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I believe in G‑d. Even before I became Torah observant, I felt His hand dancing through the events of my life. I saw purpose behind both the good and the bad, the happy and the painful. Even though I didn’t name it at the time, I had emunah (faith), “an innate conviction, a perception of truth that transcends, rather than evades, reason.”1
“It was meant to be,” I would relate time and again to a very close friend, who is one of the smartest people I know, as well as a non-believer. She works in a hospital in Africa, saving lives, and try as she may, her intellect and emotions have not led her to this same belief. She puts things down to chance and luck, whereas I see things as purposeful and part of a bigger picture.
Is that because of our respective natures or the books we read growing up? Is it because one of us is more attuned to truth and gets it right, while the other is wrong? If I’d been exposed to the same tragedy, as well as hope, in that rickety hospital, would I still believe in G‑d? And, if I had lived through bitter times like the Holocaust, would I have emerged an empty shell with nothing to cling to, or with a firm, transcendent, superhuman faith? These are some of my questions, and I simply do not know.
What I do know is that I do believe. But when I’m in the trenches of my daily struggles, I lose sight of my belief in an ever-present G‑d. Like when I erroneously act as though my children’s well-being rests entirely on my shoulders, or when I find myself in an elevator that is not moving after having been stuck too many times. When the world “closes” in on me, I hold my breath, rather than hold my belief. And as I apprehensively walk the streets of Jerusalem, I cling more to my Mace than to my faith. Fear overtakes me, and I feel alone. I feel the burden of being “in control.”
When I find “safety” and allow myself to catch my breath, I see that this way of being is not only unhealthy, but is contradictory to the bitachonthat a Jew is supposed to live with. “Bitachon is generally translated as ‘trust’ and is a sense of optimism and confidence based not on reason or experience, but on emunah. You know that ‘G‑d is good and He’s the only one in charge,’ and therefore you have no fears or frets.”2 Sure, we have to do our hishtadlut (effort) and act sensibly, but there is nothing but G‑d. “And the main thing is to have no fear at all,” says RebbeNachman of Breslov. I realize that I cannot control my destiny, but I can work on my emunah and bitachon.
These reminders bring relief, but it is an ongoing battle. I want so badly to trust G‑d in every area of my life, in the moment. It’s so hard, but it is everything.
I sit in the doctor’s waiting room, watching a terror attack on the TV. I feel vulnerable and consider leaving, but instead mutter to myself, “G‑d, are you there?” I realize I am not alone, and I find respite. The elevator? I get on most times, though my heart inevitably stops at some point on the ride. I don’t always sense G‑d in that moment, but I know I’ll feel that G‑d was right there with me when I look back. As I write this piece, I feel better. But then I leave to fetch my daughter at preschool, which has no security guard due to lack of funds, and I feel unsettled. “G‑d, you are there right? My larger-than-life little girl has a destiny that is beyond my ability to protect. G‑d, please keep her and all innocent people everywhere safe.”
The battle continues. “Emunah grows taller and deeper as you accustom yourself to see all the phenomena of life as manifestations of the Creator’s presence and glory.”
I hope and pray that we are all able to see G‑d when we look back at every detail of our lives. And that we find G‑d in the moment, too.