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Faith in Times of Darkness

June 26, 2014 | by Debbie Gutfreund

Five ways to hold onto the power of faith.

In the middle of Friday night dinner, my seven-year-old son suddenly looked up from his bowl of chicken soup. “Ima, what are the boys eating for Shabbos? How will they get Shabbos food?” And for a moment there was just complete silence at the table as our thoughts returned to the three kidnapped boys. I looked helplessly at my husband, waiting for him to answer my son who looked like he was near tears.

“Hashem (God) is with them on Shabbos,” my husband replied. “He never left them.”

My son looked pensive for a moment. “But what will they eat, Abba?”

The next day my friend was organizing a booklet to send to the boys’ families featuring Jewish children around the world holding “Bring Back Our Boys” signs. It’s usually very hard to convince my boys to stay still for a picture, but to my surprise, they voiced not a whisper of protest. All my three-year-old wanted to know was if the boys would see it. “I hope so,” I told him.


They all stood blinking in the hot summer sun, joining with the rest of the Jewish nation in this campaign to bring our boys home safely. Afterwards, I sat with my son on the deck and showed him the photo on my phone, watching his face fill with a special, sweet pride in doing his own small part to help. Then he looked up at the trees in our backyard. “My Rebbe (teacher) taught me that every leaf has its own malach (angel), and not one leaf can move even an inch without Hashem wanting it to.”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” I said. I looked out at the thousands of leaves before us, and I thought about the power of that kind of faith. How it can bring us through the darkest of places. How it can revive us in the scorching heat of the desert. How it can lead us through seemingly hopeless mazes. How it can stand us upright when the whole world seems to be intent on pushing us down. How it can keep us holding onto and connected to three boys whose growing, aching absence weaves its way through all of our homes.

Here are five ways to hold onto the power of faith through the darkness.

1. Develop five-fingered beliefs. Rav Noah Weinberg ztz’l used to say that we need to examine our beliefs so closely that we know them like we know the five fingers on our hands. They shouldn’t depend upon our moods or upon the culture around us. In order to do this, you need to know what your beliefs are and the sources of those beliefs. “Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing. It comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur.” Henry Miller

2. Make it consistent. In the middle of the busyness and distraction of daily life, it is challenging to keep anything constant. The stocks go up and down every second. The news changes before you can hit “refresh” a minute later on the web browser. The rules of success seem to grow more complex each day. But Judaism gives us something constant that we can hold onto if we consistently work on it. By setting aside a few minutes to pray each day. By talking to the One who is the unchanging Core behind everything that we see. “All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light.” James Joyce

3. Build proactive faith. We’re not here to stand on the sidelines. God expects us to believe in ourselves as much as we believe in Him. Let your beliefs guide and inspire your actions. Don’t give up. God doesn’t give a person a test he cannot withstand. But he can pass the test only if he believes he can.

4. Develop an optimistic perspective. Faith isn’t a single moment to grab onto. It’s an evolving state of looking at yourself and at the world around you. Work on turning your pessimistic thoughts into positive ones. Focus your life on goodness and kindness.

5. Know that there is a plan. Just like every single leaf falls from the tree only when God decrees that it should fall, so too every detail in our lives exists because God put it there for a reason. That doesn’t mean we always know what to do with everything that we are given, but we believe that there is a higher plan always operating a level above the physical reality that we live in. “Bitachon (trust in God) is not only trust that Hashem will give you what you want. Bitachon means, fundamentally, the understanding that Hashem is doing what is right.” Rav Avigdor Miller

I want to tell my son that the boys will come home safely. I want to reassure him that next week, they will have Shabbos food to eat. But I can’t because I don’t know. But I do know that there is a plan. I do know that God is always doing what is right for each one of us, even though we may not always understand where He is taking us. So we do what we can, and we pray and call out to God from all over the world. Please bring the boys home safely.

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