In the midst of all our frantic petitions for forgiveness, some rather peculiar statements come out of the prayer book. Did you ever wonder about the implications of, for example, "Forgive us, because who is there that can tell you what to do?"

Last week, we discussed how Torah grants G‑d free choice. This is a fascinating topic, so much so that some would rather I not discuss it. They say, "Why make trouble and discuss things you can't explain?" But then, I've always enjoyed being a troublemaker, particularly since trouble turns up such interesting things.

There is no more exciting answer than the answer, "There is no answer." With that one statement we have left the security of our tiny spaceship and opened a window on the essential nature of the universe. The courage to accept that answer means we are big enough to stand outside and look back at our own consciousness and say, "Why do we try to make sense of all things? What compels us to imagine order where none exists? To believe our world is the most perfect of all worlds?" We can even say, "What are our limitations that coerce us into thinking this way and how can we go beyond them?"

Standing outside that window is scary. Even for the bravest of men. Even for Alexander the Great.

The Talmud tells the story of Alexander of Macedonia when he asked his questions of the sages of Israel. They answered each question wisely, but then he asked, "Which came first, dark or light?" That's when they replied, "This question has no answer." In fact, they knew an answer, as it says, "And there was evening and then there was morning." But, the Talmud explains, they needed to evade the question, lest Alexander begin asking, "What is before and what is after, what is beyond and what is below?" These are the questions that truly have no answer, but even brave Alexander would not be ready to accept that. Better to cut him off now, they decided, and let him think we are ignorant, than try to convince him there are things that cannot be explained.

Alexander was a conqueror. He needed to conquer all things, as his teacher, Aristotle, told him to do. For him, it was not just a lust for war. It was a mental exercise. It was part of being a Hellenist, of believing that everything could be made to make sense.

The sages told him he could never succeed. Some things cannot be conquered. In the end, the sages sent Alexander on a journey from which he learned that the conquering soul can never be satisfied.

The story extends all the way to the 20th century. When Einstein told Niels Bohr, "G‑d doesnt play dice with the universe," he was being a perfectly reasonable Alexander. Bohrs reply, "Dr. Einstein, don't tell G‑d what to do!" would have been a likely answer for the Jewish sages.

Don't get me wrong: The rational spaceship can get you far places. As King David exclaimed, "What a multitude of things You made, and all of them with wisdom!" And, in His great kindness, He imparted a glimmer of that very same wisdom into this creature, the human being. Without our basic cognitive tools of pattern recognition and causal linking, we couldn't make a move forward through the mass of stimuli bombarding us from all sides. Indeed, a person who abandons intellect is no longer a human being, while one who exhausts every facet of his mind can reach throughout the cosmos to the very perimeter of truth. To enter inside truth, however, the mind must know where its territory ends.

Take mathematics, for example. The axioms of geometry were compiled by Euclid about 2300 years ago. From those axioms, theorems were developed to extend the domain of mathematics into every realm of human perception. Although the theorems progressed, for over two thousand years no one even imagined touching the foundation—the axioms. It was assumed that those axioms were true because they were perfect, and there could be no reality without them. Then along came a man named Karl Friedrich Gauss, perhaps the most ingenious mathematician of all time, and realized he could create a valid geometry with one axiom abrogated: Parallel lines would meet. Strange, but it worked. In fact, a century later, Albert Einstein based his new model of the cosmos on a form of geometry (Georg Riemanns version) that does just that.

What prevented this breakthrough for all those millennia? It was the dogged notion that the axioms of logic are themselves self-evident truths, thereby rendering all of existence under the rule of intellect. (In fact, when Gauss made his maverick breakthrough, he kept it a secret between himself and a few close friends—most likely to avoid ridicule.) Once the human mind got it straight that this is not so, that the axioms themselves are outside the realm of logic and therefore permutable, only then were we able to progress to alternative models of reality—and to get closer to truth.

The spaceship, to reach its destination, must know there is a space beyond. Intellect, to reach its fullness, must understand that there are things past intellect. Without cause. Without answers.

The basis of all things is not a pattern or a sensible theorem, or even an axiom. It is an indescribable Being/Unbeing who chooses whatever axioms our world is to be built of. One plus one is two because He so decided. We have space and time, because He so willed it. He could have just as well made a world using something else instead. Or He could have decided to not make a world at all. Nothing forced Him or caused Him either way. Why did He make one then? Because He decided to.

You have to go outside your mental spaceship to see that, and that could be scary, but it is what being a Jew is all about. Judaism ain't for sissies.

"If I could explain G‑d," several classic Jewish thinkers wrote, "I would be Him." Indeed, if there was an explanation for G‑d, He wouldn't be a Jewish G‑d anymore. He would be just another phenomena resulting from the dynamics described in our explanation. We would have to look for another G‑d who brought those dynamics into being. In the Rebbe's words, "If G‑d was only a little smarter than me, He wouldn't be my G‑d." G‑d is not just intelligent. He created intelligence out of the void.

The same applies to free choice: If you can explain free choice, it's not free choice anymore. As soon as you say, Free choice is because; you are implying a cause. Free choice means choice without cause. Not because something is better or necessary or logical. As kids say, "Just because."

This is how the Lubavitcher Rebbe interprets the phrase "the chosen people." The relationship of other peoples to G‑d always comes back to a rational one. Our relationship extends well past the borders of rationality. Indeed, if it would stop there, it would have ended long ago. Our relationship with G‑d comes down to plain free choice.

He decides: I chose to be found in history through these people, and I cannot let them go. Why? Because of how good they are? That doesn't always work. Because of something their forefathers did? That's an after-the-fact excuse. The fact is that He decided things would be this way before there were any forefathers, before there were any people, before there was any world. Why? Because.

We decide: We're not letting go of this G‑d of ours. Why? Because of how nice He is to us? Certainly He is good to us, but a lot of the time we wouldn't know that except because our mothers told us so. A lot of the time, He seems to be out to prove the opposite. But we choose Him with all our heart as our G‑d, to believe that He is good, and we will not let Him go. We can't let go. Why? Because.

That's a very powerful relationship. When a relationship is based on rational grounds, or just on something, whatever—it can only be as powerful as that something allows. A relationship built on a primal, super-rational decision knows no such bounds. It just goes on and on.

There is a time of year, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes, when we celebrate this wild, crazy and wonderful relationship. When we get past all the rational, emotional and personal baggage of a whole year. When we get down to the essence of who we are, how we relate to Him and how He relates to us. It is when we forgive each other, and it is called Yom Kippur. Why do we forgive each other? Because that's who we are, and that's how we relate to each other. Nobody can tell us otherwise.

Just because.