Who is the Man in the Moon?  Emoonah: Five levels of Faith

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh,

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
צילום: Gal Einai

In the previous chapter, we spoke about our dark side and how to illuminate it with belief in G-d. There is negative darkness, but darkness can also be completely positive. Darkness is the places that have tremendous potential, which we have not yet revealed.

In our psyches, emunah, faith, is darkness. We do not necessarily see the good in a given situation, but we believe that all that G-d is doing is for the very best. This is the positive darkness.

G-d, however, does not want us to live in darkness. He wants us not only to believe in Him – that all that He does is for the very best. He wants us to trust Him that everything will be good as I perceive it. That is the light.

Who is the force that wants us to remain in the darkness, with our faith alone? Amalek. “Suffice yourselves with your faith, alone,” he derides us. Don’t trust G-d, so that you will never enjoy revealed good.”

On Purim, we rid ourselves of Amalek on many levels, including the level of our psyche. Every time that we trust in G-d that all will be revealed good, we are wiping out a bit of Amalek. Everything begins with faith in the darkness, but then we progress to the light and trust of Purim, “And the Jews had light and joy…”

In nature, it is the moon that has a dark, extremely coarse side and a light, more refined side. Where does the word ‘moon’ stem from? Some etymologists attribute the source of the word to German or Sanskrit. But modern-day etymologists associate it with Hebrew.  In our morning prayers we say, “Moneh mispar lakochavim,”-”He counts a number to the stars”. In Hebrew, the word ‘moneh’ means ‘to count’. Our Sages say that “The Nation of Israel is like the moon and counts (‘moneh’) according to the moon.” The two-letter root of the word for counting, ‘moneh’ is mem, nun – man. Modern etymologists say that this is the source of the word ‘moon’!

What if we add an alef to ‘moneh’? The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that if we take the word for exile, golah, and we add an alef to it, we receive geulah, redemption. We do not have to banish the exile, just to illuminate it with the light of the alef and it all turns into redemption. By the same token, if we add the light of the alef to ‘moneh’,  we get emunah. The moon, with its darkness and its light, symbolizes emoonah!

‘Moon’ is also cognate to ‘mind’ and also to ‘man’. Interestingly, cultures throughout the world point to the Man in the Moon. Our Sages say that if we concentrate on the moon, we can see in it the image of Jacob, the root of all the souls of Israel. In the Torah, the Mashiach is called, “Mashiach Elo-hai Ya’akov”, “the Mashiach of the G-d of Jacob”. The Man in the Moon is the Mashiach, who himself is likened by the Sages to the moon. If we contemplate the moon with emoonah, we can see the likeness of the Mashiach.

Chassidut teaches that there are five objects of emunah. The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that just as we believe in G-d, we must believe in every Jew – in the potential of every Jew. Emunah is the power to take the potential hidden in the darkness and to do a Purim-style “V’nahafoch hu” – to transform it into light.

What is faith in G-d? That He is here, even if I do not see Him in my life. But if I believe in Him, He will appear. G-d is the first of the five objects of our faith.

Faith in every Jew subdivides into four levels:

First, faith in tzaddikim, particularly the tzaddik of the generation – the Jew with Messianic potential. This is faith in a Jew on the highest level.

The second level of the four is faith in the potential of the Nation of Israel. Sometimes, it is difficult to believe in the Nation of Israel. One can get caught up in negativity and see only the divisiveness and the darkness. But inside that darkness is tremendous Messianic potential and energy just waiting to be transformed to light. 

The third level of the four is faith in every individual Jew. This faith begins at home. Do not despair if you see darkness in your family members. Here is where we have to activate our emoonah and believe that they, or any other individual Jew, have potential to be light. My faith in them is what can transform the darkness to light. Chassidut teaches that when we judge a person favorably, we actually bring out his good, light side. We have to see light in everyone. And if we encounter darkness, we must see it as potential light that will one day shine. This in itself is illuminating. Faith is very potent

What is the last level of faith? Faith in yourself. This is very possibly the most difficult of all, more difficult than believing in someone else. If there is any reason to despair, it is when we take honest stock of ourselves, our dark side included.

But we must have emoonah in ourselves and the spark of Messianic potential inside each and every Jew – myself included.








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