Judaism: The Shmuz on Shmot: Faith vs. Trust
Rabbi BenZion ShafierThe author taught in the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva branch in Monsey, New York, where he resides. He is the director of theshmuz.com, and his book, Stop Surviving Start Living, is available thru the website or at Jewish bookstores.
“And Moses returned to G-d and said, “G-d, why have You done evil to this people? Why have You sent me?” — Exodus 5:22
G-d sent Moses to be the redeemer of the Jewish people. However, from the moment that he embarked on this mission, the slavery became more intense and the pain more profound. Out of love for his nation, Moses turned to G-d and said, “Why have You worsened the situation? Why have You sent me?”
The Talmud tells us that Moses was punished for questioning G-d. G-d said, “It is a shame that that which is lost can no longer be found.” It is as if G-d were saying, “They don’t make them like they used to. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — those were great people, but no more. Moses, you don’t compare to them. They trusted Me, but you aren’t on their level.”
Moses Was the Single Greatest Human Being who Ever Lived
The problem with this is that Moses was the single greatest human being who ever lived. Maimonides calls him the “father” in Torah and wisdom. In fact, one of our Thirteen Principles of Faith is that Moses was the greatest of all prophets, greater than those who came before him and those who came after.
Since we know that Moses was greater than even the three patriarchs, how can we understand this passage of Talmud? It seems to saying that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were superior to Moses.
The Difference between Faith and Trust
The answer to this question lies in understanding the distinction between faith and trust. Maimonides defines faith as the knowledge that G-d created and continues to run all of Creation. Simply put, nothing can exist and no activity can occur without G-d.
Trust, however, is quite a different matter. Trusting in G-d is a sense of relying on Him to watch over and protect me, as if to say, “I take my heavy burden and place it on G-d.” While I am responsible to be proactive, I am not in charge of the outcome, and I am not the determinant of the results. I rely on G-d to care for me.
Faith is a state of understanding; trust is more of an attitude. Faith means knowing that G-d is involved in every activity on the planet; trust means having confidence that G-d runs every situation the best way possible.
A Person can Have Faith without Trust
A person can have faith without trust. Pharaoh was a classic example. When threatened by Jewish overpopulation, Pharaoh’s solution was to throw the baby boys into the Nile. The Medrash explains that this wasn’t a flippant reaction – it was highly calculated. Pharaoh knew that G-d promised Noah that He wouldn’t bring another flood. He also knew that G-d pays back “measure for measure.” Therefore, Pharaoh determined that G-d would want to bring a flood to pay back the Egyptians for drowning the babies, but because of G-d’s promise to Noah, that couldn’t happen, so he felt protected from G-d’s wrath.
Clearly, Pharaoh understood the power of G-d. He realized that G-d watches over the world. He also understood that G-d acts with justice. Pharaoh had no problem with faith, but he sure didn’t trust in G-d – he rebelled. He had faith, but no trust.
Growing in Faith
Both faith and trust are based on relating to the world in a deeper manner. Faith is the understanding that G-d is involved in more than just the big picture issues: life and death, war, famine, disease. . . G-d is involved in the minutiae of my daily life. G-d is there with me, 24/7, 365, all day, every day, from morning to night.
Amazingly, I can have this understanding and yet lack a level of trust in G-d.
Trust Requires Understanding the Goodness of G-d
To truly rely on G-d, there are two additional criteria I must feel. I must know that G-d loves me more than I love myself, and I must know that G-d knows better than I do what is for my good.
Trust is predicated upon knowing that G-d has my best interests in mind and that He knows better than I what is for my good. When a person realizes this, and then takes his heavy load and transfers it to G-d – that is trust.
The Answer: Moses was Greater in Faith while the Patriarchs were Greater in Trust
The answer to the question seems to be that Moses had a higher level of faith than any other human being, then or since. He saw G-d with an absolute clarity. Just as we see a piece of wood in front of us as undeniably real, he saw G-d – right there. But absolute trust in G-d doesn’t necessarily follow. Trust is learned and practiced. Much like a character trait that one develops over many years, one learns, often through life experiences, to be totally and utterly trusting in the kindness of G-d. Apparently, the Patriarchs reached a higher level in this regard. They had an unwavering sense of the constant goodness and loving kindness of G-d; hence, they were able to be more trusting of G-d even when on the surface, there were many questions to be asked. Moses was greater in faith, while they were greater in trust.
This distinction has great relevance. Often our problems with belief come from this one issue: we have faith, but not trust. When a person comes to the core understanding that G-d is more concerned for my good than I am, and that G-d knows my needs far better than I, he comes to a different degree of trust, a different level of relying on G-d. He comes to true trust.