A Prayer For Humility

In 1913, British novelist E.C. Bentley wrote a mystery called “Trent’s Last Case.” It became a classic not only for the sparkling writing, but because the detective observes meticulously, reasons brilliantly — and comes to the exact wrong conclusion. It is a marvelous lesson in intellectual humility.

As recently as 2002, scientists asked a large number of people how such everyday things as zippers, piano keys and bicycles actually work. People were robustly confident that they knew — and then proved abysmally ignorant. We know far less about the world than we assume, and our reasoning is often flawed.

All of this should not stop the acquisition of knowledge or the march of reason. But the world should shave some excesses off our self-confidence. What is true in the physical world is true in the spiritual world. Thousands of years testify to the power of prayer, even if its operation is obscure. Genuine repentance changes a life, though the mechanism is a mystery. Opening your heart to God can grant moments of dazzling light, unseen by the eye or spectrometer. We know a lot, but it is a teaspoon from the ocean. Much cannot be expressed, but other people, our own souls and God can be profoundly addressed.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.