“And He Will Grant You Peace” – On Faith and Trust

Parshas Naso. Birkas Kohanim.  The ancient words of Priestly Blessings resonate strongly still today.  May G-d bless you and guard you; May He shine the light of His countenance upon you and endow you with grace; May Hashem lift His countenance to you, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם, and grant you peace (Bamidbar 6:24-26). 

As our world seems to descend further and further into chaos, we pray for peace, as we longingly await the day when the ultimate fulfillment of these blessings will be realized, with peace for our world, our people, our Land and our City of Peace. 

And in the interim, we hold onto our faith, knowing that the RS”O has a master plan, and kol d’avid Rachmanah l’tav avid – all the Merciful One does is for the best (see Brachos 60b). 

The Chazon Ish (Rav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, zt’l, 1878-1953), in his classic work Emunah u’Bitachon, teaches, “There is an old misconception rooted in the hearts of many when it comes to the concept of trust in Hashem (bitachon).  This term, used by the righteous to name a celebrated and central character trait, has undergone a change, and has mistakenly become a term to describe the obligation to believe in any situation a person finds himself in where he faces an undecided future with two ways apparent – one good and the other not – that surely the good outcome will be the one to occur; if one is doubtful and fears the possibility of the opposite of good occurring, he is lacking in trust in Hashem.

“This understanding of trust is not correct, for as long as the future has not been revealed through prophecy, the future is not decided, for who knows Hashem’s judgements and rewards?

“No – trusting in Hashem is not that, but rather the belief that nothing happens by chance, and that everything that occurs under the sun is the result of a decree of the Almighty” (Emunah u’Bitachon, Perek 2, Bitachon).

Jews are a ma’amin bnei ma’amin – believers, the sons of believers.  We live by our faith and trust, knowing Hashem’s plan – not ours – will be the one to unfold.  And we daven, hope and pray, that it will be for revealed good, יְבָרֶכְךָ ה’, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ, that Hashem will bless us and guard us.

On faith, R’ Dr. Norman Lamm z’l teaches, “The fact remains that faith is a very hazy concept, and that its causes and effects are not always understood…

“The first thing to be said about faith is that it makes life livable.  Without faith in G-d, life is neither intelligible nor worth enduring… Life without faith is a dull, mechanical, meaningless routine.  With it, life takes on meaning… With faith, life is a song; without it – a dirge.  With it, life is a smile; without it – a smirk.  With faith there is enough laughter in life to buoy a man up so he can ride the waves of adversity; without that faith, he must inevitably sink, pulled down by the dead-weight of drudgery.  Without faith, life is dull and boring and desperate and hopeless; with it, you have cheer and hope and firmness and equanimity.

“But it would be a sad mistake if we were to think that this is the only or major reason for faith… This leads to our second point, which is this: While it is true that faith leads to song, that religion gives a man security and peace of mind and peace of soul, the real and compelling reason for belief in G-d is truth… Religion should not be accepted because it gives man a sense of security, anesthetizes his complexes and bolsters his ego; rather it should be accepted because of a firm belief that its teachings are true and its principles are correct.

“… The famed Hasidic rebbe, Reb Moshe Leib Sassover (d.1807), in one of his piquant remarks, once observed, “How easy is it for a poor man to depend on G-d – what else does he have to depend upon?  And how hard for a rich man to believe in G-d – all his possessions cry out to him: Believe in us!”  If religion is to become only a matter of security and peace of mind, then religion is only for the poor, the insecure, and the weak-minded.  Our understanding of faith and religion, however, is such that it is for all people, for the wealthy and the happy and the well-adjusted, as well as for all others…

“The third and last point that must be made is that we must apply the Jewish test of what it accomplishes.  The test of faith is the behavior that it produces.  As long as man’s faith exists in a vacuum it is meaningless… When a world is unsettled, when waves of hate and enmity and sadism flood entire continents, when storm-clouds gather ominously on the horizons, when the smell of war and the stench of genocide again are felt, when the enemy of all decency and the self-confessed assassin of the divine in mankind is in the ascendancy, when your people again face extinction, when persecution and discrimination and bigotry rule the minds of human beings, then, least of all, is the time for profession of faith… if the seas of hate and cynicism are flooding your world, then go ahead, stretch out your hand and save all who can be saved.  If there is but one individual who needs your help, then your task is not to talk of faith, but to lend a helping hand… Forget the preaching, get down to practice.  Forget sentiments, show results.  Don’t talk of how religious you really are until you live a religious life.  For only then does faith become meaningful… (We must proceed from) ‘ani ma’amin – I believe’, to ‘hineni mukhan umezuman lekaym – behold I am prepared and ready to fulfill’ (Derashot LeDorot, Exodus, The Meaning of Faith, p.79-84). 

The world around us is in flames… a global pandemic, political insecurity, the rise of anti-semitism, riots destroying cities, businesses, property, our sense of security and stability.  Once again, we are reminded that ain lanu al mi li’hi’sha’ain, elah al Avinu she’ba’shomayim – we have no one upon whom to rely, only upon our Father in heaven. 

Let us pray for the day when וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם will finally be realized, in its truest sense.  And until that great day, let us live and practice by our trust and faith in G-d, come what may.

With heartfelt tefilos for better times, בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,

Michal

Dedicated in memory of R’ Dr. Norman Lamm z’l (1927-2020), ti’hey zichro baruch

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