The Way of Faith: Love as Loyalty
In this seventh unit we will explore the path to God through Faith, using texts that Rabbi Sacks has selected and written. Faith and our relationship with God are such challenging areas for Jewish educators that all too often they are avoided altogether. It is our hope that the direction taken here will allow educators and students together to explore in a spirit of honesty and openness the critical questions of belief, faith, and approach to a relationship to God, in an open, appropriate, and constructive way. As Rabbi Sacks says about faith itself, it takes a courageous educator to allow space in the classroom for challenging, questioning, and honest and open inquiry into issues of faith and God, and we hope that this unit will provide the framework for that to happen.
Judaism is an unusual, subtle, profoundly humane faith that challenges the conventional wisdom of the ages. Faith is the courage Abraham and Sarah showed when they heard the call of God and left behind all they had known to travel to an unknown destination. Faith led more than a hundred generations of our ancestors to continue that journey, knowing all the risks yet believing that there is no greater privilege than to be part of it. Faith is the voice that says, ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me.’
Faith sustained Jews in the dark days of persecution. It led them never to give up hope that one day they would to return to Israel, to Jerusalem and to freedom. Jews kept faith alive and faith kept the Jewish people alive.
Faith is not certainty. It is the courage to live with uncertainty. It is not knowing all the answers. It is often the strength to live with the questions. It is not a sense of invulnerability. It is the knowledge that we are utterly vulnerable, but that it is precisely in our vulnerability that we reach out to God, and through this learn to reach out to others, able to understand their fears and doubts. We learn to share, and in sharing discover the road to freedom. It is only because we are not gods that we are able to discover God.
God is the personal dimension of existence, the ‘Thou’ beneath the ‘It’, the ‘Ought’ beyond the ‘Is’, the Self that speaks to self in moments of total disclosure. Opening ourselves to the universe we find God reaching out to us. At that moment we make the life-changing discovery that though we seem utterly insignificant, we are utterly significant, a fragment of God’s presence in the world. Eternity preceded us, infinity will come after us, yet we know that this day, this moment, this place, this circumstance, is full of the light of infinite radiance, whose proof is the mere fact that we are here to experience it.
Faith is where God and human beings touch across the abyss of infinity. Emunah means faithfulness, love-as-loyalty. The closest analogue is marriage: a mutual commitment, entered into in love, binding the partners together in fidelity and trust. God chose us; we chose God; and though our relationship has sometimes been tense and troubled, the bond between us is unbreakable.
Knowing, we are known. Feeling, we are felt. Acting, we are acted upon. Living, we are lived. And if we make ourselves transparent to existence, then our lives too radiate that Divine presence which, celebrating life, gives life to those whose lives we touch.
Faith is the space we create for God.
The educational aims for this unit are for students to:
- be encouraged to think about and explore their personal relationship with God.
- consider the role of faith in Judaism, and their own faith journeys.
- consider the value of questioning, and that there are some questions with no answers.
- understand the notion that it takes courage to live with questions, and that is one definition of faith.
- consider the role and impact of Jewish history in our faith journeys.
- consider that faith is finding space for God, and begin learning the skills of how to do that.