In order to fulfull undergrad credit requirements, I once took a course in classical music, and was bored out of my mind. As announced in the beginning, our final exam would be to identify the composer from records which had been played throughout the term. In the end, I was still bored, but at least I aced the exam. (I cheated. As the class progressed, I noticed the color of each record label and and wrote down the corresponding artist.) To this day, I still moan about 18th century Top 40. However, there are certain Mozart violin concertos and Bach piano pieces which touch me in a way that I won’t leave my car until they’re over. Go figure.
I also refuse to step foot in an art museum. What is everyone “Oooh”ing and “Aahhh”ing about? Yet, a Monet scenery painting in a dentists office will make me pause. Quite nice. Would others of different tastes say to me, “How can you not like Beethoven’s Fourth” or “Modern art is so cool, don’t you see it?” It’s never happened so far, because we understand that each person is hard-wired differently.
Even though some “proofs” of Torah are presented on an intellectual level, we’re still partly emotional beings, and to a nonreligious person, not everything will click, no matter how logical it sounds. I once heard Rabbi Orlofsky discuss evolution, and he mentioned that even if you present the odds of a Big Bang making an orderly universe (say, one in megaquadgoogolmillion), a listener might still shrug his shoulders and remark, “So, it happened.” End of “proof”. Ok, so this didn’t go. If you continue to argue the point, maybe something will happen, or maybe not. This isn’t what hits the person. Just move on.
Some aren’t swayed much by the mesorah arguement, for example. My great(x100) grandpop was at Har Sinai? And there’s an unbroken chain? I didn’t find it in the archives (yawn). G-d revealed His rules to everyone and not just one person? Do the other religions know this? Why aren’t they converting? There’s something strange here, thinks the red-faced kiruv rabbi, it’s just not clicking with this guy. Because you haven’t found the spark inside. But there is one.
My personal “proof” of Torah is that in my mind, it is impossible for a set of man-made laws which could produce a Chofetz Chaim, or a Moshe Feinstein. It would never make demands which are detailed in the laws of loshon hara, or say that we need forgiveness from the lowest person in society if we accidentally step on him. Now, if I present this to someone else, he might shrug his shoulders and say, “Yes, it could.” End of “proof”. Howver for me, this “proof” hit me like a Mozart concerto, or a Monet painting. My spark was hit, and all of the other proofs would later be strong supports to what originally got me on track. The idea that I could point to someone and say, I truly believe that G-d wanted us to live life like that (and how did he get there?) really got me rolling.
Organizations such a Partners in Torah are so successful, because when you are learning with someone, the nonfrum person can digress and ask questions about what’s really bothering his neshama. In that way, they find the spark which begins the growth process.
If the intellectual proofs don’t always do it, try to get to know a person first…see what makes him tick. So…what worked for you?