May 29, 2024
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Faith: Others, the One Above and Myself

Now that it’s been a full year since I started this column, it’s been getting harder to make sure I don’t repeat myself. Then again, when I think about this time of year it’s inevitable that each year we generally have the same rush of feelings.

As young children, the Yom Tov season is accompanied with the excitement of starting a new school year and things to look forward to. As we get older, maybe the fresh start is still exhilarating. But for others, it’s daunting.

Once Hoshana Raba is over, we know that what’s done is done so we can walk in to Simchas Torah with a real sense of gratefulness that we have our Torah to guide us as we navigate our lives this upcoming year. For me, this all boils down to my faith.

Faith is something deeper than belief. When you believe in something, there is generally an objective fact that makes it true. Faith is more of a blind trust. I’ve recently realized that there are three categories of faith that my life is revolved around. Faith in others, faith in Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and, finally, faith in myself.

Having faith in others most likely only works if you trust that people are inherently good. This is probably why I have a hard time when it comes to teshuva with respect to matters of bein adam lechavero. It almost doesn’t make sense to me that a person would intentionally hurt someone else. Why would someone want to cause pain to another human? Sticks and stones come to mind, but everyone can recall an experience when someone said something unkind or repeated some juicy lashon hara. Was there negative intent to hurt someone? Probably not. More likely it was about a person feeling insecure about another matter and just putting their own feelings in front of someone else’s. Then there are people who are just careless or insensitive. Words can come spewing out of someone’s mouth with no filter.

Have you ever been at a shiva house and heard the things people say? Guarantee there was no malicious intent there. Come on—they got in the car and took the time out to see the aveilim. They didn’t plan on saying something that would make the person feel worse. So often, others just don’t think the words through on how they will be impacted. While one thing could be highly insulting to someone, another may not even notice. I have this mantra I tend to repeat often: Think it through. If we would all take the time to think through our words and think through our actions, we would probably all be kinder and more sensitive to others. There is no objective fact that proves that people are good, but it’s the faith that I have for the good of all mankind. Maybe I’m being naïve, considering all the terrible things that people have done, but I’d like to believe that at everyone’s core there must be goodness deep—sometimes very, very deep—inside.

I’m sure I’m not alone with feeling that Neilah is the point where my faith in Hashem comes out the deepest. At that point, you are so far past the feeling of being stuffed from the eating on Rosh Hashanah that you are literally standing there with your tank on empty. There is nothing left at that point to give to try to make any impact on changing your fate for the upcoming year; you only have your faith to rely on.

I’ve tried spending the past few weeks thinking about negative things that have happened to me in the past and intense challenges I have overcome. Let’s just say hindsight is even sharper than 20/20. There are things that occurred over 10 years ago that now make perfect sense. Yes, there are plenty of things that still make no sense. If I am going through a painful experience that seems to have been brought on, it takes a lot of mental energy to remind myself that this situation is coming from Hashem and the other person is just a shaliach to make sure I have that experience, for reasonings that make no sense in the moment.

I often think about this when I hear about all the tragedies happening in our beloved Land of Israel. Obviously, Hashem has the ability to let us have the land in peace, but for some reason we have to fight for it even harder than before. The faith comes in when we need to get to the point of true acceptance—when we can tell ourselves that trying to figure out why Hashem wants us to have or not have certain blessings or struggles is just not something we really need to be asking. It’s almost as if acceptance only comes after desperation and we have given up. Or maybe that we accept that we have faith in Hashem that we know He’s “got this” and we can be at peace.

For as long as I can recall, as soon as Yom Kippur is over the shul breaks out into intense singing. I don’t know if this is what’s done in all shuls across all denominations of Judaism, but for me it’s always my favorite part. I can feel a real sense of happiness in those brief and exhausted moments when I know that what will be, will be. For those few moments you just don’t know what the year will actually bring. But you can just relish in the feeling that you know you made your best effort and the rest lies in Hashem’s hands.

Having faith in yourself is probably the hardest of all three. Most of having faith in yourself relies heavily on your faith in Hashem. This is where bechira comes in to play. Each person faces decisions each day. Some can be as simple as to whether to wear the animal-print flats or go for the metallic (that was this morning’s), to much harder decisions that are too intense and personal to be discussed in a public forum. We are all naturally caretakers and there are always going to be times when we need to make a decision for others—whether you are someone’s health care proxy to whether a friend had asked you to place a sushi order for them. Making decisions, no matter how big or small, could be an overwhelming feat for many people. Each choice comes with its own set of unique circumstances. There are decisions we have made in the past that we definitely felt at the time were not the right decision. And then maybe time will have passed and it seems that everything worked out in the end, and proves that it was the right decision. With so many outside influences, it’s hard to make decision by just trusting your own gut feeling. We all have family and friends who are never shy to share their opinions on whether you are making your schnitzel wrong or choosing the wrong school for your child. I know—because I am one of those people who is never one to shy away from sharing my opinion about other people’s decision-making process. It can be so heart-wrenching when you make a decision that people who love you don’t agree with—and not even not agree, but advise against. Decisions are not divided by good vs. bad. It’s about what is right for the moment and the current circumstances. It’s those moments when faith in yourself and the chachma that Hakadosh Baruch Hu has given you—and only you—that you can make any decision b’lev shalem and any sense of menuchas hanefesh. It’s at that moment when faith in Hashem and faith in yourself are so clearly intertwined. The only way to trust yourself in any circumstance is to fully believe objectively in the existence in Hashem and the faith that He will guide you throughout your life no matter what the circumstance.

So often we hear the phrase “life is not easy,” but who said it was supposed to be easy? As we approach the Yom Tov season (which this year includes 28 meals, if you count two meals Erev Yom Kippur, one meal on Hoshana Raba and all the before and after Shabbosim, just saying), it’s hard to remember when we’re not actually the ones in charge of our own life while we are so busy tending to all the details to make the Yom Tov happen. Having the ability to not ask why each moment something goes wrong, be it a canceled flight to go home to family or a burned roast to feed your family. It’s like we are taking all the necessary steps to ensure a positive outcome, and more often than not we just don’t get the results we planned for. Every year we daven for only good things. This year I’ll try to daven for good things sprinkled with a couple of challenges that I hope I can handle and the strength to not ask why. May klal Yisrael be bentched with the ability to continue to give nachas to our Father in shamayim no matter what He has in store for us.

By Rachel Zamist


As we approach Yom Kippur, Rachel Zamist explores the faith as her final piece for the holiday season.

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