Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

The study of emuna infuses us with the vision to see history’s ultimate goal, as well as the confidence that we will succeed in bringing this goal to fruition.

“Noaḥ, with his sons, his wife and his sons’ wives with him, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.” (B’reishit 7:7)


Rashi comments on this verse that Noaḥ was a man of inadequate faith. He believed yet at the same time did not believe that the flood HaShem warned of would actually come about. He therefore hesitated to enter the ark until the waters had come and forced him inside.

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘Noaḥ lacked emuna. Had the waters not reached his ankles, he would not have entered the ark.’” (B’reishit Rabbah 32:6)

Even Noaḥ, a man whom the Torah describes as “a righteous man, perfect in his generations” (B’reishit 6:9), was capable of lacking complete emuna. Rashi therefore calls him one who “believed and did not believe.”

The Hebrew word emuna denotes something significantly greater than what is generally implied by the English term “faith.” It is an absolute certainty beyond rational thought and a wisdom that must be diligently studied in order to deepen our understanding and elevate our consciousness. The study of emuna infuses us with the vision to see history’s ultimate goal, as well as the confidence that we will succeed in bringing this goal to fruition.

Far from misleading us to rely on miracles and alleviate ourselves from responsibility to achieve progress, the certitude of our ultimate triumph, as well as the awareness of HaShem’s unity and mastery over all, includes the knowledge that we are placed into this world in order to succeed according to the natural order of Creation. True emuna entails not only token human effort but also initiative planned out and strategically executed according to the laws of nature established for our world.

Even the greatest heroes of Israel’s past, who walked in G-D’s ways and led our people to great victories, devoted serious time to planning out their battles according to sound military strategies, geo-political realities and other practical considerations. But the knowledge that we all participate in a story authored by HaShem and that the nation of Israel represents His Divine Ideal in this story empowers us with the confidence and determination to overcome all fears and prevail over seemingly impossible odds.

Noaḥ’s complex of “believing and not believing” is completely incompatible with the authentic Hebrew worldview and could cause Jews to drift away from our ideal Divine state. It was this very lack of complete emuna that had caused the kingdom of Israel to split in ancient times. When King Shlomo married the daughter of Pharaoh, with the intention of forging a political alliance with Egypt, HaShem admonished him, saying “Since this has happened to you, and you have not kept My covenant and My decrees that I have commanded you, I shall surely tear away the kingship from you and give it to your servant.” (Melakhim I 11:11)

King David prophetically writes in the first verse of Tehillim 127: “A song of ascents for Shlomo. If HaShem will not build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”

Rashi teaches that “David dedicated this psalm to his son Shlomo, who Divine Inspiration informed him would construct the Temple and wed Pharaoh’s daughter on the same day… He therefore sang this psalm, meaning, ‘Why, my son, should you build a Temple and turn away from G-D? Since G-D has no desire of it, its builders labor in vain.’”

For Shlomo’s transgression of marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, the Israeli kingdom was split in the days of his son Reḥavam. But hope still existed to reunite the Hebrew tribes. HaShem declares “I shall afflict the descendants of David for this – but not for all time.” (Melakhim I 11:39)

Yalkut Shimoni quotes Seder Olam on this verse, stating: “Our sages said, ‘The monarchy was destined to return in Asa’s day had he not sinned.’”

Rashi explains this as “‘I will afflict David’s seed for this’: This corresponds to the thirty-six years Shlomo was married to Pharaoh’s daughter. He wed her in the fourth year of his reign, and it was due to her that the verdict was decreed for David’s kingdom to be divided. It should have been reunited in the sixteenth year of Asa’s reign, but Asa sinned by sending a bribe to the king of Aram rather than relying on G-D.”

Radak supports this understanding and writes: “In Asa’s day it was destined to be restored, but Asa sinned: ‘In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel went up against Judea’ (D’vrei HaYamim II 16:1). It was only the sixteenth year of Asa’s reign, but thirty-six years after the reign of Shlomo, when the kingdom had been fated to be reunited. Yet because Asa sinned and relied on the king of Aram, it was not restored.”

The consequence for Shlomo’s transgression was that the Davidic kingdom was divided for thirty-six years – the length of time Shlomo was married to Egypt’s princess. Therefore, the kingdom should have been restored and Israel should have been reunited in the sixteenth year of Shlomo’s great grandson Asa.

King Asa of Judea is described at the start of his reign as having done “what was proper in the eyes of HaShem, like his forefather David” (Melakhim I 15:11) but by his sixteenth year he appears to lack the necessary emuna to merit the kingdom’s reunification. When attacked by King Baasha of Israel, Asa did not put his trust in HaShem and go to war as he had earlier done against even stronger forces. Nor did he attempt to make peace with his fellow Hebrews. Instead, he sent a bribe from the Temple treasury in Jerusalem to the king of Aram. Rather than act with confidence according to the values of his people, he bribed a foreign king to help him war against Israel.

Because of this lack of emuna – “believing and not believing” – HaShem’s Divine Ideal was profaned amongst the nations while Judea and Israel remained tragically divided. Instead of rectifying the misdeed of his great grandfather, Asa augmented it by subjugating himself to a foreign ruler.

Asa was by and large a righteous king who had frequently put his trust in HaShem, winning miraculous victories against overwhelming enemy forces (D’vrei HaYamim II 14). But like Noaḥ, Asa believed in HaShem but at the same time lacked the emuna required to successfully lead his people through difficult times. It could be that with age, the strength of his inner certainty had depleted, demonstrating that it takes great courage and deep understanding not only to attain emuna but also to maintain it in the face of future challenges.

The story of King Asa teaches that it is not enough to have once been a great hero. A leader must constantly strive to maintain a level of greatness and not merely live off the merit and glory of past deeds. Only with a complete devotion to the Kadosh Barukh Hu and to the Jewish people’s national mission can one have the inner strength and fortitude to persevere against seemingly impossible odds. But in order to reach such a level of emuna, it is necessary to internalize the meaning of the word “One” in our eternal declaration of “Hear O Israel, HaShem is our G-D, HaShem is One!”

The declaration “HaShem is One” does not merely assert that He is the only deity and none others exist but also that He is the very Source and Context of all existence. Because all of Creation is unified and actually exists as part of the greater ultimate Reality we call HaShem, the Kadosh Barukh Hu’s domain cannot be confined to what many refer to as the realm of “religion.” Attempting to restrict HaShem’s relevance to a house of study or prayer is actually an act of heresy as it denies His Oneness over all. As the timeless and boundless ultimate Reality without end, HaShem encompasses everything in Creation and beyond.

The Western model of separation between “religion” and “state” has absolutely no foundation in Israel’s Torah, which possesses no such concept as “giving unto G-D what is G-D’s and giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” The notion that a human ruler could possess independent power is actually a form of intellectual idolatry and to attribute any power to an idol is to essentially deny HaShem’s Divine Oneness over all.

There is a political misconception that Israel’s survival in modern times depends on the favor and support of foreign powers. This psychological subordination to gentile nations is one of the basest contemporary forms of idolatry, responsible for preventing Israel from actualizing our full potential as the nation entrusted to manifest HaShem’s Ideal and shine the light of His Truth to mankind. Recognizing and embracing our unique historic role will empower us to confidently walk with the Kadosh Barukh Hu in implementing the most sensible and effective policies to advance our aspirations and the collective Hebrew mission.

The study of emuna grants us the holistic perspective to recognize the challenges currently confronting our people as merely serving to better flavor this incredible chapter of Jewish history. The demand by foreign powers that Israel relinquish portions of our homeland is merely a means of testing – and ultimately strengthening – our vision and certainty in the righteousness of our cause and in our ultimate victory.

It is the responsibility of Israel’s sages to guide the Hebrew nation in overcoming the “Noaḥ complex” and understanding there to be absolutely nothing outside of the Kadosh Barukh Hu. It is with the deeper wisdom and higher consciousness acquired from the study of emuna that Israel will succeed in advancing history forward, illuminating HaShem’s Oneness to all of Creation and bringing humankind to a future of unparalleled blessing.

[Published in Vision Magazine]

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Rav Yehuda HaKohen is an organizer and educator living in northern Judea. As a leader in the Vision movement, he works to empower students and young professionals to become active participants in the current chapter of Jewish history.