Bilvavi Part 5 – 025 Talking with Hashem about Emunah
בלבבי. חלק ה. אמונה עמ’ כה-לג
Is there a Jew who doesn’t believe in Hashem? We cannot find such a Jew in the world. In the depths of every Jew’s heart, emunah is there, and it’s permanent. Emunah is hidden deep in our soul, in the innermost layers of our soul.
However, most people – even total believers, who keep the entire Torah and do all the mitzvos – do not even recognize this part of themselves.
Emunah is the very essence of our soul, and in that place in ourselves, there are no questions about Hashem.
This deep place in ourselves has no room for questions, and thus it requires no “avodah”. Whatever “avodah” we do is thus only involving the lower layers of our soul.
Our mission is that since we know that we have this deep part in ourselves that has no doubts about Hashem – clear, unshakable emunah – we must extend this deep internal awareness to the rest of our soul as well, all the way to even the most external part of ourselves.
The best way to reach our emunah (albeit the most difficult) is to awaken the innermost point of one’s soul. Upon reaching the innermost point of our soul, emunah is revealed forth from it, and it can extend to the other external layers of our self.
Because our innermost point is the deepest part of our self, it cannot be reached through what a person is used to. It is so hidden from us and it is covered over by so many barriers that a person doesn’t even feel that it is there at all.
If a person doesn’t feel his innermost point, how then can he ever hope to reveal it?
There is a way to reach it – through mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice). We see this from the story of Reb Eliezer ben Durdaya, who reached his essence by being ready to sacrifice everything to get there.
However, normally speaking, it is very difficult for a person to uncover mesirus nefesh. People only exercise mesirus nefesh in the rare circumstance of having to die over the three cardinal sins; such situations are Heaven-sent and do not often occur. No one has mesirus nefesh unless they feel major pressure due to external circumstances – unless a person is on an exceptionally high spiritual level. Therefore, there is almost no one who is able to take the path of mesirus nefesh to reach his innermost point.
The more recommended way to reach our emunah is to reflect deeply about emunah, with our minds. A person should think deeply as follows: There is only One who is in charge of everything in the universe – Hashem.
One should think about this first on an intellectual level, realizing how Hashem is indeed in charge of every small thing that goes on, that He watches everything that’s going on (hashgacha pratis – Divine Providence).
After a person contemplates this in his mind and is clear about – how only Hashem is running the world – he should then continue to the next step: to talk to himself words that are emunah-oriented.
It is written, “I believed, for I spoke.” The great commentators of this possuk explained it to mean that through the power of “I spoke” – speaking about emunah – that is precisely how we instill in ourselves emunah: by speaking about the Creator!
A person should get used to always verbalizing to himself words that are emunah-oriented, all the time. This is the great rule of life – emunah.
Emunah is the life-sustaining energy of our life – it is the soul of man. Without emunah, life is nothing. And we need clear, strong emunah.
Because emunah is the main aspect of our life, a person always has to talk words of emunah. He should repeat to himself, both mentally and verbally: “Only Hashem runs the world. All of my life is essentially about Him. Whatever happens to me is all from Him, even when it seems to me that so-and-so was responsible.”
One should keep repeating to himself: “This or that person did not do it to me. It was Hashem Himself who did it. For all of my life, all I am involved with is Him.”
It is even better if a person talks these words directly with Hashem, and he can speak even in first-person: “I know, Ribono shel olam, that what that person did to me was all from You. I am confident that You love me and that You only did it for my good, because I know that all You do is good.”
In this way a person should get used to talking to Hashem his whole life, with simple words, like when you talk to a friend (and even more than how you talk to a friend). Constantly talk with Hashem, and don’t look to others for hope – know that only Hashem is the address for everything in your life.
This should all be from a recognition that the main part of life is emunah. The prophet Chabakuk summed up this generation’s avodah as entirely emunah – as it is written, “The righteous one shall live by his faith.” (Makkos 24a). Emunah is the beginning – and end – of all life. It is the inner essence of everything, and it is an unlimited power.
There are people who serve Hashem, and one day they make an internal self-examination and they discover that they still haven’t ingrained emunah in their hearts yet. Then they get depressed from this and are in pain from their low spiritual level, falling into terrible hopelessness and despair.
This is not the correct way to react to the problem. If a person realizes that he has weak emunah, he should not fall into despair chas v’shalom, but he should instead set aside a short amount of time and talk about his frustrations with Hashem. He should speak to Hashem, as if Hashem is an old friend of his, and he should say:
“Ribono shel olam, I know You created me, and that You are keeping me alive every second. I know clearly that You are running the world, and that You do not overlook any detail. I also know that everything that comes upon me is from You, and that nothing else can cause anything to happen to me except You.
“But Ribono shel olam, my heart is bitter. I know this all only in my intellectual mind, but in my heart, I do not feel these truths. In my heart, I do not feel strong in my emunah; sometimes I have strong emunah, and sometimes I don’t. For example, sometimes I lose my temper and get angry; if I would really feel that everything is from You as I am about to get angry, then I wouldn’t lose my temper and get angry, because how can I chas v’shalom be angry at You?! So why do I get angry sometimes when I know that everything is all from You? It is because I only know about You with my intellectual mind, but I don’t feel the truth in my heart. My heart is closed up and it doesn’t feel clearly the emunah that my mind knows about.
“Ribono shel olam, I really want to believe in You strongly, but it’s hard for me! I’m not succeeding at it. You are my Father! Open my heart to believe in You more….”
These are the kind of words a person should speak about with Hashem – each person according to how he’s comfortable talking. A person should get used to talking to Hashem like this for weeks and months, and never give up, chas v’shalom.
If someone wants to see immediate results from this, he’s in for a disappointment. Success in this doesn’t happen so fast. A person has to be patient in Avodas Hashem – and that includes being stubborn and persistent to continue!
Even if a person davened many, many times to reach his goal, he should never give up. It’s a test from Hashem, to see if he really trusts in Him that He can answer him. And Hashem wants us to indeed feel confident in Him that He can answer us. If a person has that bitachon, he will definitely be answered.
This is tried and tested. There is no person who ever davened to Hashem that his emunah be strengthened who wasn’t answered! Anyone who has done this saw a transformation in himself – that he became a more believing person in Hashem.
Our difficulty with this, however, is that Hashem created us with a nature to be anxious, and we like to see immediate results when we begin to work on ourselves. When people don’t see results right away, they immediately give up – and this is a recipe for disaster. A person has to be stubborn when it comes to Avodas Hashem; someone who is persistent for years and doesn’t slacken off from this will end up gaining tremendously.
A person has to make sure he doesn’t become down when he see that he is failing with this avodah.
Not only do people feel that their hearts are weak when it comes to emunah, but people also run into intellectual difficulties as well with matters of emunah.
For example, when tragedies or certain mind-boggling events happen, a person can’t comprehend in his mind how such events are really all from Hashem, and his mind can’t accept what’s going on during these times. Then the person forgets about emunah in Hashem, and he forgets the purpose of his life, which is to always be involved with Hashem.
Don’t become down at your failures in emunah when you encounter such incomprehensible events in your life. Realize instead that this is the way Avodas Hashem is – sometimes we remember emunah, and sometimes we forget emunah. If we forget emunah, as soon as we summon up our emunah back again and we remember that everything is from Hashem, now is the time to set aside a small amount of time and speak with Hashem. Say to Him:
“Ribono shelo olam, You know how much I want to really believe in You, and how much I yearn for You. But Ribono shel olam, You see how many failures I’m having at this. I’m forgetting my belief in You so many times. But I am not giving up from believing in You. If I ever have times when I forget You, chas v’shalom, I will pull myself together and remember that I must have emunah in You, bli neder.
“I am begging You, Ribono shel olam, from the depths of my heart, that You take pity on me and ensure that I don’t forget You, and that if I do forget, I am asking of You that it shouldn’t last for so long, and that You awaken me immediately to remember You.”
This is the way how a person davens to Hashem – and each person should daven to Hashem in a language he’s comfortable with.
The way to talk to Hashem is to speak about everything that’s on your heart to Hashem. Talk it out to Hashem – all your successes, as well as all your failings! Tell over everything to Him – every last doubtful feeling that’s on your heart. Don’t leave out a single detail about your life – tell Him everything that’s bothering you, everything!
But remember to feel confident throughout that Hashem is listening to your every word and that He’s so proud of You at reaching this attainment. He is filled with joy that there is a Jew yearning to strengthen his belief in Him, that there is someone in the world who is begging Him for this and feeling broken inside at this, continuously strengthening himself even after he fails in it.
If any Jew would really feel how much satisfaction he is giving to Hashem as he speaks to Him like this, it would be such a sublime pleasure to him that it would be even more enjoyable than Gan Eden!
There are tremendous benefits in davening to Hashem that we should have emunah.
First of all, the very fact that a person is talking to Hashem about emunah already is very helpful and increases one’s emunah. Davening to Hashem about emunah is no worse than when we talk about emunah – it accomplishes the same effect.
Secondly, when a person davens to Hashem for emunah, he awakens in himself a yearning for emunah, and that is another factor involved which also increases one’s emunah.
Also, by continuously davening to Hashem and begging Him to have emunah, Hashem surely will answer the tefillos, and that will make any person into a firm believer of Hashem, as he sees that Hashem indeed answers his tefillos.
There is an additional gain with all of this. By davening like this to Hashem, a person gets used to connecting every part of his daily life with Hashem.
For example, a person is learning Gemara, and he doesn’t understand something and it bothers him. He can daven to Hashem about and believe that only Hashem can help him understand. After he merits the understanding, his emunah is strengthened, because he sees that only Hashem helped him understand.
Throughout the rest of the day as well, a person attaches the day to Hashem, always thinking about how he needs Hashem to help him with anything. He can daven to Hashem about every detail of his life, and make sure that emunah precedes everything. The emunah then fuels his tefillah.
In this way a person is attached to Hashem at all times. Anyone who does this will reach tremendously high spiritual levels.
The matters here only apply to a Jew’s soul – we are describing the power of a Jew’s soul, which is emunah. Emunah is the life-force of a Jew. When a Jew understands these matters and practices them, he merits fulfillment and eternal achievements. It is important to review these words here at least twenty times, and to live by them. One has to make sure he never gives up.
The possible achievements that one can reach through practicing this are awesome.
This kind of lifestyle is how a believing Jew lives – every day, every moment, he seeks to ingrain more emunah in his heart.
A person goes to the doctor. Before he goes in, he should talk to Hashem and say:
“Ribono shel olam, I know that only You can heal me, and I am only going to the doctor because You give permission to do so. Yet I know that only You can heal me, and not anyone in the world.”
And as a person is sitting with the doctor, he can talk to Hashem mentally: “Ribono shel olam, only You can heal me. This doctor is only Your messenger to heal me.”
You go to the furniture store to go buy a table. Don’t just go to buy the table – go with Hashem to buy the table! Talk to Him throughout and say, “Ribono shel olam, I need a table for my house. Show me which table to buy.”
Let’s say you are regretting your purchase. Say to Hashem, “I asked of You to help me buy the right table. Now I’m regretting the purchase and wishing I should’ve gotten a different model. But I know that this feeling is incorrect, because since it was Your will that I buy this table, then these feelings of regret I’m having are going against emunah. Please strengthen my emunah in You.”
A person should keep talking like this to Hashem until he feels that his negative feelings have been quieted.
Let’s say a person is waiting for the bus to come. The bus comes – and just drives right past him. He should pause and say:
“Ribono shel olam, I know that You want this bus to run according to how You want it to. I know that my negative feelings now are incorrect.”
This is the way to live all the time – always speak with Hashem, saying how you know everything depends on Him alone. Say to Hashem that although you know this is your mind, you want to feel it in your heart. Ask Hashem to please help you feel the truth.
The main point of what we are saying should be absorbed. There are countless applications of this point. It doesn’t depend on the situation you’re in. It doesn’t have to be one of the situations we gave. The point is to talk to Hashem about everything throughout the various disappointments of your day. Through practicing this more and more, a person can reach a very high level of emunah and attain a strong bond with Hashem.
It is only through true emunah that we can ever possibly arrive at happiness.
People aren’t happy when they feel like they’re missing something. But if someone truly lives with emunah, there is no such thing as “Something is not good in my life”, because he realizes that he isn’t really missing a thing. Anything we have – and whatever happens to us – is all from Hashem, to the tee. It’s all for our best, and it’s all exactly what we each need. It’s impossible to be sad when a person knows that he has everything he needs.
Without emunah, it appears to a person as if he’s missing something he needs. But with emunah, a person realizes and feels that he has exactly what he needs – not less, and not more.
(This does not contradict the fact that we have to daven for what we are missing. Even when we daven, we are not supposed to tell Hashem, “I need this”, but we are supposed to day, “Ribono shel olam, if I am indeed missing this in my life and I need it, please give it to me.”
We are never supposed to daven to Hashem and tell Him that we for sure need something, because we don’t know what’s good for us. Understand this point very well. The only time we are supposed to daven to Hashem that we for sure need something is when we are davening to be saved from committing a sin, or when we are davening one of the tefillos which Chazal established through their ruach hakodesh.)