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What Is Faith According to Judaism?

January 13, 2020 3:11 PM

Dear Readers,

In the final days of the war of 1967, when the Arab nations were banded against Israel, a group of soldiers had finally reached the Kotel, the holiest site in Judaism, and place of the first and second Temple.

Many of the soldiers came from religious and traditional backgrounds, and stood in awe, crying that the Kotel had been liberated. One soldier from a secular background watched and then also began to cry. A religious soldier who often debated with him approached and asked, “I don’t understand, to us the Kotel is everything! But why do you cry?”

The soldier answered simply, “Ani bocheh al mah sheani lo bocheh! ‘I am crying over the fact that I am not crying!’ I watch you and see your deep connection, and I cry because I sense that I am missing that.”

There are countless stories where something was kindled within a “non-observant” Jew to wake him up to his faith and traditions. But why? What causes such a reaction?

The dictionary defines faith as “a strong belief in G‑d or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” Meaning, “a person of faith” is someone who keeps to the doctrines of that religion, usually due to fear or conditioning.

Judaism looks at faith, or emunah, completely differently, which explains why even someone who doesn’t act as “a believer” can still have deep faith.

Faith, according to Judaism is based on two things:

1) Our soul experienced G‑d firsthand before descending to this world.

Before descending to this world, our soul experienced an infinite G‑dly revelation. This revelation is a part of our essential selves, and its impression is indelible. Moreover, since this revelation was infinite, when we tap into it, we have access to unlimited powers.

2) Faith is intrinsic to what our soul is.

Chassidic thought teaches that our soul is an actual part of G‑d, “breathed” into our being. This is an essential part of us. This means that not only was our soul granted an infinite revelation, which would imply a “G‑d and us” or “You and me” relationship, but that we have an actual part of G‑d within each of us.

So faith is something deep within us. Irrespective of our understanding or our behavior, no matter how we dress or how many mitzvot we keep, faith is a part of who we are. Whether or not we act with this awareness, each one of us is eternally connected to G‑d. We may not be aware of it or it may be buried, but our connection is accessible, waiting for us to activate it.

So faith, according to Judaism, is really about allowing our soul to experience what it remembers and what it essentially is. Faith is that dimension of ourselves that helps us to be in touch with our true reality.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

Living Fragmented Lives

January 2, 2020 10:13 PM

Dear Readers,

If I had to choose one word to describe the suffering and unhappiness in our world, it would be fragmentation. We live fragmented lives.

We don’t see any connection or meaning behind the issues of our lives. We view people as separate from us, rather than as part of a unified, symbiotic whole. We view time and events as disjointed, with no theme or underlying purpose.

That’s why even though we may be surrounded by so much good, we can get upset by an insult, a thoughtless remark or something that doesn’t go as well as planned. Experiences in our lives that we perceive as “negative” become overpowering and cause such suffering. Because when I am imprisoned within the moment, I am unable to see beyond this particular event, this challenge that I am confronting, this streak of bad luck I am currently facing. These challenging situations are senseless to me and thus overwhelmingly painful.

Galut is usually translated as “exile.” But galut is not simply a state of banishment from our land or our inability to live as practicing Jews. In our times, we are able to physically live in Israel, and in most other countries we are able to practice Torah and mitzvot. But we are still very much in galut.

Because galut means being imprisoned within a fragmented perception of reality, on all levels: time, space, self and community. It affects how we view ourselves, others and all the events in our lives. It is our inability to see the underlying synergy.

Geulah, “redemption,” on the other hand, is seeing the wholeness and the core G‑dliness within creation. It is the perception of the connecting thread, the Divine force running through everything—people, places and events. It is viewing each event as leading up to a purpose, having a mission and a reason; and understanding that there will be a grand finale when all these loose ends will be wholesomely tied together.

That’s why the Hebrew word for “exile,” golah differs only in one letter from its counterpart, geulah, “redemption.” Golah is missing the aleph (numerically, one). It lacks the perception of Oneness, unity, wholeness, goodness and the foundational purpose of creation.

Without the aleph, we behold the very same world, but it is a world of fragmentation, restlessness and frustrations. Happiness and fulfillment are lacking since there is no goal, no past and no future.

Insert the aleph, though, and a context emerges.

Every mitzvah that we do draws down this aleph awareness within each of us, and within the world at large. Mitzvah means connection. Every mitzvah uncovers the concealed purpose of this moment or of this created matter, and thereby connects us to our Creator. It reminds us that we are here to serve an essential purpose, and that every experience is necessary and meaningful—even those that may cause us such distress—in bringing about a glorious future.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
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