We are trying to understand the apparently different levels of emunah. We have seen Bnei Yisrael described as having attained emunah at different stages in their geulah process. We have also seen that Rabbeinu Yonah in Berachos describe bitachon as both being the cause of the geulah (i.e., the zechus through which they merited the redemption) as well as being the result of their contemplation of the wondrous nissim done for them and, of course, the geulah itself. We then studied the Zohar, which describes stages of emunah referred to as ‘emunah kellalis’ and ‘emunah peratis.’ Meaning, a person has a general knowledge of Hashem, in the sense of His being the One G-d who is responsible for all that exists and for all that occurs; that He is the only power capable of this; that He took us out of Mitzrayim miraculously and subsequently gave us the Torah at Har Sinai. However, one then goes deeper and sees Hashem’s purposeful hashgachah in his or her life, in the Nation’s “life”. How events fit a pattern and how all the events are orchestrated and planned for a goal, a purpose. Bitachon, reliance on Hashem in all aspects of our lives, which the Ramban describes as the fruit of the Tree of Emunah, and the realization of the way Hashem is guiding one’s life, is the essence of what the Zohar calls emunah peratis.
Thus, we start the process with emunah kellalis, and in that zechus, as the Zohar states, the Jews merited to leave Mitzrayim. “And I shall take you unto Me as a Nation and be your G-d, and you shall know that I am your G-d.” (Shemos 6:7) means that the first clause of the sentence is dependent on the fulfillment of the second. Since this first condition existed, ‘And the nation believed,’ (ibid. 4:31) Hashem took them out of Mitzrayim. However, He did so in a way that their emunah would now be tested and they would have to grow in that emunah and develop it in more sophisticated and subtle ways. So too a person who has the core emunah values, both merits initial stages of yeshuah, and is able to use those glimpses as stepping stones to a more detailed and specific emunah peratis, as explained. It was the splitting of Yam Suf and the final punishment of the Egyptians that brought Kllal Yisrael to the “And the Nation believed” (ibid. 14:31) which followed that salvation. One who believes can continue to grow and see Hashem more and more in his or her life, while a Pharaoh, who insists on asking, “Who is Hashem?” (ibid. 5:2) will continue to run headlong into the sea, not understanding that which he himself is in the midst of witnessing.
The reality is that the entire experience in the midbar —the 40 year “delay” in entering Eretz Yisrael— during which time they saw and experienced Hashem’s presence openly on a daily basis, served to further their understanding and insights into hashgachas Hashem. No less beneficial was the experience of immersion in Torah learning, where one gains insight and understanding into how Hashem desires the world to function, through the middos of Hashem and as expressed through all the dinei haTorah.
How do we go about implementing emunah peratis in our lives? There are actually so many ways! Honesty in business, honesty in our purchases, in our dealings with others. Do we really believe in Hashem or…? Why would one who truly believes, one who has emunah peratis, ever cheat or lie to earn money? Doesn’t this person realize that any money he might earn by acting against the will of Hashem will not stay his for long? Or, conversely, does he not know that any money that should be his will get to him in a permissible, clean, way? He gains nothing, and violates the Torah’s precepts with accruing any benefits! But to see that, to feel that, to realize that, takes emunah beyond the norm that we have perhaps grown complacent with. If Hashem is real, if He controls all…what are you doing, what are you accomplishing?
Are you in a state of stress regarding your parnassah? Do you worry, argue, get depressed, and feel sorry for yourself? Do you work more, at the expense of other areas in your life that you are neglecting? Perhaps ruchniyus, perhaps family, perhaps relationships…
“I have set Hashem before me always.” (Tehillim 16:8) The Rema writes, at the very beginning of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, “[This] is an essential principle in [following the] Torah and in the virtues of the righteous. If a person lives with the constant realization that Hashem is watching him, he will consider his conduct much more carefully than if he feels that he is not under observation.” The way we act, the way we speak, the way we treat others —and especially when we think that no one is watching! Do we believe that Hashem is “out there, watching” or don’t we? Deeper emunah —that Hashem knows our innermost thoughts? Our motivations? How hard we are trying?
Do we serve Hashem without caring about what our friends and neighbors will think of us? Is our sole interest that of doing Hashem’s will? Do we perform mitzvos with the same alacrity whether or not another person is watching? Is our shemoneh esrei the same at home as it is in shul?
Do we daven as if we believe in Hashem? Do we daven to Hashem with the same intensity for our daily needs as we do when someone is chas veshalom ill? Do we believe that Hashem is directing and managing our daily lives? Do we “talk to Hashem” when we are not davening? Do we ask Hashem at any point throughout the day that we succeed in what we are doing? Yes —that we get to the bank on time, that the cake come out the way the recipe book says it will, that we find the clothing we want, available and affordable…
Our emunah becomes real, authentic, and substantive when we do that —if we are able to feel Hashem as a reality, as a real presence in our lives. Talking to Him, not “Now I am hereby davening,” reflects that.
And of course, the best exercise of all, one that you should do every day, yourself, and with your children, and encourage your children to do it as well (maybe at the Shabbos table —take a break from all that bickering!). How did I see hashgachah peratis (i.e., Hashem) in the events of my life today? This past week? This helps one to focus wonderfully on Hashem’s existence and is a beautiful way to grow in one’s emunah peratis.