We are in the midst of exploring the nature of “belief” in Hashem, focusing on the pesukim ascribing belief on the part of Bnei Yisrael when Moshe Rabbeinu first came to them with the tidings of geulah, and then the passuk after the miracles at Yam Suf (which of course followed the miracles in Mitzrayim), which states “And they (the Nation) believed.”
We saw Midrashim that maintain that the Bnei Yisrael merited geulah because of their belief in Hashem, yet we also saw sources that talk about the attainment of emunah and bitachon through experiencing miracles. Emunah and bitachon seem to be both cause and effect. Is this a problem?
The fact is that both can be true. Emunah and bitachon can be the cause of meriting geulah, and those miracles, that geulah in turn serve as a springboard for reaching new heights, or perhaps new depths, in one’s awareness of Hashem and His omnipotence. The Zohar calls these two states of belief ‘emunah kellalis’ (general emunah) and ‘emunah peratis’ (specific, focused emunah).
The Zohar (Vol. 2, p.25a) explains that the passuk (Shemos 6:7) “And I shall take you unto me as a Nation, and I shall be unto you a Lord, and you shall know that I am Hashem your Lord” does not mean that only then —post redemption— would Bnei Yisrael know that Hashem is our G-d; rather, it was a call to the Nation to work on knowing now —in Egypt— that Hashem is G-d, in a general way, and thus they will merit that Hashem will indeed take them out of Mitzrayim. The mitzvah of emunah —knowledge of Hashem— is thus the first mitzvah (preceding even kiddush hachodesh), but this is still referring to general knowledge of Hashem. We want to reach the level of specific belief, specific knowledge of Hashem, His wisdom, His kindness, and His hashgachah. A person’s avodah has to have elements allowing for general as well as specific belief, for that is the shleimus of avodah —to gain an insight into the workings of Hashem’s hashgachah. First, a person has to internalize the belief that Hashem is the Ruler and Master over the world and that He created man and all that exists, and Bnei Yisrael had to acknowledge that before they could merit the geulah. Once they believed that Hashem had the ability to take them out of Egypt, they attained a more specific knowledge of Hashem’s hashgachah by witnessing the ten plagues. This in turn brought them to a deeper knowledge of Hashem’s hashgachah, in the merit of which they experienced the miracles at Yam Suf, where they then achieved an even higher, more specific knowledge.
Let us try to understand this a bit better. The Chinuch, in his discussion of the mitzvah of emunah, describes quite a few aspects of the mitzvah; that there is one G-D, Who is responsible for all that exists, all that has existed, and all that will exist —responsible for, in the sense of being their Creator, and also deciding the events surrounding their continued existence; that He is the only one with the power to carry this out, that He performed the miracles in and redeemed us from Egypt; and that He subsequently gave us the Torah at Sinai.
Thus, it seems that the specifics of emunah all point us in the same direction —that we believe that Hashem has a plan and purpose to all that transpires. The world has a purpose, THIS world has a purpose, our lives have purpose —everything is working towards a goal and is intentionally designed. (Ultimately, of course, the purpose of creation is to enable mankind to enjoy the Glory of Hashem’s Shechinah.)
The Chinuch teaches us that emunah is the cognizance of the plan and purpose, and thus Hashem’s will, present in all events —on a grand scale— that includes the entire creation (i.e., that Hashem exists and created all that is, was, and will be for a plan and purpose). This covers all of existence and all occurrences. He took us out of Egypt and gave us the Torah —all with a goal in mind. This becomes our view of history, of all situations and of all developments.
This perspective, which enables a person to live his or her life with emunah, is what is referred to as emunah peratis. It is what enables us to understand that the events in our lives —that everything— is purposefully orchestrated by Hashem. Once one realizes that, one begins to be able to comprehend the Hand of Hashem in one’s own life. Problems can become challenges meant to help one grow. One can appreciate the good; one can grow from that which is apparently not good.
Every event fits into a pattern that is the purpose of your life, the purpose of Klal Yisrael, and the purpose of the world. You start thinking about the events in your life. The person you married, the person whom you did not marry. The job that you were not offered, as well as the job that you took. The influences on your life, where you live, with whom you associate with… Even minutiae become part of a pattern. The people you meet, the ride you missed, the conversations you have overheard… Emunah tells us that all is orchestrated and planned for our individual lives, for our unique neshamos, for our personal growth. And you begin to see the patterns, and your sense of the Divine Presence becomes more and more real. Emunah allows us to try to understand the events of our lives —and it gives us a sense of security that a Higher Power is arranging and coordinating every event.
There are so many aspects to this principle! The very first Rema in Shulchan Aruch discusses how a Jew must go about his or her life with a sense that Hashem is watching. That Hashem knows what you are doing —at every moment. Our davening is transformed —we can actually feel that we are talking to Hashem. Then we can talk to Hashem all day, at any juncture, asking for His help and guidance. That is why the Gemara teaches us that even seemingly trivial inconveniences that we undergo have been arranged by Hashem. We can practice bitachon —the security and calm that prevails in one’s life when one realizes that one can and must rely on Hashem in anything one is trying to accomplish. (The subject of what is considered proper hishtadlus and exactly why we must practice it is beyond the scope of today’s column.) The actual mental state of that reliance —bitachon— writes the Ramban, is the fruit of proper emunah —internalized, real, actual, conscious emunah.
These are but some of the aspects of emunah peratis. Im yirtzeh Hashem we shall conclude next week with the meaning of Bnei Yisrael’s elevation from emunah to emunah.