Truth vs. Fact

Lately I've been teaching a series of classes to both adults and children called Facts vs. Truth. (I'll be offering this class again as a part of OHEL after the first of the year.) The class has struggled with the question of whether or not it matters if the Torah is not factually history and whether our traditions be true if they are not fact.

This past week we again saw an assault on facts: The retweets of unverified, Islamophobic videos, the questioning of the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tae, the continued attacks against the press. It seems that we now live in a world in which facts simply don't matter. And while in my teaching I argue that facts don't matter to the value and validity of the Jewish faith and tradition they do, very much, matter in the political and social spheres.

Truth is subjective. We can each have our own truths about the world, about the people we meet, even about experiences that we have shared with others. Two people can, indeed, see the same experience very differently. Facts, on the other hand, are objective. They are not subject to our emotions, our impulses or our biases. What once was considered a fact may, latter, be disproven, but that shift is a reflection, not of the mutability of facts, but the evolution of our understanding of those facts. Facts do matter in the realm of science just as truth matters in the realm of faith. Just as we must always seek what is true in our faith and traditions so too must we demand that facts be reported, checked, challenged, verified and accepted. We cannot wish away those inconvenient facts that threaten or burden us. And those who do will, ultimately, be proven to be the naive, purveyors of lies that they so easily claim us to be.

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