Faith in God is the foundation of Judaism. Faith is not just the utterance of words, however, but a firm belief and conviction with actions. Bitachon – trust – doesn’t mean believing that everything will be hunky dory. It doesn’t mean trusting that I can walk through a dangerous neighborhood at night and I won’t get mugged. It doesn’t mean trusting that no matter how fast I drive to that appointment, I won’t get into an accident. This is not trust; this is wishful thinking. It has everything to do with our desire for ease and comfort and nothing to do with trust in God.
Bitachon means trusting that: (1) God creates reality moment by moment in a way which reflects His awareness, involvement, and compassion; and (2) that our reality is exactly what it was meant to be.
No one in the middle of a story is able to see the end of the story. Bitachon means believing that there is an end to the story, and that if we could know the end we would have no doubts in the middle of what is going to happen. When I was a young girl I went with my friends one Rosh Hashana to a certain chassidic group for Tashlich. On Rosh Hashana afternoon, there is a custom to go to a body of water and symbolically cast your sins into the water, and this chassidic group always went to a fish pond in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It was arranged ahead of time with the authorities that the gate would be left open for them on this day for this ceremony.
One Rosh Hashana, someone slipped up. Despite having received prior approval, the group, which comprised of students, followers and their esteemed rebbe in the lead, arrived at the Botanical Gardens and found the gate locked, with the gatekeeper nowhere in sight. The chassidic were milling around, not knowing what to do. Suddenly the Rebbe climbed over the gate. At first the chassidic were startled but then, one by one, they followed. When they caught up with him, the Rebbe said, “You have to know that you meet obstacles so that you can climb over them.”
This is how bitachon bestows on us a deep and meaningful joy. Bitachon is not saying, “I want no obstacles.” Bitachon is saying, “The obstacles, the difficulties, the ordeals are there so that I can overcome them, and in the process become a deeper, finer person than I would have been without them.” Joy is the result of this consciousness.
Bitachon is not measured by your success in climbing over the gate. Bitachon is measured by your response upon seeing the gate – whether you grimace and give up, or whether you appreciate that God has put the gate there for your ultimate benefit. It is a foundation of our faith to believe that God is One and that He is a most perfect and absolute Unity.
It is written, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). This is a positive commandment to believe in God’s unity. This commandment depends on thought and can be fulfilled at any time.
Although the universe contains many galaxies, each consisting of millions of stars and planets, there is one God who is Author and Creator of them all. It is absolutely impossible to conceive of more than one Absolute Being.
Although there may be many other universes, both physical and spiritual, God is One over all. It is thus written, “Your kingdom is a kingdom of all worlds” (Psalms 145:13).
Nothing can exist unless God wills it to exist. If God were to stop willing anything’s existence, it would immediately cease to exist. God’s will must therefore make all creation exist at all times.
It is thus written, “You have made the heaven… the earth and all that is on it… and You give life to them all” (Nehemiah 9:6). God constantly gives Life Force and existence to all things. In the morning prayers, we likewise say, “In His goodness, He daily renews the act of creation.”
It is a foundation of our faith to believe that God knows all our deeds as well as everything else that occurs in the universe. God knows man’s thoughts, as it is written, “God probes every heart and perceives every urge of thought” (1-Chronicles 28:9). It is likewise written, “[God] knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalms 44:21).
There is yet another term in faith and that is emunah. Loosely translated as faith in God, emunah is considered the cornerstone of Jewish belief and practice. What does the term emunah mean? How does this affect my life? When are we as Jews required to have or practice this emunah?
Unfortunately, many people assume that emunah refers to blind faith. However, this is not the case. In the Aleinu prayer recited at or near the end of every prayer service, we proclaim: “And you shall know today, and take to heart, that God is the only God…” We are instructed to ‘know’ that God exists. Faith has nothing to do with knowledge; they are expressions of what one wishes to be true, not what is in fact necessarily true.
Emunah begins in the mind as intellectual emunah, formed after hard rational work and inquiry. Emunah is developed throughout a lifetime and needs to be repeatedly contemplated. Loyalty to God becomes essential when life throws us a sharp curve ball which may cause us to lose balance and doubt that things truly are for the best.
Emunah comes with practice of the mind and action. Utilizing life’s encounters as a prospect to seeing God in my life increases our awareness of His constant presence. We can use challenges to come closer to our Creator since we grow from the experiences of emunah. It helps us look beyond the limited now and knowing that we may not fully grasp the meaning of what is happening. We think we know what is best for us, but emunah means have faith that only God really knows. Nonetheless, we also have faith that one day we too will know. With the day of judgment just around the corner, may we strengthen our faith belief and emunah that everything is in the hands of Hashem and that all he does with us and for us is a great blessing.