This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman. May it be an aliyah for his neshama.
By Elisheva Maline
There are five official levels of emuna and bitachon. Rabbi Dessler, the founder of Gates head Yeshiva (an institution for learning Torah in the north of England), details how these five levels look. In order to get to bitachon, faith in action, one has to first work on his emuna, the esoteric belief that G-d is One and that He alone runs the world, constantly. Once a person has mastered the first three, he has already scaled the gates to bitachon. However. you can't have one before the other. As the story in the previous article indicated, the spectators couldn't even begin to trust the tightrope walker's ability to get one of them across the tightrope if they didn't believe he could do it himself first. You don't experience faith in action without first training yourself that G-d runs the world and that He knows what's best for you.
Level number one instructs us in training ourselves to include G-d in our daily lexicon. Saying things like, “Thank G-d,” “Please G-d,” “If G-d wills it,” and “With the help of G-d,” encourages us to think about G-d more often. This step is crucial in that it changes how we think. We live with the belief that we need to be in control. But we're not. And wanting something that cannot be is apt to make us extremely anxious. A false belief system is difficult to relenquish, though, so Rabbi Dessler advises, fake it till you make it. If you include G-d in your [external] vocabulary, eventually, you'll start experiencing Him in your life on a daily basis as well.
Once you master the first level, the second one is a more internal experience; it's somewhat of a meditation: take time to analyze something, anything in particular. It could be an apple, a leaf, a cat's paw, the sunset, the human eye etc. Notice how it functions in relation to the rest of the creation. For instance, “the skin of the apple is superior to the most cunning man-made packaging. The fruit skin contains oil which renders it waterproof, and it is not affected by the heavy rains during the months of growth and ripening... by its color it indicates the state of ripeness. As long as the skin is green it advertises the unfitness of the contents for food; and when the fruit has become edible and is ready for use, the skin turns red... The color also has the important function of making the fruit attractive, to arouse the appetite... Just as the beauty of young people is planned for the encouragement of procreation, so is the beauty of the apple planned to encourage eating” (Rejoice O Youth by R' Avigdor Miller). The second level of emuna also includes taking a closer look at one's personal inner world. The worst parts of ourselves, fueled by the evil inclination, usually have patterns that draw us away from the reality of G-d's being in charge and essentially it draws us away from our personal mission. Therefore, getting an awareness of the darkness that resides within each and every one of us helps us attain purposefulness in creation as well, that is, gaining the resolve to conquer evil. In so doing, we bring a brighter revelation of G-d into this world.
The third level comes in three parts; mastering this level will bring you to a state of kedusha, holiness.
- There is open acknowledgment that an objective truth exists out there. Not only that but you will stop at nothing to uncover and follow that truth.
- You will do whatever it takes to break the habits that your evil inclination foists on you, whether they be low self esteem, selfishness, thoughtlessness, sadness, lethargy, lack of motivation, a desire to indulge in certain self destructive habits etc.
- You commit yourself to personally discovering what objective truth is. After all, you can't cleave to what you don't know or understand. Go find a Rabbi, a friend or a friendly neighbor and shack up in your local Orthodox synagogue. If you're asking, “Why should I bother?” the general rule is that the things you sweat for are the things that become more a part of you. If you want G-d to be a concrete reality in your life, you must take time to get to know Him first, through His teachings and laws
Still breathing? Good. You've arrived at door number four. We have cookies here. That's because we're celebrating the fact that you've reached the level that is an expression of faith in action. You've asked all your questions, you've dealt with all your personal hangups - you get it. G-d runs the world. On an intellectual level, you're satisfied. Now, you can put the pedal to the metal – get out there and show G-d how faithful you are. That is, any time you get caught up in an emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually uncomfortable position you remind yourself of what you already know to be true, that every day is an opportunity to reveal the glory of G-d in this world. Here's an easy example: you're a business man who was just informed that his flight has been delayed five hours and that there's nothing he can do about it. Do you panic, get frustrated and yell at airport personnel or do you choose to stay calm, reminding yourself that G-d's in charge and that everything He does is not only for the best but to bring out the best in you? While it's not simple to maintain equilibrium in the moment, it will ultimately bring peace of mind.
The fifth and final level is to live and breath the reality that, “I have G-d placed before me always,” and to think and act accordingly. These are the steps necessary to living an anxious free lifestyle. If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments.