Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Holy Fire of Faith

Much of my after-school elementary Jewish education focused on the Holocaust. We visited the Holocaust Memorial in Miami, we heard stories from survivors, and we watched the movie “Escape from Sobibor.” But never did we speak about maintaining faith in the face of evil.

It wasn’t until I opened up “Aish Kodesh,” (Holy Fire) by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, that I was able to learn this message.

His insights into the infamous story of the scouts that we read in Parshat Shelach offer a powerful model for faith under duress.

The spies return from Canaan and give their report to the waiting nation: The people living there are too strong for us; we saw giants, and the walls of their city are too high!

Calev, himself a member of the scouts, gives a simple rebuttal: We can do it.

Asks the Rebbe: The spies had a logical concern about entering the land. Why didn’t Calev give a pointed response to their report, instead of just saying, “Let’s go”?

There are times when logic challenges faith. But the point at which no rational hope exists should not be the end of one’s faith; this is the time for its deepest expression. God is above the realm of natural law, and in a second our salvation can come. We cannot let our intellect barricade real faith.

This is Calev’s message to the nation: true, logically we are militarily outmatched; but this is not a time for intellectual calculations; this is a time to act on faith according to the word of God. We can do it.

The Rebbe’s words take a different tone when we consider them in the context of the death and destruction he faced. However, the message is one we can relate to in our daily lives. Logic should certainly be our guiding principle, yet there comes a point when we must recognize its limitations and embrace simple faith.

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