Monday, March 7, 2011

Common Sense of a High Order- a book review

Nonsense of a High Order by Rabbi Moshe Averick

Emunah - Belief in G-d.

It is everything.

I wrote as much in one of the (9) most fundamental chapters in my book. The one that is entitled Getting to the Heart of the Matter. For it truly is the heart of the matter.

To briefly summarize, I expounded on the Maharsha's explanation on a fundamental chazal at the end of Gemara Makkos. This chazal is the primary Talmudic source that our Mosaic traditon is composed of 613 mitzvot. But the gemara does something strange.

After informing us that the proper quantity of mitzvot is 613, the gemara adds on that King David came along and reduced the number to eleven. Then came his great grandson Yishaya and reduced the number to six. Comes the prophet Michah and further reduces it to three. Back comes Yeshaya to reduce it to two, and finally comes the prophet Habakuk and he reduces it to just one - וצדיק באמונתו יחיה .

Just one.


The Maharsha explains that all the 613 mitzvot are divided into 2 categories: 248 positive ones and 365 negative ones. At the head of the 248 positive ones is the King commandment: Anochi Hashem Elokecha. At the head of the 365 negative ones is the Queen commandment: Lo yihiyeh lecha elohim acherim. All of the mitzvot are "servants" of the King and Queen so, in effect, there are only 2 mitzvos: Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiyeh Lecha.

But these two mitzvot themselves are really only conveying one two-sided idea: Anochi = believe in Me and Lo Yihiyeh Lecha = do not believe in any power but Me. Or, in other words - have complete unequivocal EMUNAH in HKBH.

And this is what the prophet Habakuk said: וצדיק באמונתו יחיה .

This is Kol HaTorah Kula (which I can type while standing on one foot)!

So our entire challenge in life is our Emunah. And it is no small sack of potatoes. In our exothermic world of void and chaos which is rapidly expanding into more void and chaos, our biggest challenges are our tests of Emunah. And it challenges all of us.

My forays on the Internet hashkafa sites and blogs have revealed a frighteningly exhorbitant picture of how extensive this issue is. How many people among us who are steadfast and solid on the outside are brittle and crumbling on the inside. It's scary, it's devastating and it's contagious. None of us are immune. For "these are times that try mens' souls".

The Rambam enumerated for us 13 principles of Emunah. And for most of us religious minded folk, the bigger challenges come in the later innings. Are we really sold on the words of the prophets? Do we truly believe in Hashgacha Pratis and Heavenly reward and punishment? Do we anticipate Moshiach and Techiyas Meisim?

Understandable. But there are those who falter right at the starting gate with principle numero uno - does G-d really exist?

Comes Rabbi Moshe Averick to the rescue by giving us a baseline for Emunah in HKBH without a word of mussar. Without an interminable barrage of Talmudic epithets and poetic passages from Kohelles, Mishlei and Iyov. No Maharsha in gemara Makkos. Not a hint of Moreh Nevuchim, Kuzari or Chovos HaLevavos. No deep esoteric essays from Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler or Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin or the Baal Hatanya. Not even the "wonders of creation" antics of Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak and Zamir Cohen.

Rabbi Averick uses one weapon and one weapon only. A weapon that is surely not in the arsenals of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moammer Kaddafi, Barack Obama and, I daresay, the IDF.

Common sense.

Along with a sense of humor (no extra charge).

R' Moshe has written a monumental book that infiltrates the strongholds of skepticism and atheism and lays waste to its moorings using the very weapon they lack.

Cold unmitigated logic.

He calls it: Nonsense of a High Order

R' Moshe reviews the writings of such notable renowned godless thinkers such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Steven Weinberg, Will Provine, Sam Harris, Leslie Orgel, Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, Paul Davies, Robert Hazen, Christian DeDuve, Stuart Kaufman, Frank Sonleitner (and others that nobody has thought of yet) and exposes them for what they are - Nonsense of a High Order.

Rabbi Averick points out that this kind of convoluted delusional thinking could not possibly have come about among earlier life forms but rather has slowly developed over millions and billions of years until it reached the sophistication it now enjoys.

True to his Jewish heritage, R' Moshe does convey a bit of cynicism and sarcasm but not without wit. In that sense I feel he is a soulmate. (If not for a few years, he might have been a classmate. Let's just say we grew up drinking the same water.)

I am quite impressed by this book and a bit envious that I did not (and most likely could not) write it myself. His book is barely out a few weeks and I can see that it is an immediate success. It's already been attacked.

Don't be fooled that this book was written for the gentile masses. It was written for us. This book should sit on every Jewish bookshelf and nightstand - right next to mine but with none of the dust.

I recommend this book to Jew and non-Jew alike. But a word of caution. Since his book is mainly a comparison between nonsense and common sense, it is only beneficial to those who can tell the difference. And in our endothermic world of reality, this is a rapidly shrinking population.

Oh, and while you're in the bookstore you may want to check out another book about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the origin of species (or is it the origin of spouses?) - In Laws: It's All Relative by Leah Shifrin Averick (with Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski). That's his Mom.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Related posts:

Doubting Thomases...and Yosselas


Baruch Pelta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ephraim said...

Nice review. But you haven't given any details about the contents of the book! Huh? (And is MAverick his real name? Just curious- I'm not too bothered by pseudonyms...)