Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

Emuna is Life

"Who is the man who desires life, loves days in which to see [and do] good" (Psalms 34,13). How fortunate we are to be healthy seekers of life, "believers sons of believers," and the descendants of Avraham Avinu, about whom the Torah writes, "He had emuna in G-d" (Genesis 15,6). All of Creation aspires to live life that is meaningful, grounded in a cleaving to the source of life. This is how the living G-d created mankind, imbuing it with this aspiration. As Moshe Rabbeinu made it very clear in his parting speech to the People of Israel: "And you who cleave to Hashem your G-d, you all live today" (Deut. 4,4)

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Rabbi Yossi Badihi

Cheshvan 16 5782

Translated by Hillel Fendel

"Who is the man who desires life, loves days in which to see [and do] good"
(Psalms 34,13)

How fortunate we are to be healthy seekers of life, "believers sons of believers," and the descendants of Avraham Avinu, about whom the Torah writes, "He had emuna in G-d" (Genesis 15,6).

All of Creation aspires to live life that is meaningful, grounded in a cleaving to the source of life. This is how the living G-d created mankind, imbuing it with this aspiration. As Moshe Rabbeinu made it very clear in his parting speech to the People of Israel: "And you who cleave to Hashem your G-d, you all live today" (Deut. 4,4)

Our great teacher HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (1865-1935) explains in his work Maamarei HaRa'yah that emuna is neither "emotion" nor "intellect." Rather, it is "life." His son, our master HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, elaborating upon his father's words, explained that the common misconception that emuna [often (mis)translated as "faith"] is an intellectual matter is a diminution of something much greater – whereas saying that emuna is emotion is a lie. 

An intellectual matter is something quite abstract, and does not obligate the person to actually live his life according to it. Knowledge is something external, and as is well-known: "A professor of mathematics does not become a triangle."

On the other hand, behavior only according to our emotions is simply a deception and falsehood that leads to grave and destructive acts motivated by lusts and ego. Such behavior is disconnected with values, or the higher levels of existence, or the healthy nature of a person, and are obligated to nothing.

Emuna is manifest by a combination of the strengths and forces that G-d gave man, intellect and emotion, which must be activated in the correct order: First we must fill our intellect with the living Torah that G-d gave us, and via this, activate the life force of healthy emotions. In this way emuna. This is the idea of our request of G-d in our High Holiday period Judgement Day prayers: "Remember us for life – for Your sake, O living G-d."

And together with this, we must remember – as Rav Tzvi Yehuda would often clarify and emphasize – that we should live the life that G-d has given us with happiness and gratification at all the blessings He has showered upon us. As the Torah tells us in the chapter of rebuke in Parashat Ki Tavo, the main reason for our sufferings in Exile is "because you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy and good-heartedness at all your blessings" (Lev. 28,47).

We must teach ourselves, and the entire world, what a "life of emuna" looks like. We should do so the way Avraham Avinu, our Patriarch Abraham, did this when he taught the world around him this supreme and vital value – not only in theory, but through his own actions, by personal example: He welcomed guests into his home, and then welcomed them under the wings of the Divine Presence. G-d then changed his name from Avram to Avraham, adding the letter heh that symbolizes also G-d's name. Based on the blessing, "I have made you the father of a multitude of nations" (Gen. 17,5), Avraham's name thus gained meaningful significance. 

And so do the Sages teach us, based on the verse in Micha, "A tzaddik by his emuna will live" – emuna is what gives us life.

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