The next Emuna Revolution

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It’s time for the way we relate to ’emuna’ to evolve.

The last few months (ok, years….) it’s been so flipping heavy, hasn’t it? Every day has brought new heartaches, new challenges, new worries to us all.

Ten years ago, when the first emuna revolution really started to develop, it looked we were so close to sorting all this yucky golus stuff out, and finally getting into geula and redemption, personal and national.

The three rules of emuna were publicized, and what else did we need, to really cope with life’s vicissitudes and to get to geula and moshiach already?

(In case you’ve forgotten, the three rules of emuna are:

  • God is doing everything.
  • Everything God does is good, even if it’s sometimes painful and hard to bear.
  • Every single thing that I experience contains some message, or clue, from God, about what I might need to work on, fix, rectify or otherwise acknowledge.)

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But there was a problem.

Call it a marketing issue, call it a misunderstanding, call it a problem in translating deep spiritual concepts into a language that materialistic Westerners can really grasp, however it happened it doesn’t really matter. But the problem was this:

Emuna back then appeared to be being ‘sold’ as a way to get God to do what you want.

At least, that’s how I understood what I was being told, 10 years ago.

Just pray enough, do enough six hours, ratchet your level of observance up to the absolute max – even if it’s not really where you’re truthfully holding – and then, you’ll be able to force God into giving you what you want! More kids, better health, a new apartment, a great job! You can get it all, if you just follow this blueprint!

What can I tell you?

Over the years, my email filled up with people who’d done their best to follow this blueprint, and who still – inevitably – found that at some point, at some stage, the emuna solution stopped ‘working’, and they were left with a big problem they couldn’t solve, or make disappear, no matter how much hitbodut they did, or books they gave out, or people they preached at.

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Disappointed, a lot of these people then turned their back on ‘emuna’, and came to believe that it didn’t work, the way they’d been told it would.

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The same thing almost happened to me.

I was very clear about why I started to do an hour day of hitbodedut: I was trying to force God to expand my family from just the two kids I had, to maybe four, or even six.

And guess what?

It failed miserably!

My hitbodedut also failed miserably at giving me my own home in Jerusalem – even WITH a mortgage. It failed miserably at getting my kids to grow up like perfectly frum Beis Yaacov princesses. It failed miserably at getting my family to move to Israel, and at making me friends who weren’t psychos, and sometimes, even at getting my cakes to come out half-edible.

Sure, there were also a lot of miracles that have happened, and things that did move, and unexpectedly amazing insights that occurred, all thanks to hitbodedut, but if I had to sum it up, I would say this:

The miracles I saw as a result of my hitbodedut were almost never because my prayers succeeded in changing God’s mind, and almost always because they’d succeeded in changing me.

I’d get a steer in my hitbodedut that I’d need to apologise to someone, or back down on something, or work on some really bad middot that I’d just been whitewashing and justifying, and then, very often, the ‘problem’ would disappear miraculously.

But not every problem.

12 years after I began to do hitbodedut to have more kids, I still don’t have more kids. I still don’t own a house in Jerusalem. I still don’t have a lot of things ticked off on my list of what I was trying to force Hashem to give me.

But what I do have, I hope, is a much clearer idea of what real emuna is, and how much we need it.

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Recasting the three rules of emuna

To sum it up, real emuna is where we do our best to know that God is doing everythingso we stop beating ourselves up and blaming others, for not being perfect, and we act with more understanding and compassion.

Real emuna is where we do our best to internalize that even the very painful circumstances we sometimes have to go through are ultimately for our goodso we can still smile through the tears, and still sincerely acknowledge and thank for all the tremendous good we all still have in our lives.

That doesn’t mean we become unfeeling robots, pretending we don’t hurt when we do, or pretending we aren’t sad when we are. What it does mean, is that we understand that we need to work on those feelings of pain and sadness, until they transform into joy and acceptance of the way Hashem is running the world.

And to have patience with that process, because sometimes, it can take a very long time.

And lastly, real emuna is where we understand that the miracle will really only come once we change ourselves, and get the message that God is sending us. And that sometimes, the ‘miracle’ will never come, no matter how much we pray for it, because the lesson God is trying to teach us is one of bittul, nullifying ourselves to His will, and accepting how He chooses for us to live our lives.

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Everybody has their heartache today, everybody has their pain.

Some people lack health, others lack spouses, others lack children, others lack true love and understanding, others lack money, others lack a sense of purpose…. The list goes on and on.

But while all these problems and ‘lacks’ are so different, the solution is the same for them all:

To let go of our expectations, and our demands, and to accept that however God chooses to run our lives, that’s the best it could be.

That’s really what emuna is for. That’s really the ‘secret’ of how having emuna can help you live life happily and joyfully. Not by ‘forcing’ God to do what we want, chas v’halila, but by accepting that whatever God does, that’s OK by us.

That’s the work, that’s the goal.

That’s certainly the message I get loud and clear from almost everything I read, and everything I hear, from Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

And that’s what the next emuna revolution is really going to be about.

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You can read more of Rivka’s musing at her blog, HERE.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your beautiful article clarifying what is Emunah.

    A few years after I read “Garden of Emunah” I still am not a millionaire!!! No job/wife/house etc. Two psychosis and one near death depression 🙂

    But today:
    A dear friend visited me this afternoon and told me that if I needed a cellphone I just had to give him a call tomorrow and he would toss me his spare one.
    Make me feel truely lucky.

    Thanks for your clarifying article.

    ///


    Hope is a good thing.
    Maybe the best of things.
    And.
    No good thing ever dies.

    Morgan Freeman – The Shawshank Redemption -Montage rehabilitated prisoner – 40 years
    ===

  2. This is a big mistake that a lot of people make. Some of it is the difficulties of translation, which boil down the Hebrew (which is incredibly deep) to: just say thank you, just believe, and it will all be OK, everything you want, you’ll get… There is a “New and Expanded Garden of Emuna” that just came out in English – it still isn’t perfect, but it is not 100% better, a MILLION times better! I highly recommend reading THAT and seeing if you still get the same feeling…

    But “just pray and do what God wants and you’ll get what you want” IS NOT what Rabbi Arush teaches in any of his books – and certainly not The Garden of Emuna. The Garden of Emuna is specifically about accepting what Hashem does with happiness and humility, knowing that even if it doesn’t seem good or right to you, it really is! Rabbi Arush specifically teaches the opposite – in The Garden of Yearning he explains that incorrect hitbodedut is telling Hashem what you want, and thinking that you’ll then get it!

    Just look at the three principles of emuna – it’s all about bitul – cancelling what I want before Hashem.

    And especially, Rabbi Arush’s newest book, which he says is “emuna shleima” – perfect emuna – it’s called “Niflaot HaTodah” – The Wonders of Saying Thank You. And guess what? The ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTER – some 80+ pages!!! is dedicated to an in-depth explanation that emuna, and saying thank you, can NEVER by definition be for the sake of getting what you want!!! If you are still have that feeling, then you haven’t even begun to connect – not to Hashem, not to emuna, and not to true thanking Hashem.

    Real emuna is BITUL. Give up on convincing God to give you what you want already! Who do you think you are – God? to know what is truly best for you? You know your spiritual rectification in this world? Your previous reincarnations? The accounts you need to settle in this lifetime?!

    And while it IS TRUE that oftentimes, just that bitul, that emuna, to believe in Hashem anyway, to say it’s good anyway, IS EXACTLY the medicine that now opens you up to receive exactly what you want (it’s the irony – you cannot get what you want, until you TRULY give up on it already…) – but the whole point is that YOU CHANGED. And maybe you won’t get what you want, or you’ll get something you didn’t expect, or whatever. For sure putting Hashem into the picture of your life is only going to help you, whether you see it or not.

    I’ll use another example. Rabbi Arush says that with emuna, you live in Gan Eden – Paradise. Well, you have to know what he means when he says that: Paradise is the spiritual sweetness of a close relationship with Hashem, which will stay with you into the Next World, where you will enjoy it even more. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get what a lot of people think that “paradise” is in this world!

    I would greatly argue that whatever “emuna” you were “sold” (not sure how that happened) – that is totally fake emuna and not Rabbi Arush’s teachings. Very sad to hear that this misunderstanding is one that many people experienced. But that’s all it ever was – a serious misunderstanding.

    Your now “real emuna” – yes, that’s it! Now you got it!!! That’s what emuna is and was all along…

  3. Here is a perfect short little article recently translated from Rabbi Arush in Hebrew on exactly this topic:
    https://www.breslev.co.il/articles/spirituality_and_faith/spiritual_growth/know_your_place.aspx?id=34656&language=english

    Keep going at the bottom through the series by clicking “Next” and you’ll just get more and more of the same thing! Here is a quote from the next in the series, Hearing Moshiach’s Footsteps:
    “What matters is that in your heart, you think that you have it coming to you. The proof is that when you aren’t answered, you complain! This proves that your thanking was only lip service, and you weren’t really asking for a free gift.”

    Read Harav Arush on emuna for yourself. Don’t believe me!

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