I Believe – Ani Ma’amim

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Can we Say in Faith “I Believe”

 

Faith is life lived in the light of His Love!

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

I thought that in this little study that I might use - “Ani Ma’amim” - “I believe” - to say what we as Jews should believe. For lived in faith is what we should be seeking!

“Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant, , according unto Thy Word. Teach me good discernment and knowledge; for I have believed in Thy commandments. Before I was afflicted, I did err; but now I observe Thy Word. Thou art good, and doest good; teach me Thy statutes” Tehillim – Psalms 119:65-68 (“Jewish Publication Society” (JPS) version of the Tanakh).

I have always strongly believed that faith is part of what makes us human, for it is a basic attitude of trust that always goes beyond the regular evidence that is available to us, but without which we would do nothing of any great value. I addition, without faith in one another we could not risk the vulnerability of love. Without faith in the future we would never choose to have children. Without faith in the creation of the earth and the universe we would not do science. Without faith in our fellow beings we would not have a free society.

“The righteous (or the just) shall live by his faith” Chavaqquq - Habakkuk 2:4 (JPS).

Sustaining it all is our love and faith in our Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, Who created the Universe in love, Who made every human being regardless of colour, creed or class, in His Image, who lifts us when we fall. He forgives us when we fail and asks us to place love at the centre of our moral world: love of neighbour, love of stranger, love of our one and only Creator, Elohim!

A person who seeks for proof before he or she is willing to have faith simply does not understand that faith always, believe it or not, involves risk. It is always possible to live without it, but such a life is, in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’s’ words, “cabined, cribbed, confined, bound … (by) doubts and fears”. Without faith in people they become cynics. Without faith in financial institutions people simply stop investing and economies tend to founder. Without faith in our fellow citizens democratic freedoms also tend to die.

Without faith in Elohim, blessed be He, the Universe will become a meaningless mess, and let us be honest, the world at large is already without faith, and what condition do you see that it is in right now? Indeed it is in a hideous mess!

Without faith, my friends, life ceases to have an objective purpose, for human life is no longer sacred, nor are our promises, duties and responsibilities worthwhile. Those who lose their faith tend to become individualistic and relativist and become very self-seeking and self-sustaining. At first it will seem like a great liberation, but ultimately it leads to a breakdown of trust, and without trust, societies suffer randomness: a loss of energy and order, leading to decline and even a total decay.

Just look back to the Grecian’s, whose greatness in the fifth and fourth centuries of the pre-Christian era was unsurpassed, in the 3rd century BC a society they became a sorry band of lost cynics, sceptics, stoics and epicureans whose glory faded with the most frightening speed. The Europe of the Enlightenment, placing its faith in the power of science, eventually fell to the twin idolatries of nation and race, fighting two world wars and leaving tens of millions dead. Soviet communism, the greatest ever attempt to build a society on scientific principle and social engineering, crushed human freedom until it collapsed under its own dead weight.

If our faith in Elohim means anything, it means humility toward oneself and the love of your neighbour and the stranger.

“ … but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am Vayikra – Leviticus 19:18 (“Jewish Publication Society” (JPS) version of the Torah).

Sadly faith has not always led to these things. It can sometimes lead to self-righteousness and hatred of another. The history of religion has fact too often been written in blood-shed in the Name of Elohim or some deity, and this was not a consecration but a desecration.

Today in many parts of the world I see religion confused with the pursuit of power, as if that whole tragic history has been forgotten. The blessed Hebrew Tanakh tells us that power only belongs to our Creator, Elohim who uses it to liberate the powerless. Religion has nothing to do with power and everything to do with the Holy and the righteous and the pursuit of justice and compassion. But when religion and politics become confused the result is usually disastrous for both.

It amazes me, for there are angry atheists in the world and they are so far from being profound, they are like humourless individuals and they even wonder why people laugh at a joke. Their attitudes have nothing to do with science and everything to do with a failure of imagination. It is true we need science to tell us how the world is and religion to tell us how the world ought to be. Thus both are necessary. Each properly understood can enhance our respect for the other.

Faith is understood in the living and proved in the doing. We encounter the Divine Presence in prayer and through our keeping the Mitzvoth, as well as the wonderful stories and yes through songs. These all lift us beyond ourselves toward the infinite.

Elohim is at the very heart of our being, who teaches us to see His trace in the face of the other human beings, leading us to acts of loving kindness that make gentle the life of this world. Faith is the bond of loyalty and listening that binds us to our ever-loving Elohim, blessed be He, and through Him to humanity.

Remember, that Faith is life lived in the light of His love!

Always remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

 

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