Vayeira & Lapses of Emunah
This week we’re going to look at two aspects of Emunah.
As we enter the parsha, we see an interesting dialogue between Moshe Rabbeinu and HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
In last week’s episode, HaShem tells Moshe He will redeem klal Yisroel from mitzrayim. Moshe is to go to Paro. Moshe objects with several reasons and gets shut down. HaShem warns that Paro will not listen and that HaShem is going to harden Paro’s heart. It would seem the matter is clear and set.
Fast forward to where we’re holding and Moshe seems surprised that Paro said no and made the work harder. The mefarshim argue on what’s going on here but the simple reading of the text is enough for our purposes. Moshe lodged a complaint that HaShem didn’t deliver the Jewish people.
Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest prophet to have ever lived, had an issue that things played out the way HaShem said they would.
- HaShem said go to Paro.
- Moshe went to Paro.
- HaShem said he wouldn’t listen.
- Paro didn’t listen.
- HaShem said he’d make it harder for the Jews.
- Paro made it harder for the Jews.
So what’s the hangup? The Medrash has a maklokes on it and many opinions are brought to try to resolve this seemingly defect attribute in how Moshe is presented. Moshe seems, at this moment, to lack a basic building block of emunah.
I’d like to present a different perspective.
We know that the Avos are archetypes for the Jewish people.
- Avraham for his Chesed
- Yitzchok for his Gevurah
- Yaakov for his Emunah.
Moshe is an archetype for us as well. Every tzaddik we come across in Torah has lessons to teach us, not just about how to relate to HaShem and how to relate to others, but also how to relate to ourselves.
Perhaps the text is clear here; it’s not a maklokes.
I’d like to suggest that HaShem gave Moshe a stumble of words to teach generations to come that when it comes to Emunah, we can all stumble.
But it doesn’t mean we fall down the ladder. We can recover. Moshe went on from this small incident to give us a Pesach to remember. So, too, we can overcome small obstacles or hiccups in our practice of Emunah and become the greatest we were meant to be.
Reb Zusha wasn’t afraid that HaShem would judge him for not being like Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, or Moshe. Reb Zusha was afraid HaShem would judge him for not being the best Zusha he could be.
We all have an infinite potential. Emunah is a necessary part of this journey of Yiddishkeit and in order for us to grow, we need to build.
But how do we build Emunah?
Rebbe Benzion Twerski once commented that he was personally bothered by all the books on Emunah. Emunah isn’t a mind condition, it’s a heart condition. Books are a mental workout, not a heart workout.
I’d like to challenge this notion. I have no doubt many books fall into this category.
Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, however, discusses this issue and how to overcome it. The mind can influence the heart. It’s the “fake it until you make it” notion.
Fake it until you make it
Psychologically, the subconscious is a “servo-motor-mechanism.” So what is that? It’s a secret weapon of the yetzer hara, and we can actually use this as a superpower for incredible growth instead.
Our inner neshama is pure and holy. As a result, it can’t cooperate with falsehood. When we say something about ourselves, the subconscious works behind the scenes to ensure that it is a truth, at least to ourselves. So when someone engages in negative self-talk, the subconscious goes to work to ensure we believe it about ourselves. That’s why it’s so dangerous and possibly assur to ever say something negative about ourselves, and is likely a mitzvah to say good things about ourselves. And that’s the trick.
When we learn about Emunah on basic principles and do chazara regularly, then our subconscious “takes it to heart” and it becomes a heart condition for us, rooted in the neshama.
A few weeks ago we talked about Yaakov showing us the level we can aspire to with Emunah, where we rely fully on G-d to pave the path for us.
This week, Moshe showed us that we can fumble in Emunah and recover quite spectacularly.
Our recovery, however, is predicated on our work in the area of Emunah and strength we’ve built in the subject. Therefore, it’s imperative that we engage and learn and grow in Emunah every day.
At times, though, it can feel like this isn’t enough or isn’t working. Trust me, it is working, but we don’t feel it all the time, and that’s when there’s tremendous real growth.
There’s a concept the Medrash brings us that can help enlighten this. Chassidim are known for this approach but it’s available to everyone no matter their minhag.
The Merit of the Tzaddik
- Davening at a kever
- Clinging to a tzaddik
- Receiving brachos from Gedolim
These are all widely accepted practices and great examples. Our parshios teach us a valuable lesson.
Why were bnei yisroel saved? They were on the forty-ninth level of tumah. So why be saved? The mefarshim say it wasn’t on their own merit. Even Moshe Rabbeinu confirmed the matter when he was sentenced to death as a result of lashon hara.
HaShem made an oath to the Avos. Klal yisroel had to be saved.
Why the show?
- Signs and wonders
- Protection from the makkos
All in the merit of the tzaddik.
Shlomo HaMelech had an issue. He built the Ark the same width as the doorway. When he brought the Ark to the Temple, he couldn’t get it in.
The Medrash records he didn’t know what to do. He prayed and HaShem didn’t grant his request. He obviously had Emunah but his merits were not enough.
When his prayers were insufficient, he brought forth his father’s coffin, David HaMelech, and said,
HaShem, G-d, do not turn away the face of Your anointed one!II Chronicles 6:42
The Medrash records that David HaMelech came to life and uttered Tehillim 30, as it says in the beginning, “a psalm, a song for the inauguration of the Temple, by David.” The Temple was not built until after he passed. In the Tehillim, David said,
The Medrash then records,
“And Solomon said, ‘Master of the World, do in this one’s merit’…Solomon’s prayer was immediately answered.”
In the merit of the tzaddik, Shlomo HaMelech’s tefillah was answered miraculously.
Back in the late summer of 2021 I had an opportunity to visit the kever of the Ribnitzer Rebbe. He was known for nissim regarding pregnancies and other life difficulties. It was my first time going to a kever to daven in the merit of the tzaddik. My wife and I were both unsure on how to proceed but we wrote kvitlach and davened there. We davened to be able to have another child as it had been some time since our last child. We also davened for one of my wife’s coworkers who had tried to have a child for years, even with IVF, and had absolutely no success. Within a few weeks of our return, we learned that both my wife and her colleague were pregnant, around the same time, after we davened by the Ribnitzer.
Sometimes we don’t have the merit built up. Other times we have hishtadlus, our own work to accomplish before HaShem brings the plan to fruition.
The Merit of a Tzaddik
- Can count toward our merits
- Can be the hishtadlus
- Can overturn a harsh decree
There may be times when our Emunah is full but we don’t see the resolution. That’s when we turn to the tzaddikim, just as Shlomo HaMelech relied on his father and bnei yisroel relied on the Avos.
In fact, we daven in the merit of the tzaddikim thrice daily, sometimes more. When we daven in the merit of the Avos, our tefillos are answered in their merit.
The Ohr HaChaim discusses the merit of the Avos in the sidra.
- Avraham – attached himself to HaShem before he knew the attributes of HaShem.
- Yitzchok – was willing to sacrifice himself for HaShem.
- Yaakov – no “rejected” children come from him.
When we enter the shemoneh esrei, the first bracho is the merit of the Avos. When we recite their names and that bracha, slowly and with kevanah, here’s what we are accomplishing:
- Avraham – may we merit to seek HaShem and build a deep relationship with Him.
- Yitzchok – may we merit to have mesiras nefesh and serve HaShem with our lives.
- Yaakov – may we merit to raise tzaddikim and become baalie habitachon.
- Sometimes we falter in our Emunah, but we can recover with grace.
- It’s essential to build our Emunah muscle, which is why we have this class.
- Even when we lack merit, we can strengthen our Emunah by turning to the merits of the tzaddikim.