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Faulty Faith

Ask ten Torah observant Jews if they believe at least nine will answer "Of course". But it isn't so simple.

Avraham certainly believed "U'matsasa es livavo neéman liphanecha" [Nechemiah 9/8] - G-d found Avraham's heart FAITHFUL. And it wasn't easy "V'he'emeen Bahshem vayachshiveha lo tzedaka" [Breishis 15/6] - G-d really appreciated the great accomplishment that Avraham achieved with his faith [See Rashi there]. YET, Avraham's faith was found lacking. Hashem promises to give his children the Land of Israel and Avraham asks "Bameh aida?" [15/8] How do I know that the promise will be fulfilled? Hashem answers "Avraham!! The entire world stands on my word and you don't believe what I tell you?!" [Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer 48]. And the consequences were severe - 400 years in Egypt [Nedarim 32a].

400 years pass and the pasuk says "Vayeamain haám" [shemos 4/31] - the nation believed. Then the 10 plagues took place that strengthened not only their faith but even the Egyptians believed "It is the finger of G-d" [8/15]. Still the Jews did not reach a level where they could sing to Hashem proclaiming their faith until the sea split "Vayaameenu bashem" - They [finally, really] believed in Hashem. And because of this Emunah they could sing [Mechilta].

After the splitting of the sea they arrived at Mount Sinai united as one person, meaning that the high level of faith that they had achieved as individuals was now compounded and thus intensified. The the heavens opened up and Hashem revealed Himself "Anochi" - Hi guys, it's me, Hashem! Then the Mishkan was built and "Hashem's glory filled the Mishkan" [Shmos 40/33]. That's a pretty high level of belief, right?

Yet, Hashem sadly informs us "For 40 years I quareled with one generation and I said that they are a people of erring heart and they didn't know my ways" [Tehillim 95/10]. Yes we say the pasuk on friday night at the beginning of kabalas shabbos with a lilting tune. So inspiring and uplifting. But what it means is that the Jews pretended as if there was no real G-d. After everything they had experienced!!

What about Moshe, he definitely believed, right? Of course! "Bichol beisi neéman hu" [Bamidbar 12/7] - He is the biggest believer around. G-d spoke to him "Face to face" [Shmos 33/11], they was never in the past and can never be in the future a Jewish Prophet like Moshe [Dvarim 34/10]. And what does the pasuk say about Moshe "Yaán lo HEÉMANTEM bi" [Bamidbar 20/12]. He lacked Emunah!!

So of course on a basic level Avraham, the Jewish people in Egypt and Moshe Rabbeinu believed in Hashem. But on their level a higher more profound faith was called for. And because they didn't meet the expectations they were guilty of a lack of faith.

So for us the lesson is that we must not merely believe, but constantly deepen and intensify our belief. And it is NOT easy. [Based on the teachings of the Alter M'Slabodka]

Good luck!!

How can we go about doing that if we cant learn 24/7?

Will discuss your point in future posts. Thank you.

You parenthetically mentioned a point that I believe to be the linchpin of this whole issue. It is very difficult to assess the תורה's criticisms of the אבות and the דור המדבר, precisely because they had reached such lofty heights.

I'm not sure why learning 24/7 would help with our faith. The allure of תורה is such that one can not be a believer and yet still learn. But even frum Jews who learn a whole lot might not believe at any point that they are having a conversation with G-d, nor will it necessarily heighten their faith in general. It is a problem with the subculture of the frum world (to put it extremely: some people go to ballgames, some people make barbecues, and Jews learn, that's what we do - it unfortunately becomes habitual) and is why חז"ל have to discuss things such as learning שלא לשמה. Learning does not automatically translate into believing.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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