Updated: Sep 8, 2020
People often misunderstand the real meaning of Emunah. This Hebrew word, which is often translated simply as “faith” carry so much more meaning that we are going to be expanding it a little bit in this article.
The first thing to know about Emunah is that it encompasses many different ideas that, when put together form the central compass a person needs to use in his/her Avodat Hashem (Divine Service). And, one of its most important meanings is the capacity to return the mind to the state of acceptance and connection with Hashem.
Consider someone going through many difficulties in life. It could be us at some point in life, a friend or a relative. I believe we all felt like this at least once. Life feels dark, nothing seems to be moving. We despair, quietly or not. Our friends or relatives can’t help us and we feel like the whole world (including Hashem) is against us. Not only that, but we lose our joy of living, motivation and belief.
What is one to do in this state?
The answer is, as you might have guessed, use Emunah. It is then not simply the belief in God, because this belief is something that should be obvious (as it has also already been scientifically proven). Rather, Emunah is our capacity to internalise that the events from outside and torments from inside also come from Hashem. In doing so, we can snap out of this cycle of misery and pain and bring about healing.
Don’t take this lightly! There are incredibly high Kabbalistic secrets behind Emunah. In fact, much of the complications of trauma, stress and depression in a person can be traced back to lack of Emunah.
Keep in mind that the world-famous classicChovot HaLevavot (Duties of the Hearts) by Rabenu Bechaya Ibn Pakuda already stated some1000 years ago that every single one of our challenges and pains are 100% custom-tailored for us by Hashem himself. There’s nothing that is a “mistake” or that was “exaggerated” from Above. Everything is surgically designed to us according to what we need to experience in this world. The sages in the Talmud already taught us in Arakhin 16b that even reaching out to his pocket to take 3 coins and picking up only 2 is considered pain!
There’s an old adage that says “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”. While no one can free himself from pain, here’s the cheat code to sweeten the pain as much as possible(and possibly end it sooner): Accept the judgment and be happy.
So you might be asking: how can I do that in face of all that I’m going through?
For that, we turn to the Zohar, which teach us that no one ever receives even 1% of all the pain that is due to him. Everything we receive is already reduced to a minimum due to Hashem’s incredible mercy and compassion with his 13 Attributes of Mercy. In other words: it could always have been worse.
Part of accepting the judgment that we receive (as everything in life is judged) is to realise that we are flawed, and we came to this world to fix our character traits and elevate the sparks that fell from the Spiritual Worlds above. There’s a prayer which we find in the classic Mussar work Shomrei Emunim (“Keepers of Faiths”) by Rabbi Aharon Roth which we translate here:
“I believe with complete Emunah that this pain and suffering that come to me is from Hashem’s individual providence and I accept them with love, and all that came to me is due to my many sins. You, Hashem, are just in all that comes to me because you made Truth and I acted wickedly. And may it be your will that this suffering atones for my many sins (Note, if it is a time of grace you can add: “and that they lighten up the pain of the Shechina, our strength, as it were and the pain of all Israel). By rule of law I would need to detail, repent and confess all my mistakes and wanton sins that because of them this suffering comes to me, but it’s revealed and known before you that I don’t know how much of it there is. Therefore, may it be your will Father in Heaven that you erase and uproot the mistakes and wanton sins and crimes that caused me this suffering and that you sweeten all the judgments from me and from all of Israel, that you turn their letter combinations for the good and draw down plenty of revealed goodness to us and to all of Israel until eternity. Amen”.
The author of this prayer writes that saying it helps amelliorate the judgment as it inculcates in us the fact that we are flawed. Once Hashem sees our efforts in recognising our flaws, he immediately withdraws His Hand.
Having the skill to restore one’s frame of mind is crucial for spiritual advancement. Emunah, in this case is having the ability to bring oneself back to a place of positive consciousness and connection with the Creator. Take note that this is one of the quintessential skills for spiritually healthy people and is completely accessible to everyone.
Therefore, having Emunah is crucial for anyone who wants to succeed. For that end, the reader is recommended to delve into the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, such as Likutey Moharan and Likutey Etzot, the teaching of Rabbi Aharon Roth from Shomer Emunim and Taharat HaKodesh, Sha’arei Kedusha from Rabbi Chaim Vital and Mesilat Yesharim from the Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto.
While the road to achieving it is long, it is what ultimately enables us to tackle our challenges and live a happy life.
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!