How do we sincerely choose emunah rather than nature?
Let’s first understand why this is a laudable goal.
When Adom ate from the tree of knowledge, he internalized the forces of nature. Before he ate, he could see clearly that the natural tendencies were deficient to being one with Hashem and that the pleasure of being one with Hashem was far greater than anything the natural tempations could possibly offer. Yet what the snake did was tempt Adom with the opportunity to internalize the temptations and THEN overcome them out of love for Hashem. This is how the snake succeeded in getting Adom to use his love of Hashem to eat from the tree of knowledge.
Ever since, the ability of mankind to choose the pleasure of emunah and alignment with the absolute morality of Hashem set forth in the ten commandments has been tainted with confusion.
Thus, the question – shall we go by nature or shall we go with emunah?
Recognize that the natural is experienced within us although it is not our essence. We experience the forces of nature within us – earth, wind, water, and fire. Our essence, however, is the divine soul, a soul created to effect a repair. The animal soul is the key. Will it bond with the natural forces or will it strengthen in emunah and flow refined forces into the world?
We have real free will to embrace these forces on the natural level, or we may strengthen ourselves in emunah and thereby bring the tohu lights- that fell into nature – into garments of Torah, avoda, chesed and mitzvahs.
What does this look like in action?
Let’s say there are two people playing a board game and one picks up some cards on their turn. One card is faceup and the player wants that card and takes it, the other player did not see. Now the player who needed that card is feeling great, they have the card they need, except for one thing….they saw the card. So, instead of enjoying the game with that card, the player says what happened, puts the card back and takes another card that is unknown. In this way, the person is choosing truth and morality as a higher pleasure from the pleasure of getting the card they need and having a great turn.
What motivates the person to do this? Pleasure.
There is a pleasure in being one with Hashem, and that is the pleasure of being independent of nature, taken care of by Hashem in a way that a person feels very loved.
It takes time to let go of our belief that pleasure is the outcome of our belief that we, by our own hand, took steps that accomplished something. We need that type of pleasure to develop a sense of cause and effect until, as did Avraham, we realize that Hashem is doing everything. At that point, we begin to shift our orientation from cause and effect as a natural progression to outcome as something determined by Hashem when we exert ourselves with a certain effort.
Once we comprehend that our animal soul is the primary player making this choice – to choose to go by nature or to choose to go by emunah – our higher soul has a greater influence on our choices. The animal soul can become holy when it chooses to go by emunah and trust in Hashem.
The tough part for the animal soul is recognizing what pulls it into nature -especially into the seething waters.
Let’s take a look at these pulls.
There are three things that take us away from clinging to Hashem. Jealousy, desires, and craving for honor, kina, taiva, and kavod.
These are forces we feel within us due to having eaten from the tree of knowledge. These forces, when we perceive any type of lack or threat, immediately “hold a mirror” to our eyes and heart telling us all the reasons we should feel ourselves and act in our own best interests. The messages blind us with the dangers to our survival, especially directing us to avoid any ego-pain. Our animal soul is very drawn to these messages and absent a strong emunah, we naturally go with this type of thinking.
What happens when we know we have a choice? The choice is:
– to feel ourselves and act from there or
– to remember that Hashem is doing everything and that He loves us and that we can strengthen ourselves in emunah and bring about a flow of goodness through our speech and deeds.
When we know we have a choice, how do we work with our feelings to bring about acting in a manner of emunah rather than nature? We must ask for divine mercy. The forces of nature are very strong. Yet we have real free will. We cry out to Hashem and tell Him that it is our will to strengthen our emunah and that we want to utilize the light concealed in the darkness of the feelings to bring into the world kindness, warmth, enlightenment, mitzvahs, the learning of Torah, and prayer. We ask Him for mercy upon us. When we choose to see ourselves as an emanation of Hashem and not as a being with any separate existence, we then confidently move forward with the kindness, the warmth, the mitzvah or the learning of Torah or the prayer that gives Him nachas.
The midda of Yaakov is compassion, balancing kindness and strength, the elements of water and fire. When we strengthen our emunah, and have compassion on the light concealed in nature, the flow of kindness, warmth and light proceeds uninterrupted by herniations that otherwise bring our ego or feeling ourselves into the picture. That effort of submission – through strengthening emunah within our consciousness – sends the natural forces back to being external, as they were before the eating of the tree of knowledge.
Think of it like this. Let’s say there is a hurricane outside. We are in our homes, hearing the howling wind, hoping the roof will hold, that trees won’t fall. Our thinking while we hear the howling is going over the dangers and trying to evaluate them. The howling wind provides a danger and we feel it. Now imagine that we are listening to howling winds of a hurricane, but it is on an mp3 player. There is absolutely no danger whatsoever. Our minds can “enjoy” the sounds of the hurricane as a phenomenon that is not posing any danger to us. When we have strong emunah that Hashem is doing everything and that He loves us, whatever natural reactions we may experience are seen for what they are – external to us because we are in His Hands. What that translates to is that, while there is no guarantee about what will happen to us, we are simply not afraid of anything except not being connected to Hashem sincerely and in truth. When we see ourselves as an emanation of Hashem, which is the truth, then we are treated and protected by Hashem in that way.
Tuesday is the fast of the 10th of Teves. It is the day Hashem decides if this is the year that the redemption will take place. May our resolve to grow more and more emotionally bonded with desiring to live by emunah rather than by pursuing goals according to nature tip the scales for redemption b’ahava.