Jewish Belief

    October 1998         
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What is the Jewish Belief?

By Yekutial Greenberg

The word in Hebrew that is commonly translated as belief is "emmuna". Where as the word "emmuna" is translated freely and is accepted as meaning "belief," there is really a large gap between the meaning of "emmuna" and the meaning of "belief."

Belief is an acceptance of something that can not necessarily be known, either now or later. As an example, if I were to construct a chair and ask you to sit on it, you would have to have a certain confidence in my ability to construct a chair that would support your weight. This confidence could be termed belief. You believe in my abilities to construct a chair that would support your weight.

This belief can be borne out only by your sitting on the chair. If you do not sit on the chair, you only belief that the chair is a sturdy item. The knowledge remains in the realm of belief. There are deeper concepts that are based on belief, that can not be ascertained. We believe that black holes in the sky are colossal stars whose enormous gravitational pull can bend even light. This can not be proven, it is a conjecture or a theory. We believe that it is correct.

Emmuna is different. Do you believe that you have a father? Each person has a father. Most people are blessed with seeing their fathers. Some are not so fortunate. Yet, all know that they have a father. Every person whose father left them before they were born knows that he has a father. Why? Because this is a knowledge based not on belief, but upon attachment or connection. The relationship between the father and son or daughter is not a relationship that is based upon belief. It is a relationship that is based upon connection.

A person knows that he must have a father. Why? Because it is impossible to exist unless he has a father. It is not merely a condition of existence, but of attachment. In addition to the physical genetic connection, each person has an attachment to his father in a manner that compliments the physical circumstances of birth.

Although a person is indeed flesh and blood from his father (and mother). He inherits an additional dimension. This dimension extends into the psyche of the son (or daughter). The special manner in which the father's mind reasons, thinks and leans is passed on in some degree to the son. This inherited faculty can be seen in children who have really no connection to their parents. It means that the child will resemble the parent not only in a physical mode, but in an intellectual, emotional and mental modes.

We know that there are three contributors to each child. Whereas the father, the mother and G-d. The father and mother provide the physical aspects of the body thereby creating another being of flesh and blood; G-d provides the soul.

The soul is a G-dly spark that descends from G-d himself. Without the soul, the body is lifeless. We know the soul exists since we are witnesses to a living person and yet, later see him after the soul has left. The body is amazingly the same, but lacks the animation that it once possessed. Why? Because that spark of G-dliness that came into that body has departed, leaving the body with out its life force intact. The physical body still exists, we see it with our eyes, but it is no longer the person it was. It does not possess a soul.

The soul does more than just giving life to the body. The soul is not just an electric spark that has gone out. The soul is a piece of G-d. Certainly it animates the body; but in addition, it is a connection directly to G-d. This second aspect of the soul is as important as the first

The connection on the person to his father was established from the physical sperm that grew together with the mother's egg and developed into a physical being. The soul parallels that physical aspect, albeit in a spiritual manner.

The soul provides us with our connection to our spiritual creator. Not only does it provide us with this connection to our spiritual source, but that source is never broken. That means that the connection is still there. We can actualize this connection in the spiritual mode to understand and come close to our spiritual father. Like we can know our father's physical, mental and emotional characteristics by knowing our own characteristics, so too, we can know G-d.

In the same manner that a person who has never seen his father, can recognize him. This is because his physical build, his emotional conduct, his mental process will be similar to the son's. So too, in the spiritual sense, we can connect to our spiritual father.

We have an unbroken link to G-d. It does not require any belief to feel that he exists, it is an accepted fact by the soul that it is indeed true. What however, is often needed, is a renewal or polishing up of this connection. It is not a connection that can be broken or lost. As long as we have our souls intact, we are connected.

What generally happens, unfortunately, is that through misuse, the soul's function to connect to the divine source is not giving us that connection. This is common, and like an electrical connection that due to miss-use or neglect corrodes, so too, the soul. When we use the soul to see the working of G-d in the world around us, than the connection remains strong and valid. When however, we begin to view the world as devoid of spiritual values, then corrosion seeps in.

To recharge that connection, we must re-train ourselves to see the physical world as an extension of the spiritual world. The more we permit ourselves to view the world as an extension of G-d, the more our soul and spiritual side begin to make an impact on our lives. This awakening causes a spiritual growth resulting in a view of the world that is a spiritual environment.

This is the definition of "emmuna". This is the difference between "emmuna" and belief, the difference between believing and connecting.


from the October 1998 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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