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Kingdom of Priests

For those who think that finding evidence of design in nature is a Christian preoccupation, not a Jewish one, the hits just keep coming. Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1164) is one of a handful of the most important classical commentators on the Torah. Explaining the first of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God Who took you out of Egypt” (Exodus 20:1), Ibn Ezra asks why God commands our belief using this formulation with its two clauses. The sage argues that religious believers whose faith is gained through tradition alone will be in good shape 

until a heretic begins to argue with them that there is no God, [then] they put their hands over their mouths, because they don’t know what to respond. On the other hand, if a person applies himself to the study of the sciences, which are like steps to help a person reach his desired destination, he will be able to discern the handiwork of God in metals, plants, living creatures, and in the human body itself… From God’s ways [in nature] the discerning person comes to know God. That is why Scripture writes, “I am the Lord your God” [– the God Whom you discern in nature]. But this can only be appreciated by someone who is extremely wise… As for the miracles done in Egypt… everyone saw this, both the wise and the unwise, both adults and children… Therefore, Scripture first writes, “I am the Lord,” for the discerning individual. It then writes, “Who took you out,” so that even the non-discerning individual may understand.

There — once again — you have it. For the simple, simple faith. For the wise, intelligent design. My translation here is from the Introduction to Rabbi Korobkin’s outstanding new translation of the Kuzari, which we discussed in an earlier entry.

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