In Reason to Believe, Rabbi Chaim Jachter, a Jewish divorce administrator, member of a Rabbinical court, and Jewish day school educator, presents “compelling reasons why Orthodox Jewish belief is far more reasonable than secular perspectives on the world and Torah.” Throughout the book, he marshals an impressive number of sources and anecdotes in support of his position, that challenge the reader to evaluate his or her views regarding faith and traditional observance.
By R. Jachter’s own admission, for any of the arguments contained in this volume to prove conclusive to someone whose belief is either “shallow” or non-existent, an individual must at least be honestly open to the possibility of deepening their faith in God and Judaism. “All the articles and arguments in the world cannot convince someone to connect to HaShem and Torah unless he is willing to take the first step to eliminate “noises” that create a barrier between himself and the Kol Demama Daka (the still small voice; a reference to I Kings 19:12 whereby God Instructs His prophet Elijah that the best way to reach people is by subtle interaction rather than impressive, pyrotechnical, miraculous displays).” R. Jachter sounds a similar theme when he argues that hidden miracles are more impactful than overt ones: “A miracle performed within the fabric of our daily lives is deeper and more significant than a miracle that disrupts the delicate balance of the world’s natural order.” But only a person who is seeking to identify such a “miracle” can be moved by it.
Therefore, the effectiveness of the book’s arguments all depend upon the reader being prepared to accept a particular point of view, rather than becoming convinced of the virtues of belief and observance in spite of any personal reservations. In other words, the proofs that R. Jachter offers are circumstantial rather than overt, “stand-alone” indications of the existence of a Divine Presence involving Himself in human affairs, and as such the individual arguments will not necessarily “make the case.”
While the individual examples R. Jachter offers as proof of divine existence (a calculation of the time that elapsed between the era of proton anti-proton formation and the formation of the first stable matter offers a sophisticated way to substantiate the age of the universe and humanity as per the Torah’s account; the results of the 1948 United Nations vote to approve the establishment of the State of Israel were considered highly unlikely and probably could never be replicated) might not prove ultimately convincing, there is something to be said about the weight of the cumulative arguments. In other words, the preponderance of such proofs gain gravitas by their collective weight, and therefore one should be forced to consider not only each idea on its own, but as part of a greater whole, as represented by the book in its totality.
Finally, when it comes to faith, perhaps it is unreasonable to expect that someone can simply become convinced through discussion and argumentation. Perhaps the key is experiential rather than cognitive. Logic and reason appear to be antithetical to the ultimate question of God’s existence and concern in our affairs. The best that we can hope for is a superstructure that will support one’s leap of faith, should we choose to make it. And R. Jachter has certainly succeeded in providing such a scaffolding.