It’s simple physics, really. Take basketball. Or more specifically, the dribbling. You are holding a ball. You push it away. It comes back. If you drop it, it bounces weakly. If you bounce it with force, it’ll come back with strength. In simple words: the more powerful the push, the stronger the return.

But, as with all rules, there are exceptions. Today a few of my students were playing catch. One threw the ball and it got stuck on a shelf. She couldn’t reach it, and asked me to get it for her. I walked over to the shelf and pushed the ball in, hoping it would bounce off the wall and roll right back. But no, it just rolled forward and stopped. I picked it up and realized that it needed more air.

Flat balls don’t bounce.

I thought about the concept of “yeridah l’tzorech aliyah,” a descent for the purpose of ascent. We are a bunch of basketballs. Throughout our lives we are thrown to the depths, with the intention of rising. The harder we are thrown, the greater we can rise. But, we must be full.

Flat balls don’t bounceIf we were to be thrown while flat, empty of substance, we would remain stuck down below. What is air? If I pointed to a room full of air, and I asked you what you saw, chances are that you would reply, “Nothing, the room is empty.” However, empty of air, the room becomes a place where no life can exist.

In our relationship with G‑d, I would say that air would equal emunah, belief. It is not something tangible, not something apparently useful. But a life without emunah is no life. Without faith, there is no return. We would remain stuck in the deep darkness with no hope of return.

In our relationships with other human beings, bein adam lachaveiro, I would describe air as love, respect, trust, or really, any other positive emotion. As long as we love our children or parents, they will come back to us, no matter how hard we may have hurt them. As long as I respect you, there is room for mistakes in our friendship. If I trust you to care for me, I will allow myself to follow your advice, even though I may not see results immediately. But without those basic building blocks, a relationship is doomed to failure.

When a relationship is built on trust, love, kindness, and caring, there is room for growth and it can develop into the most beautiful union. Simple emunah, our belief, our faith, changes the very nature of our connection with G‑d, and helps all the hardships melt away.