A. J. Heschel said:
"Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of knowledge."
I came upon this quote from "Man Is Not Alone" a few years back when I was searching for ways to deal with my troubled feelings regarding the horrible acts committed by Shimon and Levi in this week's Torah portion. Using such an outlook really does put a whole new spin on things. It doesn't change the written word, nor is it likely to change my difficulty in coming to terms with what took place (and why our ancestors chose to include the story of these happenings in the Torah.) It does force me to ask "why did..." questions instead of "why didn't.." at many levels. Doubt is a negative force, wonder a positive one.
This scientific age of reason that we live in seems to predispose us to be doubters. Yet, when one examines the works of the truly great scientists, one realizes that their motivation for seeking knowledge is indeed wonder.
Much of what we do in this modern age has been corrupted into matters of hubris. Of proving we can do things (like send people to the moon.) This is a response to doubt. As sure as someone doubts a thing can be done, someone will accept the challenge. Should one climb Everest or K2 to prove it can be done, or because of the wonderment inherent in what you encounter on the way up and down, and at the top?
But doubt is no modern thing. Consider Yaakov avinu. In Vayetze, we read that he bargains with Gd: "Protect me, and I will let you be my Gd." And all this even after his awesome experience of wonder and his dream. And in Vayishlakh, Yaakov continues to doubt and distrust-wondering what fate Esav has in store for him, and still unwilling to trust his brother enough to dwell with him. Unwilling to trust the Gd will keep the promises made to him.
Where does doubt lead us? Oh, it can surely be useful. Doubt has its place. It can make us cautious - as Yaakov was with Esav. But must learn to relegate doubt to its proper lower priority, and let wonder take its place. The wonder that Yaakov avinu experienced after his dream, and even after his encounter with the angel. Wonder is what ultimately drives humans to create, to discover, to learn, to study, to invent. No doubt about it!
This Shabbat, may you and years learn to wonder, and find all about you the wondrous things that exist in all creation. No doubt! And no wonder!
© 2000 by Adrian A. Durlester
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