzadik.
    – A L
    Jan 22, 2017 at 20:20

Define "G-d", define "existence", and you'll have answered your own question, no matter what those definitions are. We live in a material world, call it World or Earth. We experience sensations through our organs into our brain, where the little electrical flashes go like crazy. We see others like us, we were raised by others like us, mother and father, who from infancy told us through language (which somehow we've managed to learn!) what things are like and what to expect. It's amazing how humans do not differ that much. There is a novel "The Black Cloud" by astrophysycist Fred Hoyle which describes the arrival to the solar system of a cloud of some sort. Eventually people understand it's alive (?) and it's inteligent (?). The book touches this sensitive point: what is to be alive?, what is to be inteligent? An inteligent non organic life form not attached to a planet? Eventualy the astrophysycist of the story manages to engage communication with the cloud (?). The cloud seems to be a quite relaxed being who doesn't worry much about anything in particular, not even his own life, his destiny, whose only interest in life is to study and understand the Universe (see World, Earth). The cloud doesn't have children, at some point in life it splits in two who totally relaxed continue their travel through the Universe. After some talk with the scientist, the cloud notes the oddity that humans, though different individuals, seem to feel exactly the same about the same pheonomenon they experience. So, we all feel roughly the same when our organs sense the same thing. This is what makes Science possible: common experience and reasoning. "Existence" is synonymous with "existence in the real world, ie Universe, Earth", which means, in the current state of Science, to emanate some kind of field, either gravitic, or electromagnetical or a probability field as in quantum physics. "G-d" is what? I don't know. You say "G-d exists", show me a field of some sort so that I can identify its source, and then we can stick the label "G-d" to it. But whenever you look for a definition of the word "G-d" you hit this: it is something that does not exist in the real world. So G-d doesn't exist, period, by the definition of the word. You'll say: but I think about it! Yes, you do think about G-d: that means there are little electrical flashes going like crazy inside your cranium. Is there the place where we should look for the source of the field to which we should stick the label "G-d"? No, you say. So, what?, says I. I don't know, says you. And we can go round and round with this throughout the ages of the World. No, G-d, by the definition of the word "G-d" doesn't exist, scientists are right. Not just scientists, also philosophers, the mailman, anyone who has a head, a reasoning, and stops for a while to think about it. At this point atheists always rejoice hearing me saying this. Caught you! Either you're a hypocritical atheist who goes around praying and eating kosher for no rational reason at all, or you're a hypocritical religious man who goes around saying G-d doesn't exist. Nothing of it true. G-d (we'll not define this word at this point) made the World/Earth on one side and Heaven on the other side. The Earth goes by these rules, Heaven by those. Among the rules of Earth is reasoning, let's say a present from G-d to mankind. Man can walk around the Earth using his reasoning to grasp the rules by which the Earth goes by. But no matter how much man struggles with his brain to grasp the rules of Heaven, he can't. Man was given a key which doesn't open that lock. Simple as that. G-d, soul, Heaven, things for which we have words and electrical flashes in our craniums, can't be grasped by reasoning. But you can be conscious of them. Being conscious of them is what people usually call "believing", "faith", etc. You can extend the meaning of "existing" from "existing in Earth only" to "existing either in Earth or in Heaven", and then you can say G-d exists. But someone will always come along saying Middlearth and Narnia also exist. And then you start with him the childish conversation no it doesn't, yes it does, not, yes, not, etc. The only definition of "exists" that suits everybody (as long as we're talking with a rational person) is "exists in the Earth". Answering to your question: why being religious is a duty? Ie, why living according to the Torah is a must? Because. But what if I don't, says you, then you scramble the whole setting of the cosmic wheels and G-d knows what no good will come out of that, says I. No I won't scramble anything, says you, yes you will, says I, not, yes, not, yes. Yes, yes, you must live by the Torah, and you may lay to that.

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    I do not understand the point you are trying to make. Jan 31, 2017 at 10:46

A fair comment came about my last answer, in which I now see I meandered too much. I'll try here to keep it short and clear.

The question is "there is no proof G-d exists" (rational scientific proof), "why then should we live by Torah?".

I agree with the asker: it's not possible to rationally and scientificaly prove G-d exists. It's possible to prove rationally and scientificaly that some distant galaxy exists. It's possible to prove rationally and scientificaly that Middlearth is just the product of someone's imagination. We define galaxy, we define Middlearth and we proceed rationaly to both the proofs. Now, G-d remains as for now undefined.

Why G-d remains undefined, though we all seem to think about it? Why no matter how much we try to be rational we can't prove the existence of this undefined thing in the material world?

The atheist says because it's undefined, so asking does or does not exist makes no sense. And the atheist is right. That is an answer of a truly rational man.

What I say is this: G-d (an undefined word for the moment) made three things. 1. the world, the material world, where there are material rules by which this material world works. 2. heaven, with its own rules, in nothing similar to the world's rules. 3. man with a reason that makes him capable of grasping the world's rules but which is of no avail in grasping the heaven's rules.

So, I say, as long as you stay rational, you won't see/prove/understand G-d, Heaven, soul, etc. Your rational key will never fit in that lock. For that, you need to reach the next level. That's when the Torah comes in. With Torah you see/prove/understand G-d.

So why should you live by the Torah? Because Torah says you must live by the Torah.

But what if Torah is just the product of someone's imagination, like the Lord of the Rings? says you. Prove to me rationally scientifically, ie respecting the laws of the world, that Torah is not the product of someone's imagination, says you.

How ever could I do such a thing, says I, when Torah, by nature, doesn't go by the laws of the world but by heaven's?

So we're stuck. But my advice to you is: live by Torah, nevertheless. Even if you feel any doubt at all, always live by the Torah. Never stray away from the Torah because of doubt. People can always talk, people can always think, people can always philosophise, theorise whatever's their whim, but never stray away from practicing, living a life according to the Torah.

  • dont you think nature reflects the wisdom and ability of God? try to understand all the different processes that go on in the developing embryo for example. have to pretty blind not to see Him i think
    – ray
    Feb 1, 2017 at 11:48
  • @ray Yes, but part of the "rational" is to make the assumption that everything goes according to the laws of nature without asking where these laws came from. As a result, one cannot see that nature reflects the "wisdom and ability of G0d". This answer is a restatement of Pascal's Wager. Pascal assumed that the only alternative to atheism was his religion. This assumes that the only alternative to atheism is Torah. Actually Atheism is another form of avodas zarah just like any other religion. Feb 1, 2017 at 13:26
  • @sabbahillel isn't that assumption a belief. and a crazy one at that, since wisdom implies an Intelligence
    – ray
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:47
  • @ray Yes, that assumption is a belief and once that belief is held, then one does not see the wisdom. That is why I regard Atheism as a form of avodas zarah. Also in previous generations, it was regarded as a shtus that no sensible person (even one who followed idols) would have. Feb 1, 2017 at 18:51
  • @sabbahillel it's amazing how the mind can play tricks on people. even very brilliant geniuses. maybe this is the meaning of the drasha Hen (one) Yirat Shamayim Hi Chachma - it alone is chachma
    – ray
    Feb 1, 2017 at 19:04

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