Are Mitzvos rational?
Rabbi Reuven Mann - Dean, Masoret Institute

Once again there is unnecessary confusion over a very basic issue ie. Are Mitzvos Rational?

"The Torah of Hashem is perfect restoring the soul".Every mitzvah is designed solely for our benefit and leads us to our true perfection.Whoever maintains that a mitvah has "no reason" (even Chukim) denies Torah which states "For it is not a vain thing from you"To which Chazal add " and if it is vain (ie. you find it empty) it is "from you " meaning the defect lies in your lack of understanding.

All of the great Torah sages (Rambam, Ramban, Even Ezra, Saadia to name just a few) state this openly in their works---See especially Ramban on Kan Tzipor Devarim 22:6; Rambam: Moreh Nevuchim Part 3 ch.26 and I quote,"All of us, the common people as well as the scholars, believe that there is a reason for every precept, although there are commandments, the reason of which is unknown to us, and in which the ways of G-d's Wisdom are incomprehensible". Finally see Even Ezra on Shemos 20:1 and I quote, "....and the second kind are 'concealed' mitzvos, it is not explained why they are commanded, and Chollila chollila to say that any of those mitzvos are contrary to human reason, rather we are obliged to keep everything which Hashem commanded whether the secret is revealed or not....)"Hashem your G-d is True". Hence, everything which comes from G-d is true.

In most cases we can, with diligent study, discover the purpose and benefit of mitzvos and when we do so we must incorporate the underlying values into our personality for this is how we improve our soul and get closer to Hashem. However, all mitzvos are perfectly rational even if our intelligence is too deficient to discover the hidden wisdom of any specific one. Hence it is rational to keep a mitzvah which on it's surface makes absolutely no sense to you. For since you know that it comes from G-d you know that it is rational and beneficial even though you cannot demonstrate how. This is similar to one who follows the advice of a great physician even though he does not understand how the medicine works. We say that such a person is acting rationally and one who (ignorant of medicine) refuses to take the advice of a great doctor because it makes no sense to him is a fool.

Such is the case with Torah. We know that it is true because we know that it comes from G-d who revealed Himself on Sinai to the entire nation in a manner which would leave no doubt to those present and to all future generations that the Torah and it's authentic exposition by Moshe and the subsequent Masters of The Oral Law is from G-d. Moshe commands the people to remember the events they witnessed at Sinai (as the cornerstone of commitment) in Devarim. He never calls on them to have faith that the Torah is from G-d, but only to take heed of what they saw with their own eyes.

What could be clearer than Devarim 4:35 "You have been shown to KNOW that Hashem, He is the G-d, there is none beside Him". See also Rambam: Yad: Yesodei Hatorah Ch. 8, where he explains that the purpose of Sinai was to remove any possible doubt as to the Divine source of Torah. Hence we do not have faith, but know that the Torah comes from G-d and is therefore perfect and rational in every respect. As such we keep all the mitzvos and do not subject them to the scrutiny of our deficient intellects to determine whether they make sense or not. That would be sheer arrogance and stupidity. Rather we devote all our energies to uncovering the wisdom of Torah with a sense of humility and with the guidance of our authentic sages and teachers.As the genuine scientist knows that everything in nature has a cause and explanation so too the genuine Ben Torah knows that everything in Torah has a perfect explanation and he studies diligently and endlessly and prays to G-d : "Open thou my eyes that I may understand the wonders of your Torah".(Psalms 119:18)

As we approach the holiday of the Revelation may we merit to incorporate it's lessons and return to Hashem and His Torah and expound it's wisdom in a manner which will cause all who hear it to proclaim, "what a wise and discerning nation is this great People".