And He took him outside and said, “Gaze, now, toward the Heavens, and count
the stars if you are able to count them!” and he said, “So shall your
offspring be!” And he trusted (believed) in HASEHM and He considered it to
him a Tzedaka- righteousness. (Breishis 15:5-6)
After gaining assurance from HASHEM that he will have children, Avraham
believed in or trusted HASHEM and was accredited as if He had done Tzedaka.
Tzedaka is a term we use to describe charity. Remarkably, Avraham is
described as having done an act of charity with The Almighty. How is that
possible? King David had said, “To HASHEM is the world and all its
fullness!” What can one possibly give that, so to speak, HASHEM does not
have already? How is possible to do Tzedaka with HASHEM?
The answer is one word-“Emunah”. “He believed in HASHEM!” When the Talmud
wanted to express the essential principle of Torah in one phrase it zeroed
in on a single verse from the Prophet Habakuk, “The Tzadik (righteous one)
lives with his Emuna (belief). Now we only have to define the term “Emuna”
and all of life becomes a Tzedaka box for HASHEM.
The word “Emunah” is often translated as “belief” or “faith”. For sure
something is lost in the translation. Those words carry the connotation of a
shallow, blind, or even foolish acceptance of something that can’t be seen
or proven. There might be some elements of truth there but it is woefully
incomplete. “Emunah” represents an attitude of faithfulness, a disciplined
loyalty to a notion one knows is true.
Let us say that I want one of my children to clean his or her room and to
incentivize them I offer a reward like a big chocolate bar. Some kids will
agitate for hours because they harbor multilayered doubts about the size,
flavor, or existence of the chocolate bar. It may just be a sophisticated
form of laziness but in the end everyone is frustrated and the task remains
undone and unrewarded and the kid says having fulfilled the negative prophecy, “Aha! I knew there was no chocolate bar all along!?
Another child completes the job and gets the chocolate bar without
questions. What a relief! This is an “Emuna” approach. I am extremely
grateful when that happens. I have a giant closet filled with goodies.
They’re all mine. I can clean the room myself! The only thing I can’t give
myself is the trust that the child who dutifully does the task offers.
That’s “Emunah”! It can be a real form of “Tzedaka” even to HASHEM.
When Uri Zohar was stepping away from his career of comedic entertainment to
immerse himself in a new found life of Torah learning and Mitzvos his old
friends begged him to leave them with a parting joke. This was it: A couple
of religious fellows were riding around on a motorcycle when they caught the
attention of a secular policeman. Wanting to catch them in some infraction
he quietly stalked them for a good length of time but failed to find one
fault in their driving conduct. They stopped at every sign and signaled
appropriately while staying within the boundaries of the speed limit. In
utter frustration the policeman pulled them over to the side of the road and
asked them, “How did you manage to keep all the traffic laws so perfectly?”
The driver answered, “What are you talking about!? How could we violate the
law? G-d is with us in whatever we do!” To which the officer responded,
“Aha! I’ve got you now! Having three on a motorcycle is against the law!”
The Baal Shem Tov had said the following parable: A musician was once
playing a most beautiful melody with wondrous rhythm and all the sweetness
of the world. Those who heard the song were jumping and dancing with extreme
joy. A deaf man entered an unable to hear the music judged all of the people
to be insane. If he had been wise he would have would have reasoned that
there was wondrous music at play and he too might have joined in the joyous
and festive dancing.
Avrham Avinu moved about in a world deaf to HASHEM. In spite of the tidal
waves of constant opposition he persisted with unyielding “Emuna”, reliably
responsive to HASHEM’s every command and quieted by His promises! That’s