Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Manis Friedman Pesach quotes Part 1: Faith in God or Faith in Nature?

From the Pesach "tape", side B, at this website. I listen to this every year and every year come away with amazing new insights. Because of the porosity of my brain, perhaps the insights don't stick around from year to year. But there is a lot he says that seems both very profound and yet very concrete. I think this, plus his soothing voice and mannerisms, is why I keep coming back to Manis Friedman as an inspiring teacher and spiritual leader.

This is my own transcript of this part of the tape. It is long, but, in my opinion, worth reading. Any errors and misunderstandings are purely mine!

If you enjoy this, I have transcribed another part of this tape here.
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"A Jew has faith, yes, a Jew's faith is unique... but not totally unique, a lot of people have faith...
The true uniqueness of the Jew is that faith doesn't remain in its native habitat, which is transcendent, but becomes everyday life.

A Jewish farmer does all that's necessary to prepare his field for the growing season, and trusts in God to make the crop grow.

What's so special here? What's so unique about this trust.

The answer is, if you really believe it's god who gives you what to eat, why do you bother ploughing the fields? Trust!

If, on the other hand, you know as all farmers know, that you have to plow the field, you have to break up the soil, you have to soften it, you have to fertilize it, you have to put in the seeds, you have to water it, you have to have a little sunshine... and THEN things will grow.

If you don't do that, nothing will grow.
Well, then, do what you have to do.
Plough and seed and weed and water... so then what is it you're asking God for?


So which is it, do you trust in heaven or do you trust in Earth?
And that's the uniqueness of the Jew. We trust in God because God makes things grow.
Even as we put seeds int the ground, we are not trusting the laws of nature that says seeds produce wheat; we trust in God to produce wheat, but God told us to put the seeds in the ground.


A seed is very often an edible thing in itself.

We have a law in Torah that says we mustn't waste food. The law of nature says that in order to have wheat grow from the earth, you have to plant a seed in the ground - that's how you get more food.
So halachically, according to Jewish law, are we allowed to waste a small piece of food in the hope that it will bring us a greater amount of food?


The Torah says don't throw out food. Nature says it's not throwing out the food; by planting it in the ground, you will get more food.

Are we allowed to trust nature in an area where there is a commandment not to waste food?

Obviously, we're allowed to plant because Jewish farmers have always planted. But WHY are we allowed to?

Not because nature demands it, but because God trusts us.
God said to Adam after he ate from the tree of knowledge: by the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread. Which means that from now on, you will have to plant and plow and harvest.
And before that?

Before that, God made everything available directly. When we were told we would now have to work at making our bread, so we do. But if God hadn't said that, there might be a very serious problem with throwing perfectly good seed into the ground simply because nature said that's how you get more food. It probably wouldn't be kosher to do that.


When we plant, we are not trusting nature - we are trusting God, because God said to plant."

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