What is the Jewish Belief?
By Yekutial Greenberg
The word in Hebrew that is commonly translated
as belief is "emmuna". Where as the word "emmuna"
is translated freely and is accepted as meaning "belief,"
there is really a large gap between the meaning of "emmuna"
and the meaning of "belief."
Belief is an acceptance of something that
can not necessarily be known, either now or later. As an example,
if I were to construct a chair and ask you to sit on it, you would
have to have a certain confidence in my ability to construct a
chair that would support your weight. This confidence could be
termed belief. You believe in my abilities to construct a chair
that would support your weight.
This belief can be borne out only by your
sitting on the chair. If you do not sit on the chair, you only
belief that the chair is a sturdy item. The knowledge remains
in the realm of belief. There are deeper concepts that are based
on belief, that can not be ascertained. We believe that black
holes in the sky are colossal stars whose enormous gravitational
pull can bend even light. This can not be proven, it is a conjecture
or a theory. We believe that it is correct.
different. Do you believe that you have a father? Each person
has a father. Most people are blessed with seeing their fathers.
Some are not so fortunate. Yet, all know that they have a father.
Every person whose father left them before they were born knows
that he has a father. Why? Because this is a knowledge based not
on belief, but upon attachment or connection. The relationship
between the father and son or daughter is not a relationship that
is based upon belief. It is a relationship that is based upon
A person knows that he must have a father.
Why? Because it is impossible to exist unless he has a father.
It is not merely a condition of existence, but of attachment.
In addition to the physical genetic connection, each person has
an attachment to his father in a manner that compliments the physical
circumstances of birth.
Although a person is indeed flesh and blood from his father (and
mother). He inherits an additional dimension. This dimension extends
into the psyche of the son (or daughter). The special manner in
which the father's mind reasons, thinks and leans is passed on
in some degree to the son. This inherited faculty can be seen
in children who have really no connection to their parents. It
means that the child will resemble the parent not only in a physical
mode, but in an intellectual, emotional and mental modes.
We know that there are three contributors to each child. Whereas
the father, the mother and G-d. The father and mother provide
the physical aspects of the body thereby creating another being
of flesh and blood; G-d provides the soul.
The soul is a G-dly spark that descends from G-d himself. Without
the soul, the body is lifeless. We know the soul exists since
we are witnesses to a living person and yet, later see him after
the soul has left. The body is amazingly the same, but lacks the
animation that it once possessed. Why? Because that spark of G-dliness
that came into that body has departed, leaving the body with out
its life force intact. The physical body still exists, we see
it with our eyes, but it is no longer the person it was. It does
not possess a soul.
The soul does more than just giving life to the body. The soul
is not just an electric spark that has gone out. The soul
is a piece of G-d. Certainly it animates the body; but in addition,
it is a connection directly to G-d. This second aspect of the
soul is as important as the first
The connection on the person to his father was established from
the physical sperm that grew together with the mother's egg and
developed into a physical being. The soul parallels that physical
aspect, albeit in a spiritual manner.
The soul provides us with our connection to our spiritual creator.
Not only does it provide us with this connection to our spiritual
source, but that source is never broken. That means that the connection
is still there. We can actualize this connection in the spiritual
mode to understand and come close to our spiritual father. Like
we can know our father's physical, mental and emotional characteristics
by knowing our own characteristics, so too, we can know G-d.
In the same manner that a person who has never seen his father,
can recognize him. This is because his physical build, his emotional
conduct, his mental process will be similar to the son's. So too,
in the spiritual sense, we can connect to our spiritual father.
We have an unbroken link to G-d. It does not require any belief
to feel that he exists, it is an accepted fact by the soul that
it is indeed true. What however, is often needed, is a renewal
or polishing up of this connection. It is not a connection that
can be broken or lost. As long as we have our souls intact, we
What generally happens, unfortunately, is that through misuse,
the soul's function to connect to the divine source is not giving
us that connection. This is common, and like an electrical connection
that due to miss-use or neglect corrodes, so too, the soul. When
we use the soul to see the working of G-d in the world around
us, than the connection remains strong and valid. When however,
we begin to view the world as devoid of spiritual values, then
corrosion seeps in.
To recharge that connection, we must re-train ourselves to see
the physical world as an extension of the spiritual world. The
more we permit ourselves to view the world as an extension of
G-d, the more our soul and spiritual side begin to make an impact
on our lives. This awakening causes a spiritual growth resulting
in a view of the world that is a spiritual environment.
This is the definition of "emmuna". This is the
difference between "emmuna" and belief, the difference
between believing and connecting.
from the October 1998 Edition of the Jewish Magazine