Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Virtue of Faith Despite Adversity

A while ago, I wrote a post, “Why Is Faith a Virtue?” Particularly faith in the face of adversity. Why is the greatest tzaddik in the frum world the person who, despite personal tragedy, holds on to their emunah?

I think I have an answer. From conversations that I have had with various frum people I have gotten the impression that many believe that everyone sees the world the same way they do. One person told me outright that “The goyim don’t really believe in their religions the way a frum person has emunah in Hashem.” In their view, everyone really believes in Hashem. The only reason someone wouldn’t believe is if they are pretending. They’ll even say that sometimes a person will pretend so well that he will fool himself into really thinking that he doesn’t believe, but deep down he knows that Hashem in the Borie Olam and Yiddishkeit is the Truth.

As an aside, this might also answer a question I’ve had in Chumash. The meforshim condemn Pharaoh for his answer to Moshe’s demand in the name of Hashem to free the Bnie Yisroel: “Who is this God you speak of?” From Pharaoh’s point of view, this is a perfectly legitimate question. There is even a medrash that says he looked through a book of gods and didn’t find Hashem’s name there. The Egyptians had a whole pantheon of gods, and knew the pantheons of other nations. Why should Pharaoh, the embodiment of Ra on Earth, take orders from a god of slaves, a god whom he had never heard of?

The answer could be in the belief I cited above that everyone really, deep down, knows that Hashem is the Borei Olam. Everyone, even Pharaoh. (Never mind that he had legitimately never heard of Hashem. He just KNEW.) So Pharaoh not bowing to Hashem’s will, and worse, having the audacity to ask who He is, is evil.

In the same way, a person who experiences a tragic event doesn’t go through a logical process where he decides that an omni-benevolent God wouldn’t do such a thing, and therefore decides God doesn’t exist. At best, he knows that God exists, but he’s angry with God, and so refuses to acknowledge Him out of spite. Contrast this with someone who experiences a tragedy and continues to trust in God.

Remember, legitimate disbelief is not a real option. A person either believes and continues to trust in God, or believes and pretends he doesn’t out of anger/spite. Which of these attitudes is the more virtuous? Clearly, the more socially useful (in a non-democratic society anyway), and therefore virtuous attitude, is continued trust in a leader despite an apparently tragic mistake.


  1. Very true. I recently had a similar post in the sense that I keep on thinking everyone is like me. And I continually keep on making that mistake. Everyone is different.

  2. > The only reason someone wouldn’t believe is if they are pretending.
    very interesting post. It explains why when i told my father in law 'm an atheist, his response was:
    "You're not an atheist. You don't know it yet."