Friday, October 28, 2011

Kahana - An immutable faith

Rav Nachman Kahana
28 October '11

(This is Part B from the Rav's commentary on this weeks Torah portion, Noach. I've heard him speak more than once, and been left with the feeling of having heard something that I should be holding onto. I think this piece also meets that criteria. The full piece can be read by clicking here. Y.)

The College for National Security is Israel’s most prestigious school for the training of our future military and other security organization leaders. It is here where the participants are trained in thinking “out of the box”; where people who are used to think in terms of “millions” are trained to think in terms of “trillions”.

One cannot apply to attend this course. The participants are recommended by their superiors based on mental acumen and accomplishments in their respective fields.

We now have a very close relative presently in the course.

On Monday of this week, the entire course came to the Chazon Yechezkel Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City, where I serve as the rabbi.

They were dressed casually. No no one could have guessed that among them were high-ranking soldiers, as well as men whose activities will never be revealed. Several wore kippot and others requested kippot. They had very intense looks on their faces, and their questions showed that every detail of my talk was being carefully scrutinized.

It is at times like this and with people like these, where I perceive the great distinction between religious practice and faith.

A religious person is one who goes through all the movements and motions of the halacha. Yet it is possible that he or she possesses little or no faith in HaShem. And the opposite is also true. One can maintain a huge degree of faith in HaShem, yet not practice the do’s and do not’s of the Torah.

Most of the men who were sitting in the bet knesset are not “religious” in the accepted sense; yet each and every one believes in the God of Israel, and has immutable faith in the eternal future of the Jewish people in Medinat Yisrael.

On the other side of the spiritual spectrum, many “religious” Jews in the galut, including well-known rabbinic figures, are halachic practitioners but they question the miracles occurring in front of their eyes. They have little faith in HaShem’s promise as stated in the words of the prophets that He will return the scattered of Am Yisrael home to Eretz Yisrael. They prefer the warmth and comfort of the galut rather than expose their family and students to the unsure and “dangerous” realities of life in the Holy Land. They are religious but have no faith. There are very many people in the Medina who are not “religious” for a myriad of reasons, but 99% carry in their heart the unexplainable faith that we have miraculously returned home never to be exiled again.

My message to the unique men attending this course was one that they will take with them in the future.

The message was that they come with a broad perspective of Medinat Yisrael from a security, governmental and international point of view, while I come from a Torah perspective. But at the end of the day we will meet at the point of agreement. As with a circle, where the further the two sides deviate from the starting point, they ultimately meet.

I told them that at the end of the course, when the circumstances, details, facts, figures and statistics of the Medina will be evident to them, they will conclude that the establishment of the Medina, its history and development to this very day cannot be understood in rational political, economic, military and social terms. But are the obvious results of an “Invisible Hand” that hovers over the people in Eretz Yisrael.

I call that hand Hashem, others call it the unique forces of Jewish history, but we will all conclude that the establishment, survival and advancement of the State is unprecedented in human history, and the development of Israel to this day has no logical explanation.

All the men sitting in the bet knesset have total faith in the God of the Jewish nation, though most were not religious practitioners.

I believe that in the eyes of our Father in Heaven, their spiritual level is far, far higher than those who practice the Halacha but without absolute faith in HaShem.

A short story to demonstrate religion without faith:

A man was climbing a high mountain, when night fell and the pouring rain resulted in zero visibility. He slipped and began falling to certain death. Suddenly he put out his hand and grabbed a branch jutting out from the mountainside, and found himself suspended between heaven and earth.

He began to pray for salvation. A thunderous voice emerged from nowhere. “Do you believe in Me?” HaShem asked.”I believe with every sinew in my body that You can save me”, he answered.

“In that case,” thundered the voice, “LET GO!”

The following morning, they found the man dead, hanging from the branch. He had died of hypothermia, when between him and solid ground was a distance of only one meter.

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