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The Torah emphasized in last week’s reading, Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19), that the Tabernacle in the desert was to be held up by planks of acacia, or shittim, wood. Hasidic tradition notes that the verbal root on which that Hebrew word is built appears also in the word for foolishness, shtut. The Talmud has it that sin is committed through foolishness. But more benignly, a willingness to be found foolish is an essential ingredient of religious life. We like to think we have rational grounds for belief, and I think we do up to a point, certainly more than evangelists for secularism would have you think.
He who says, “Better go without belief forever than believe a lie!” merely shows his own preponderant private horror of becoming a dupe. He may be critical of many of his desires and fears, but this fear he slavishly obeys…..I can believe that worse things than being duped may happen to a man in this world….Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf.