Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to believe.
Let me explain.
When Moses brought the news of the long-awaited redemption to the Jewish People, did the people believe Moses or not?
In one verse, Torah praises them by declaring that they believed him. In another verse, Torah sighs and says, “They did not listen to Moses, from shortness of breath and difficult labor.”
So did they or did they not?
The answer is as much a statement about them and their faith as it is a lesson for us about ourselves and our faith.
They certainly believed. That much is made abundantly clear by Torah.
In fact, G-d even reprimands Moses for his seemingly reasonable and logical question: “What if they don’t believe me?” G-d’s response is something along the lines of, “Don’t be ridiculous, of course they’ll believe you.” So that point is made moot. Of course they believed him.
But what to make of the Torah itself reporting that the Jews “didn’t listen to Moses”?
Each of us is endowed with a body and a soul. The soul is divine, a spark of G-d, and even more than believe, it sees. It has no need to believe because it can see the Divine and G-d’s reality like I can see the sky or the birds. That’s the soul.
The body is another matter. Although it has the honor of housing the soul, it isn’t blessed with the soul’s vision and is quite nearsighted and obtuse.
So when the soul speaks to its body about lofty matters, the body either rejects it or accepts it on faith. And then it’s left up to the mind to go with the soul’s vision, the body’s faith or the body’s skepticism.
This is why it is entirely possible for a person to mistake the body’s exhaustion and suffering for a lack of faith. While the soul and its faith and vision are intact, the body is struggling under its load and toils to understand the soul.
That’s not human skepticism. That’s human nature.
This is why it’s a folly for a person to proclaim that he or she doesn’t believe. It’s a simplistic and pessimistic statement about a complex and generally positive situation.
There is always a part of every person that not only believes, but sees. For the body to reject it is one thing; but for the thinking mind to reject it is slightly less rational.
The mind — when given the peace of mind and tranquility necessary for presence of mind — can analyze the situation and gather what’s happening here. The soul is with G-d, the body is overwhelmed by the current circumstances, and the mind calmly assesses and concludes that faith is still more rational, even as the body toils to connect with it.
The mind knows: the soul is as much mine as is the body. The faith is mine just as much as the darkness is.
And so the Jewish People believed. Even as their slavery and exhaustion made it a struggle to even hear Moses’ comforting message, they knew that they believed, and they took comfort in that faith. Even as their bodies screamed out in pain and confusion, their souls soothed them with the knowledge that the redemption was near and G-d was with them.
Each of us needs to meditate on this message and find the inspiration contained in it. In the Shema we read, “You shall love G-d with all your heart and all your soul.” Torah mentions them separately to validate what we already know: They’re not always on the same page. And that’s OK.
The broken heart mustn’t shatter the inspired soul. And the inspired soul mustn’t ignore or reject the tears of the heart.
Together, as a team, they serve G-d in perfect imperfection.
Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to believe. PJC
Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel is executive director of the Aleph Institute — North East Regional Headquarters. This column is a service of Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.