Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 First Faiths- How do move forward after emunah peshuta is gone

The wannabe intellectual in me is a little embarrassed to admit that I saw a movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and very embarrassed to use the film to discuss religion. Still, “50 First Dates” is where I begin today’s post. In the movie, Sandler’s character falls in love with Barrymore’s character, and after a while things click. It is only afterwards that Sandler discovers that Barrymore has short term amnesia and forgets him and much else each evening. This leads to him having to get her to fall in love with him anew each date, and thus, 50 “first” dates.

There is something very beautiful about emunah peshuta, that simple level of faith in which there is only belief, and there are no questions or doubts. It is somewhat analogous to that time period when young children see their parents as perfect and invincible. One’s davening is pure, and shemiras hamitzvos seems almost as natural as breathing. For many people, emunah peshuta does not last. Just as the young child discovers that his father really isn’t the strongest man in the world, the maamin discovers that there are challenging questions that exist, and information that might lead to doubts. What then?

Once emunah peshuta is lost, the relationship changes. Gone is the bumpless road, where not only is the destination obvious, but so too is the way to get there. What once came naturally, now involves work. What works today, might not work tomorrow.

Being that I was open about the two years when I struggled with my faith, I am often asked for help by people who are struggling with their emunah. Which rabbi gave me all the answers? Which book showed me that my doubts had no basis? Can you please help me get back my emunah peshuta? Of course, I can’t help in that way. No person or book has all the answers, and there is no way to make the questions go away, so what is one to do?

To me the answer seems obvious. The first thing is recognize that one can not go back. Someone who is struggling needs to recognize that if they are going to develop a sophisticated belief system, it will take hard work, and not just once. There is no one who can solve the problem for you. Your questions are often different, and even when they are not, what works for another person, will rarely work for you.

So what did I do? I read a lot. I reached out to smart people and others who had struggled. I davened for help. I worked very hard until I was able to believe again. It was tough, and frustrating, and there are still times when I have do more work, and I suspect there always will be. It would be nice to be able to just “fall in love” just once and know that it will last. The reality is that while you probably won’t have to discover God anew each day, you are certainly going to have to discover Him many more times.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think we use the phrase "emunah peshutah" the same way.

    To me, emunah peshutah is about having G-d as a real Presence in your life. It's not a simple, pure, naive, pre-philosophic belief, it's an entirely different entity. I would some it up with something R/Dr Sholom Carmy once posted on Avodah:
    "The people who keep insisting that it's necessary to prove things about G-d, including His existence, seem to take it for granted that devising these proofs is identical with knowing G-d.
    "Now if I know a human being personally the last thing I'd do, except as a purely intellectual exercise, is prove his or her existence."

    Knowing G-d, rather than knowing about G-d.

    It's not something easy to achieve but hard to hold on to; it's a huge challenge to first get to emunah peshutah.