18 Jan Shema-Vaeira-Truth and Faith
We are required to believe completely in Divine Providence, which is the source of everything even though the human intellect cannot comprehend it. Only after believing completely is it possible to understand the belief to a limited extent. This is what “truth and faith” means. Truth applies to what is comprehended by the intellect, the object of knowledge is clear. Faith, by definition, is something uncomprehended, something known to be so only by faith.
The verse, “Your faith in the nights (Psalms 92:3),” means that it is necessary to employ faith at times that can be likened to “the nights,” times when the object cannot be comprehended by the light of the intellect.
In the morning we say, “true and firm.” This is because, even after attaining comprehension through faith, we must return to faith, because it is impossible to understand the things sufficiently by means of intellect alone.
The most that we understand is only a miniscule part of the thing itself. Therefore we say “and firm,” which is a synonym for faith. For the knowledge we have attained is often not called “truth” in and of itself, but is subordinate to faith, whose synonym is “firm.”
We must use both means, truth as in human understanding, and faith, for we cannot conduct ourselves on the basis of truth alone. Those who wish to act only on the basis of truth, and refuse to do anything unless they have total understanding, are deluded.
The correct way is faith in God planted in our hearts like a faithful peg, and afterwards we may seek to understand the truth. (Teshuot Chen; Vaeira)
“God, your, Lord is true, and certain, established and enduring, fair and faithful, beloved and cherished, delightful and pleasant, awesome and powerful, correct and accepted, good and beautiful is this affirmation to us forever and ever.” (Morning Blessings following the Shema)
“True and faithful is all this, and it is firmly established for us that He is God, our Lord, and there is none but Him, and we are Israel, His nation.” (Evening Blessings following the Shema)
We immediately follow the Shema of the morning by declaring “true and certain,” or, as in the text above, “firm.” We are declaring that we have attained a certain level of comprehension, “truth,” however, we will always return to faith, as in “firm.”
When we recite the evening Shema, we are approaching the idea in the verse, “Your faith in the nights,” and therefore reaffirm our commitment to use our faith to achieve intellectual clarity, and then continue to return to the faith that is necessary to maintain us during the “nights,” when truth cannot necessarily be comprehended by the intellect.