It was the Seder night in Belz, and a grandson of the Rebbe Harav Yissacher Dov, zy”a, opened the door for Eliyahu Hanavi.
“Did you see Eliyahu?” the Rebbe asked the boy.
“Is it possible to see him?” a relative queried.
“There are those who see him,” the Rebbe replied. “But he who does not see but believes is far greater!”
With this thought he explained a passuk in our parashah.
“Hashem took Avraham Avinu outside and said, ‘Gaze, now, toward the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them…So shall your offspring be!’”
The next passuk states about Avraham Avinu “v’hemin BaShem ( he trusted in Hashem), and Hashem reckoned it as righteousness.”
The Ribbono Shel Olam lifted Avraham Avinu above the temporal world and showed him the heavens and the stars. He clearly saw the future — yet chose to rely not on what he had witnessed, but on emunah alone.
This great concept — of setting aside all his knowledge and devoting himself purely to emunah — is what Hashem reckoned as righteousness.
It is in the very passuk that the word emunah appears for the first time in the Torah. Avraham Avinu laid down the foundations for his descendants to be able to fortify themselves with emunah in every situation and every circumstance.
One may think that emunah is something external, a concept that one must strive to attain. Actually, all of us have emunah deep within us, an inheritance from Avraham Avinu. Much like the human heart, which beats on whether we feel it or not, our souls pulse with emunah. To be able to sense the emunah within us requires action on our part; then, like the runner who acutely feels the fluttering of his heart, we can feel the emunah within us.
In times of grave challenge, when spirits are low, fortifying oneself with emunah is particularly challenging. This does not mean that we are actually weak in emunah. Rather, since emunah is akin to prophecy, and the Neviim merited prophecy only when they were in a state of simchah, one needs simchah in order to be able to sense emunah. If we would only strengthen ourselves through Torah and tefillah, we would be able to draw close to Hashem. No matter how difficult the situation, this closeness would raise our spirits, and simchah would create an awareness of the emunah within us. (Based on the words of the Pieczesna Rebbe, Hy”d, in Eish Kodesh, Parashas Hachodesh 5702.)
Emunah is the cornerstone of Yiddishkeit and the key that opens every spiritual door. It has been said that with emunah there are no questions, while without it there are no answers.
Emunah is the concept; its practical application is bitachon. One cannot have bitachon without emunah. Together, these interconnected attributes are the elixir for a happy and productive life.
The Berdichever Rav, zy”a, once fell gravely ill, and doctors were unable to find a cure for him. As the Rebbe lay in bed, his adherents fervently davened on his behalf in an adjacent room. Suddenly a thump was heard, and when the door was opened the Rebbe was found on the floor near his bed. They carefully lifted the Rebbe and carried him back to his bed, and continued their tefillos.
Shortly thereafter, the voice of the Rebbe was heard asking for water with which to wash his hands, saying that he felt much better, and indeed he rapidly made a full recovery.
The Rebbe later explained that when he learned that the doctors had concluded that they knew of no cure, he recalled a teaching of his Rebbe. The Maggid of Mezeritch had taught that a yeshuah does not come as a reward for bitachon, nor is bitachon a segulah for a miracle, but rather when the Ribbono Shel Olam created the world, he established within the rules of teva that through bitachon ones prayers are heard.
“I realized that it within my ability to strengthen myself in bitachon, and not have to rely on a miracle,” the Rebbe explained. “That is what I did, and relying on my bitachon I rose from my sickbed. When I fell to the floor I thought to myself, ‘the words of the Maggid are certainly true; the reason that I have not yet recovered must be because my bitachon is not strong enough. So I strengthened myself again in bitachon and, Baruch Hashem, I fully recovered…”
Everywhere we turn we can find role models in emunah and bitachon: Holocaust survivors who emerged from the valley of death, bereft of everyone and everything, who with hearts filled with emunah rebuilt their lives and are now dancing at the weddings of great-grandchildren; Widows, widowers and divorcees who single-handedly but with bitachon raised their children alone into wonderful young men and women; the childless couples who devoted their lives to help others and have etched an eternal legacy onto the hearts of hundreds.
From the most prominent of Rabbanim to the most “common” of laborers, we have spiritual heroes all around us. All we need to do is observe them to learn that with emunah and bitachon the impossible can become possible, and the unachievable can become reality. May we all merit to experience this firsthand.