Pay No Attention
While in the midst of a difficult situation, you understand that the situation is "not good". There’s only one way that you can successfully get through it – let go of your intellect and hold on to only emuna. Read Rabbi Arush’s incredible answer...
Translated from Rabbi Arush’s feature article in the weekly Chut shel Chessed newsletter. The articles focus on his main message: “Loving others as yourself”.
Before I gave a class in Holon, someone came over to me and told me that his marriage is falling apart. His wife is not willing to hear anything. He is broken, but mainly resentful and frustrated. He has questions for Hashem and questions about emuna (faith). How could Hashem give him such a hard trial; what did he do to deserve it; and other common questions that come up in cases like this.
The limited time before the class didn’t allow me to have a proper conversation with him, but during the entire class I spoke only to him. Hashem put in my mouth words of emuna and inspiration regarding Divine Providence: that Hashem is only good and does only good and will do only good and even better. Anyone who speaks in front of audiences knows that there are classes and there are classes. Sometimes one feels special Siyata Dishmaya (help from Heaven), and one feels the sparks in the air. It was a class of that type, and whoever spoke to me afterwards told me, one way or another, that he was feeling greatly elevated spiritually.
I was glad for the merit to inspire Jews to believe, and I hoped so much that the person who had approached me before had heard and was inspired and had taken the words to his heart and to his reality. But when he came to speak to me after the class, he still contended that according to his “understanding” what was happening to him was only bad… as if he had not been present in this class.
I personally understood the words: “You grant a person da’at (knowledge, understanding)” as meaning that only You, Hashem, can do it. It doesn’t matter what words a person says and how much he talks and how convincing he is – only Hashem can give the listener the true knowledge and understanding. Only Hashem can make this da’at enter his heart. But, still, I got a sharper understanding of a point that is relevant to everyone and touches on our attitude towards emuna in general.
Emuna is not a matter of understanding; not at all: emuna is the opposite of understanding. I will explain. When a person is experiencing a difficult reality – he is not comfortable. He understands that this is not good. There is no way to explain the situation to him so that he will understand things differently. The only way to get through this barrier is to bypass the brain. Emuna is above the intellect. It does not argue with the understanding; it does not try to convince you to understand things differently. Rather, it tells you that you don’t understand at all. It makes you do without understanding, it makes you let go. And it doesn’t matter how true this understanding is or not. This is of no interest.
That is the explanation of the words that I have been singing in my classes for over thirty years: “I don’t understand anything. I just believe that everything is for the good.”
The people around you, your feeling, all of reality – are standing there and convincing you that it is not good. From all over everything is crying out: “Not good!”. If you try to argue, you will not succeed. Reality has some very solid evidence. You have no chance of even beginning to argue.
But emuna means paying no attention to all this. Emuna means ignoring completely everything that you understand. Emuna has only contempt for reality and all the understandings and evidence. Reality can scream “not good” for a hundred years – but this has no interest for the believer. He simply pays no attention.
That is the way to believe; there is no other. As long as a person does not understand that, he will not be able to withstand the tests. As long as a person tries to line up his understanding with faith, he will not be able to pass the tests.
Failing to pass means, first of all, losing one’s emuna. Living lies. Living heresy. And the direct result of a reality in which a person does not live with emuna is that he causes himself great emotional suffering, because in this world there is either emuna – or hell.
It is very simple: When the “understanding” rules the roost – you suffer. But when emuna rules – you live in paradise in this world.
Moreover, it is precisely in such cases that the emuna is tested and measured. For as long as the emuna is in keeping with your understanding – it is not faith, it is understanding. Only when there is a frontal collision between emuna and understanding, and you cast away understanding and choose faith, in spite of everything, only then can one say that you believe; only then can one measure your deep and authentic connection with emuna, with the Creator.
In parashat Re’eh, the Creator of the World tells us that we will have tests. Difficult ones. A prophet or a dreamer will present himself and show us signs and wondrous things. He will prophesy illogical events, and they will come true: “And the sign or wonder, of which he spoke to you, will come about”. According to our understanding, he will be a man of truth. A man of wonders. And yet, if he will tell you to transgress even one tiny detail of the holy Torah, “Let us follow gods of others that you did not know and we shall worship them,” we are commanded not to heed him at all. “Do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream.”
And Hashem tells us: “For Hashem, your G-d, is testing you to know whether you love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul.” I am testing you. I want to see how much you love Me. Whoever loves Me “pays no attention”. Whoever loves Me doesn’t even get into notions and explanation, proofs and supposed wonders. Reality doesn’t interest him. Only the word of Hashem and His will count, and no understanding or explanation will change that.
For our purposes, this is a parable and example to all of faith. Under no circumstances and for no price do we desert the foundations of faith that we received and learned.
But what will you say – “I understand differently”? You can understand whatever you want – and understanding has its place – but the believer is not there at all. He is in the world of faith. He is way above understanding. He just doesn’t pay attention to understanding even if it presents evidence such as wonders and proofs.
Staying in First Grade
And really, these things are very simple. But as simple as they are, we all need to strengthen ourselves regarding them every day because these simple things are life’s test, and the test of every single day. These simple things are what determine in the end whether a person is living a life of faith or of heresy.
These simple things are what determine in the end whether you are living in paradise, happy, rejoicing, illuminating the world around you, or living in hell and everything around you is burning.
Many times, we learn and move forward in life. We want to work on ourselves in new areas, to advance along new paths. It is a mistake to think that we are too old for faith, as if we have already completed our degree in faith and now, we go on to learning new things.
No, no! Working on faith never ends. The degree is received only in the next world, the World of Truth. In every area that you advance in, never neglect faith, never abandon the most important area in your life.
Always have your finger on the pulse. Always go back and test yourself and strengthen yourself in emuna, because the tests never go away and you must be ready for them. That is life’s work and success in this world and in the World of Truth. Because we love Hashem and all we want to do is pass all the tests honorably and successfully.