Dear Readers,

There are countless stories throughout our history about Jews who didn’t believe in Torah and didn’t practise its mitzvot, and were not even connected to their community, but who refused to bow to idols or give up their religion, even on the penalty of death.

What compelled them to die as a Jew, when otherwise they could have been saved? What motivated them to keep that one strand of connection alive and strong, despite the consequences? Though outwardly they didn’t behave as a Jew, something deep within their soul stirred and made it unfathomable for them to sever their soul’s only connection with what they intuitively knew and felt was true, and they refused to be considered anything but a Jew—no matter the ramifications.

Such actions can only be understood when we realize that at the core of the soul’s experience, before entering our world, was a limitless revelation of G‑d. Moreover, our soul is actually a piece of G‑d. When our soul feels threatened that it will be broken off from the Source of all reality, it exerts itself.

Irrespective of our day-to-day behavior or manifested beliefs, at the core of our soul is emunahan experience of G‑dliness that supersedes everything. Even the staunchest non-believing Jew has as much emunah as the most devout. It is simply passive, but it remains an essential part of who he is.

And yet, the Talmud talks about a thief who stands at the threshold of a house that he’s about to rob, praying to G‑d for success. What an oxymoron! How can he pray to G‑d who commanded, “Do not steal”?

Because we each possess two souls: a G‑dly soul and an animal, or natural soul.

Our animal soul is in a constant struggle with our G‑dly soul to become the primary or even exclusive source of our motivations. Doubts come because our natural soul is right now prevailing. We need to become better in touch with our G‑dly soul, which is still just as full of emunah (“faith”), but its power is temporarily being concealed.

That is why another root for emunah is from emunin, which means, “exercise” or “training.” Ever work out at a gym? As you exercise, you discover and strengthen muscles you never knew were there.

Suppose, though, that you never trained. In a dangerous situation, you might have the adrenalin rush to run away from a threat. But in order to have these abilities on a consistent basis, you need to train your muscles. Similarly, we need regular “soul exercises” to be in tune with this part of our soul.

A great place to start is by learning Torah, especially those areas that teach us what our soul is. Because the whole purpose of our lives is to translate what our soul intuitively knows into regular, daily action.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW