Another reason why the Torah does not include belief and faith in God as one of the 613 commandments is because such a thing is simply impossible. I can tell my hand to reach into my pocket and pull out $10 to help someone in need. But how do I force myself to believe in God? How do I tell my heart to think one thing of the world and not another?
None of this means that belief in an Infinite Light (the Kabbalistic term for God) is not of paramount importance to Judaism or the Hebrew Bible — just the opposite. Other than the creation of an ethical and loving society, nothing is of more importance to the Torah than having a community of people believe that there is something that ties us all together and instills in us goodness and a loving heart. However, such a thing cannot be commanded; it can only be felt and nurtured in the deepest recesses of our soul.
But perhaps the absence of a belief commandment’s greatest outcome has been the flexibility that it has given Jewish thinkers and communities throughout the centuries. We can all check our theological beliefs at the door and focus on the more pressing task: building ethical and loving communities.
Rabbi Avi Poupko of Congregation Ahavas Achim, Newburyport.