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Half Emunah

By Tzvi Fishman
5/11/2008, 12:00 AM
During the upcoming months, I will be blogging far less since I have a deadline to meet on a book I am writing. In the meantime, you can argue amongst yourselves about the virtues of living in Israel and thereby keeping the Torah in its true way. For the benefit of everyone, I will reserve the privilege of trashing heretical talkbacks, in whatever form they take. Since I won’t have the time to read them all, no doubt many poisonous entries will get posted, and I apologize for that.

For now, here is an excerpt from a lecture of Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, of blessed memory, explaining to his students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem how it can happen that Torah-observant Jews can turn their backs on the very foundation of the entire Torah, the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael.
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda (center) Conquest of Kotel
Rav Tzvi Yehuda said that just as there are levels of Torah knowledge, there are levels of emunah – faith in G-d. There are people with great belief, and there are others of rickety belief, stemming from a mistaken understanding of the Torah.

“Emunah is certainty,” Rav Tzvi Yehuda explained. “Contrasting this is emunah stemming from philosophical inquiry alone, which can bring about a situation of partial faith. This is the false emunah, which is mentioned in the Torah in connection with the Spies.”

The Spies were the leaders of the Children of Israel who were sent ahead to spy out the Land of Israel after the Jews had departed from Egypt. They came back with a negative report, saying that while the Land itself was good, the Jews would be eaten up by the fierce inhabitants of the Land, intimating that Hashem did not have the power to protect them. Their sin caused the destruction of that generation in the wilderness and led to the destruction of the Temples and exile amongst the nations.
"We were like grasshoppers in our eyes." The Spies in the Wilderness

“Referring to their sin, the Torah says, ‘In this matter, you did not believe in the L-rd your G-d’ (Devarim, 1:32). In this matter, in not making aliyah to Israel, they did not have emunah. In other matters, they did believe. They believed, and yet they didn’t believe. This is a state of half-emunah.”

“In contrast, the foundation of faith is seen in Avraham Avinu, as it says, ‘And he had emunah in the L-rd (Bereshit, 15:6). He wasn’t a half-believer. He believed with a complete faith, with ‘emunah shlema,’ in the language of the Rambam (Thirteen Principles of Faith).

“The Spies had a deficiency in their emunah, as it says, ‘Yet you would not go up to Israel (Devarim, 1:26). You have emunah, yet in this matter of aliyah, you don’t have belief.”

“There are types of ‘Tzaddikim who don’t belief,’ as it says in the Talmud (Sotah 48B). They select and chose words of the Torah and the commandments, saying, ‘This matter is arranged properly by the Almighty. It is very nice, it pleases me, it’s easy to do, therefore I agree to abide. However, this matter is not so pleasing in my eyes.’ This approach to Torah leads to heresy.”

“In contrast to this selective Judaism comes the true approach of, ‘Everything that the L-rd said, we will do and listen’ (Shemot, 24:7) We will do it, whether it pleases us or not, whether we intellectually agree, or whether the matter is above our logic.”

“When the Torah is seen in its true light, there is no criticism of Hashem and opposition to His commandments. In place of criticism comes cleaving, harmony, and complete emunah.”

Rav Tzvi Yehuda emphasized that this piecemeal practice of Torah, as exemplified by the tragedy of the Spies, occurs when the Torah isn’t learned in the proper fashion.

That’s it for now. In the meantime, we recommend that readers review our blogs from the beginning, especially the excerpts from the writings of Rabbi Kook and his son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda.

All the best and hatzlachah!