What is "belief in G-d"?

“Do you believe in G-d?”


Most people think the answer to this question is either “yes” or “no”.


Some people may go back and forth as to what their answer is.  “Yesterday I believed in G-d, but today…”


It’s as if belief is something you have to vote on, either check “Yes I believe” or “No, I don’t believe”.


If someone believes in G-d while everything is good, but then doesn’t believe in G-d when bad things happen, or vice versa, what does that say about their belief when they were a “believer”?


The truth is that belief in G-d is a spectrum.  It’s a muscle, that can be strengthened or weakened.


Let me illustrate this with a teaching from the Talmud:

“Getting angry is like bowing down to an idol”


Anger=Idolatry?!  What does that mean?


The answer is very simple:  If a person really believes in a G-d worth believing in, how could they get angry?  Isn’t everything in the hands of G-d?  Doesn’t G-d have my best interest in mind?  Doesn’t G-d have the ability to give me what’s good?


Of course, many believers lose it sometimes and get angry, but that’s why belief in G-d is a spectrum.  In my moment of anger, my belief in G-d is weak.  Sometimes, when my belief is strong, it can carry me through a stressful time without fear, anxiety or anger.


And it’s not that belief in G-d is a self-serving exercise to reduce stress.  Reduced stress and anger is a fringe benefit of truly believing in G-d.


Strengthening our belief in G-d takes study, practice and help.


Study:

If all I know about G-d is that I believe in Him, how am I supposed to maintain my belief through the ups and downs of life?  Who is this G-d that I believe in?  


The teachings of Chassidus explain in depth, from many angles who G-d is, what kind of existence He has, and in turn, what my existence is, and how I fit into the world.


Chovos Halevavos-Shaar Habitachon is a book that was written in Arabic, around 1,000 years ago.  In it, Rabbi Ibn Pekuda explains the parameters for when and how people should trust in G-d.  


It’s important to note that while this book explains the “what” and “when” of belief, he doesn’t really explain the “how”.  Chassidus is really the only way to brand belief of G-d into our bodies and consciousness, and not just staying mainly dormant in our souls (which was done during the 10 plaques, splitting of the sea and 10 Commandments).


Practice:

Life has ups and downs.  Easy times and stressful times.  Times with more pressure and times with less pressure.


My whole life is full of projects:  Building a community center, building a monthly minyan, and a whole list of things.  I also have family projects, like getting my children to read, ride bikes, and helping them with whatever else they need me for.  I also have personal projects, like my own study, keeping my weight in check, and strengthening my belief in G-d.


Every project has good days and bad days.  Sometimes the building goes better, and sometimes it feels stagnant.  Some days we seem to make a lot of progress in reading, and some days are just frustrating.  Some days I’m in good control of my eating, and some days I just lose it.  Finally, some days my belief in G-d is strong and I don’t get stressed, angry or anxious.  And some days I slip.


But the good news is that I can always work on it again tomorrow.  To be frank, a year and a half ago, I was getting really stressed about not having the money for the building.  My personal failure of not “believing” was perhaps even worse than not having the money we needed.


Lately, thank G-d, the building fund has been doing well, and it’s easier to believe.  But a month ago, the regular operating account got very low.  I was so proud of myself for not getting stressed about it at all.  I knew what needed to be done, and without any panic or anxiety, I did the work as much as time allowed for, without compromising on my other commitments to G-d and my family, and Baruch Hashem, things are back in a better space.


Help:

Even the best sports players need a coach.  Someone who knows how to bring out the best in them, and can encourage them to maximize their potential.  In a similar way, even “believers” need to be fed more belief and faith.


This is the job of a Rebbe.  


And this is what Moses, the first Rebbe, did in the desert.


The Jews were definitely flawed and their belief in G-d had it’s ups and downs, kind of like most of us have today.  But Moses knew how to respond.  He listened to their complaints, no matter how petty, and paved a path forward.


Moses constantly reassured us that G-d would take care of us, and encouraged us to maximize our potential as people and Jews.


This coming Tuesday will mark 30 years since the Rebbe’s passing.  I will be taking Mendel to NY with me for one day to visit his resting place and pray for all of us.


It is a day to reflect on how the Rebbe is still, today, fulfilling his job of being the coach of the Jewish people.  


Here are some things you can do to invite the Rebbe to be your personal “belief coach”:

  1. Read a book about the Rebbe’s approach to the world (Rebbe & Towards a Meaningful Life are my favorites, at least in English…)

  2. Watch a video of the Rebbe and let him feed you faith (Natanya & are subscribed to jem.tv, but you can watch free vidoes on youtube.com/@JewishMedia

  3. Join the Shabbos morning class on belief in G-d.  Every Shabbos at 9 AM.


This week we’ll be having a BIG minyan and you’re invited.  Please see the schedule below:


All the best,


Rabbi Yonasan & Natanya Abrams

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