“I hear the word Emunah a lot, but I am not sure what it means. What it it, and how can I get more of it?”
Ah. The million dollar question. Y’all have a way of asking the questions that strike my core. I love how the gut reaction here is: “I need this in my life, even if I don’t truly understand what it means.”
Emunah: Trust; faith. Sometimes referred to as blind faith.
I don’t know about you, but when I see the words ‘blind faith’ I cringe. This definition makes me think of a herd of sheep, just following the status quo. But, we’re not blind, and we’re not sheep. We do not exist simply to exist.
Yes, Emunah means faith, but I don’t think there’s anything blind about it. Its other definition, trust, isn’t great either, because, let’s get real: What does it really mean to trust someone, let alone trust G-d?
I used to view Emunah as a cop out, a passive reaction to life’s issues. Emunah was for people who wanted a get out of jail free card from life. “I can’t handle life, therefore, I will believe in Hashem, and He’ll swoop in and take care of me while I sit here and avoid the world.”
I’ve come to learn that there is nothing passive about it, yet, when I discuss faith with people, this is often the reaction I see.
Faith feels flimsy to many.
One of the best parts of Jewish learning is the way everything is woven together. Everything, from the simplest to the most advanced acts are strung together by a single thread of purpose. Judaism creates an intricate web of details and meanings that we use to enhance our lives.; that includes this illusive, ‘shakey’ idea of Emunah.
The purpose of our existence in awakened every morning with the recitation of Modeh Ani. Everything about faith is encapsulated right here, in this ‘teeny tiny’ prayer you mutter under your breath while you’re still half asleep.
Modeh Ani: The morning prayer that is recited immediately upon waking up. As soon as you consciously feel yourself, even if your eyes are still closed, you recite Modeh Ani.
“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”
His faithfulness in us. Yeah, you read that right. Hashem has Emunah in us.
Emunah is not about sitting around and waiting for Hashem to take care of you; it’s active. Emunah is born from recognizing that Hashem trusts you (!) and believes you are capable of doing great things.
There’s nothing avoidant or shaky about Emunah. It’s a balance of mutual trust between you and Your Creator.
He trusts; you trust; it’s one fun-loving trust fest.
A relationship built on mutual trust is something that takes time, and that applies as much as your relationship to G-d (or a higher power, if that is what you wish to call it), as it does to people in your own life.
You can’t expect to take without giving back. If you want trust, you have to show that you’re willing to accept Hashem on His terms. Hashem is Hashem; you are you.
You know that feeling when someone asks you to trust them, and immediate, your mind goes to the worst possible result? You watch every move they make, trying to anticipate where they’ll trip up and you’ll have to come in to save the day. We do that because we don’t really trust the person.
My relationship with Emunah is like that. I say that I have faith and that I trust G-d, but when it comes down to it, I am holding on for dear life, coming up with every worst scare scenario. That’s not trust.
What does it take to choose trust instead of fear? Time and practice. If you say you’re going to trust, then practice trusting without fear, without judging of the outcome. Do it again. And again. And again.
The next step is action. How do you accumulate more Emunah in your life? Act! If someone puts their trust in you, you need to show up and do what it is you say you’re going to do. In the context of your relationship with G-d, that means doing what He entrusted you to do. The job is different for each of us. Give Tzedakah. Say a prayer. Help someone. Save a life. Do it with your whole heart.
Trusting is not easy. It takes grit and courage and surrender. Sometimes, it’s painful. Trust does not offer smooth sailing; nothing it life does. Trust is a life jacket. Life is stormy, but you can do this.
Hashem knows what He’s doing. We trust that He put us here with a purpose, and that it’s Your trust in Hashem is the fuel that energies and powers your move.
Next week (or, realistically, after Pesach): How to practice Emunah when times are rough.