I once heard faith defined as “believing in something when logic and reason tell you different.”
But as Jews, we love logic and reason… It is part of our core… of our very being… it is a vital part of who we are, to question and prod and doubt and wrestle.
That definition seems blind to me… and I don’t think blind faith is a solid base on which to build anything. Unless you’re talking about this band…
And then there is trust. Is there a difference between faith and trust? Faith always seemed to be a more “Christian” notion to me… or at least the word is. But for the sake of argument… and because I think that they are very similar, especially in this context, let us use both interchangeably.
In the face of horrible things, what keeps us going is our trust in Hashem… that Hashem knows what’s best for us… that each and every test is being done to make us better… and we are never given a test we cannot pass.
That is an amazing and powerful notion… but one that is often hard to fully embrace and believe in.
I am overwhelmed at present… I have been sick for over two weeks… frustrated about my career… dealing with really difficult personal issues, and heartbroken over the loss of now two of my most beloved, musical icons.
Too often for me, I find that I am leaning more on secular things… like therapy and non-Jewish readings and philosophies. Though I do firmly believe that Hashem gives us whatever tools we need, and most are already inside of us, there for the ready and the waiting. We all need to find our own combinations and formulas for what works.
I just wish my Emunah was stronger… and yet, I do know that, that is something that takes work and study and time. Sigh…
I learned from Rabbi Shalom Denbo that faith and trust is the first step… we then work towards Emunah, a deeper trust… a more informed and educated and studied trust. And finally Bitachon, the most powerful form of belief… a “powerful optimism… fully believing that “everything G-d does is for the good.”
My 2016 resolution is to read the Tanakh again… and be on schedule for the Parsha… meaning I am current each week, and reading the same thing we are all reading… to be a more informed and active participant in the discussion. I am still playing catch up, but I am making progress. And yes, Ben’s posts keep me in line!
And yet, the very reading of the Tanakh has challenges for me… Huge challenges… and questions… and yes, dare I say, even some confusions and doubts.
Is it a divine document written by Hashem? Translated by Moses or written by Moses? Based on certain markings and notes, were there others writing it, too? Is it a historical record or a book of theology? Hashem is the ultimate author, yes, but the other questions are important and fascinating.
We know it is eternally open for interpretation and reinterpretation… or to some, perhaps not… But let us not forget the great Rabbinic saying: “There are seventy faces to the Torah.”
I read this in the Second Edition of the Jewish Study Bible… a great and current read of mine… it says that love is the impetus for studying the Torah, and the desire of this edition is to “add significant depth to Jewish belief and values.”
So how does reading and studying help with staying strong, and maintaining faith… Emunah…
Well… I’ll let you know as I go back to the well… Grab onto the old and find something new… but I think it is most simply and basically about connecting. Connection is key in life… with family… with friends… with love… and with Hashem.
What I love about Judaism is the historical, the spiritual and the practical… which are often combined into one.
Lori Palatnik does a whole class on tests.
She says we must recognize when it is a test. We must stop blaming others, turn the finger around and recognize this. Sometimes that is all that is needed… knowing it is a test.
She used a great quote from Bob Burke… “Often we want to blame and rationalize… but remember Rationalize can often be Rational Lies.”
She goes on to say that The Almighty loves us, and wants us to have the greatest life possible and wants us to achieve our potential. So occasionally, this involves tests… lessons… it is Hashem’s way of teaching you.
Maimonides gives us 13 Principles Of Faith… almost a mantra or meditation. It is a traditional reminder and something worth looking at daily, if possible. But again, this might raise some questions. It does for me.
And surely simply saying it is not enough… or is it?
13 PRINCIPLES OF FAITH (MAIMONIDES)
1. I believe with complete faith in the existence of God. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, creates and guides all creatures, and that He alone made, makes and will make everything.
2. I believe with complete faith in His unity. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, is unique and there is no uniqueness like His in any way, and that He alone is our G-d, Who was, Who is and Who always will be.
3. I believe with complete faith in His spirituality. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena, and that there is no comparison to Him whatsoever to Him.
4. I believe with complete faith in His eternity. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, is the very first and the very last.
5. I believe with complete faith God alone is the object of worship. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, to Him alone it is proper to pray, and it not proper to pray to any other.
6. I believe with complete faith in Revelation through his prophets. I believe with complete faith that all of the words of the Prophets are true.
7. I believe with complete faith in the preeminence of Moses among the Prophets. I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him was true and that he was the father of the prophets, both those who preceded him and those who followed him.
8. I believe with complete faith in God’s law given on Mount Sinai. I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah, now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses our teacher, peace be upon him.
9. I believe with complete faith in the immutability of the Torah as God’s Law. I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, nor will there be another Torah from the Creator, Blessed Is His Name.
10. I believe with complete faith in God’s foreknowledge of men’s actions. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, knows all the deeds of human beings and their thoughts, as it is said, “He fashions their hearts all together, He comprehends all their deeds.”
11. I believe with complete faith in Retribution. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, rewards with good those who observe his Commandments, and punishes those who violate his Commandments.
12. I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah. I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.
13. I believe with complete faith in Resurrection. I believe with complete faith that there will be a revivication of the dead whenever the desire emanates from the Creator, Blessed Is His Name and exalted Is His Mention, forever and for all eternity.
For me, one of the most important reminders… and it is also a way to prepare for prayer… to get the mind and heart and soul open and ready, comes from a class I heard Rabbi Denbo give.
SEVEN STEPS TO TRUSTING HASHEM
1) Know Hashem Loves Me
2) Know Hashem Is Aware Of Me & Knows Everything I Want
3) Know Hashem Has The Power / Wants To Give Us Everything
4) I Do Not Have The Power
5) Know Hashem Has Given Me So Much Already (Appreciation)
6) I Do Not Have To Deserve It
7) Know That Hashem Knows What’s Best
We all need to find our own way in… our own pole to grasp when the winds of doubt blow fiercely… our own shelter from the storm.
I am going back to the book… THE BOOK… back to studying and classes and consultations… and hoping I can not be so easily moved off the path, with a challenge or a break.
As Lori also says, life is a ladder… we may miss a step or rung… or even go backwards/down… just don’t let go!