Read More Details

Can We Ever Have Enough Emunah?

Can We Ever Have Enough Emunah?

One of the amazing things that we find in the parsha of Beshalach[1], is the answer to the above question. No, you can never have enough emunah.

Ok. That’s my devar Torah… just kidding.

The truth of the matter is, that we find this concept expressed all over the Torah, the Gemara, the Midrash and more. What I find interesting is that despite the explicit ways that the Torahs, both written and oral, say this, barely anyone spends time on deepening their emunah.

For example. Over the past several weeks, we have been reading about emunah and its development. In Parshas Shemos (4:31) we read about how the people of Israel, upon hearing Moshe’s words and seeing his osos, the verse says v’ya’amen ha’am, the people had emunah in Moshe’s words.

The people witness the miracles of the ten plagues and leave Egypt with even stronger emunah.

This week’s parsha describes to us how the children of Israel arrive at the foot of Yam Suf, the Red Sea, and yet again we find that in the wake of the miracles, the Torah says (14:31) and the people feared HaShem, and they had emunah in HaShem, and in Moshe, His servant.

43 days later, the children of Israel stand at the foot of Sinai, and again we discover that there is emunah. Yet even beyond that point, we find that Moshe, after coming to intercede on behalf of the people, after being told that he has found favor in HaShem’s eyes, requests (33:18) Please show me Your Honor. Even beyond Sinai, even if your name is Moses the father of all prophets, and you speak to HaShem face-to-face, there is still room for even more emunah.

On the flip side, there are several places where the Talmud and Midrash describe that even great individuals were lacking in this regard. Noach, (Noah) for example, is a classic case[2]. For 120 years he builds his ark, at first all by himself, (as his first child was only born 20 years later), and slowly, but surely, he was joined by his children in completing this monumental task. Yet despite all of the work, and despite all of the ridicule that he suffered from his friends (and with friends like that…) and neighbors, he completes his task and – lo and behold! (I just love this saying) – it begins to rain. It rains pleasantly for seven days, whereupon the rains become a downpour. This is it! This is the moment that he has been waiting for over the last 120 years! Yet despite everything, Noach doesn’t go into his ark! Noach was surprised and stunned that HaShem was actually going through with it. He was, in fact going to destroy humanity! Noach was so overwhelmed by this, that if not for the waves pushing him into his ark (and closing the door behind him) Noach, too, would have drowned. From which our sages, ob”m, conclude that “from here we see that Noach was among the small emunah people (mi ketaney emunah).”

Another example like this is the children of Israel when they were leaving Egypt. The Gemara in Tractate Pesachim 118b, says that the children of Israel who experienced krias yam suf (the splitting of the sea), concerning which the Torah says (Shemos 14:31) and they shall trust (v’ya’aminu) in HaShem, and in Moses, His servant; during which time they saw the sea torn asunder, watched as they formed tunnels that were totally dry and flat, walked through on dry land, and finally saw the tunnels collapse on the Egyptians who were chasing them from behind. Their only concern afterward was “maybe the Egyptians came out somewhere else, and will continue the chase!” It is for this reason that they, too, are also called ketaney emunah.

If you think that this title is apropos only to Noach, and to the children of Israel who came out of Egypt, you’ve another thing coming. Because our sages, ob”m, also say (Tractate Sotah 48a)

…for Rabbi Eliezer ha Gadol said, “Anyone who has bread in their basket, and asks ‘What will I eat tomorrow?’ isn’t only (=is truly) among the ketaney emunah.”

Emunah isn’t something that we either have or have not. We can have it in some cases, and not have it in others. We can have strong emunah in certain areas of life, and very weak emunah in others. It is our job to take note, to know ourselves, to be mindful of who we are, and to recognize what our strengths and weaknesses are so that we should spend our lives on improving in the areas that we need.

As a side note, the same thing is true concerning the area of yiras shomayim (fear of heaven) as well. There is no such thing as a person who has none. Like in emunah, so too by yiras shomayim. You can have it in one area and be totally lacking in it in another. For example, a common problem by today’s adolescents and adults is that they have fear of heaven by, say, keeping kashrus, but in the area of shemiras ha’eynayim (guarding one’s eyes) or shemiras ha’brit (masturbation, or forbidden sexual relationships) they do not. It’s not because you have none that you fail. It’s because you have none in this area that you do. As an advice to anyone who has this affliction, first of all there – there are support groups available. B”H, we live in a generation where there are those among Am Yisroel who rose to the challenge, openly admitted to their own personal spiritual failings and created platforms to help others in need. I’m talking about the amazing Guard Your Eyes organization (GuardYourEyes), who have – for years – been developing platforms to help those in need. I urge anyone who is looking to improve in this area to sign up for one of their programs.

However, even with all of the best programs in the world, real change won’t happen unless you realize that HaShem runs the world and that in doing something that the Torah says is wrong you are not just doing something “bad,” you’re literally killing yourself. The next time you do it could lead to your demise, the demise of your family, or even worse. I, therefore, urge anyone who reads this and has problems in this area, that during your times of sanity – pray to HaShem that He should help you find yiras shomayim in this area too, as much and as deeply as you can – and it will happen. He WILL find a way. He is WAY more interested in our success in life than we are.

In any case, getting back to the point of this blog. We can never have “enough” emunah (or yiras shomayim, for that matter). All of our Torah greats throughout all of the generations have always said that it is something in which we should invest daily, as these fundamentals give the best dividends. It doesn’t matter how great or successful you are. It doesn’t matter how important, or how much Torah you think you know. As long as you are alive “don’t trust yourself until the day you die” (Tractate Berachos 28a) daily work is necessary.

[1] I began writing this to put out before beshalach, and like many things, only succeeded in finishing it now.

[2] The following is based on the words of the Torah in parshas Noach, and the words of our sages, ob”m, who explain them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *