Faith is two things coming together through no assessable common denominator. To have faith in G-d is to have suprarational direct apprehension of the Creator. Just as the axiom grounds the system but cannot be derived from it, faith grounds all other connections but cannot be derived from them. Imagine being together simply due to the principle of being together; this is something like it. The soul “sees” or “connects with” G-d as if by magic, “intuitively”. It can take a lot of intellectual work to authentically become one with our own faith. Thus, faith is both the axiomatic basis and the apophatic culmination of all outward-directed knowledge.
The differing commandments/nuschaos of “to know G-d” and “to have faith in G-d” are, paradoxically, both completions of each other and as far from each other as East from West. They are united in the soul, but perhaps only because the soul has the capacity for contradiction.
Knowledge is turned outward, the soul knowing the thing by the way it fits with and relates to other things, through its effects. And to know rationally is just to be another thing relating; “to know” is a special case of “to rationally be”, with the protean mind able to receive the form of that to which it relates.
But faith in G-d is turned inward rather than outward, a repudiation of outwardness, a black question lying at the heart of each medium and intermediary: Why not be together without all the stuff in between? Why do I need to meet G-d in or through anything? Why should I know Him only in His external form, as something outside of Him? And if I can relate to Him without a middle-man, can I not relate to anything without a middle-man?
Knowledge is mistaken for faith when people talk about “finding G-d” and search for an external object of some kind, whether physical or spiritual or scriptural or philosophical. As Sallah once told Indiana Jones, you are digging in the wrong place! You are trying to intellectually know which is to know indirectly which is to know outwardly, and we live in a broad culture (even among the “spiritual”) convinced outwardness is all that exists and everything “makes sense” and can in some way be assimilated into our journey of self-perfection.
The truth is somehow both more mundane and more occult. You have to look inside, at what precedes all thought. Not at someone else’s theoretical “inside” which you cannot know except through intermediaries, but your own inside. Only then can you know directly. And knowing directly is called faith, mundane because it is closer to us than our own thought, occult because as close as it is to us, the more immediately present we are to all other things.
The universe actually has two infinite edges, one where you expect it to be beyond where the eye can see and the physicist can calculate, and the other inside you. You can spend your whole life trying to navigate toward G-d through the thimbleful of external realities floating in a pool of night we call the universe, or you can realize you already stand outside it. That within you, the water leaks in. And then, wonder of wonders, what you discover is that G-d creates us with external interfaces in a finite and bound body in a certain time and place for a specific reason, and that most do not realize they are “behind enemy lines”. And then you realize that—though you cannot access them directly—within each time, and place, and body, within every facet and quality and member of the external world, is another spark of G-dliness, another infinite edge. That not just you but each and every substance around which your mind snaps shut is just a penumbra of clothes and jewelry and letters and media around a node of faith, a pearl secreted around a core of nothingness, that the doors out of the enemy camp lie in the hearts of its soldiers and weapons and black dogs hunting in the night. We are here not to escape it or to break it or to ignore it but to fix it, to find each other, to hold the infinite against the finite ’til it catches alight with the dark fire and sheds obsidian rays blotting out all outwardness.
People with faith drink a drop of mashke and sing a joyous tune, for they have tasted the secret that they are not something trying to stay afloat but nothing to speak of at all, a fathom calling upon a fathom of the fathomless deep.
Image: M.C. Escher, “Bond of Union,” 1956