Archive for the 'Emunah' Category

Blessing of Emunah: Reflections of Faith, Fidelity, & Trust for Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah

Over the years people have asked me what we named our eldest daughter. After they hear the name, Emunah, they usually ask me what that means. I know the simple answer would be ‘faith’, but that does not exactly speak to our intention. While I am a Rabbi, faith has not been something that comes easily to me and not a name that I not necessarily wish upon our daughter. I found this quote by Martin Buber in his book Two Types of Faith that seems to get a little closer. Buber writes:

This ‘existential’ characteristic of Emunah is not sufficiently expressed in the translation ‘faith’, although the verb often does mean to believe לְהַאֲמִין (to believe someone, to believe a thing). It must further be noticed that the conception includes the two aspects of a reciprocity of permanence: the active, ‘fidelity’, and the receptive, ’trust’. If we wish to do justice to the intention of the spirit of the language which is so expressed, then we ought not to understand ’trust’ merely in a psychical [soulful] sense, as we do not with ’fidelity’. The soul is as fundamentally concerned in the one as in the other, but is decisive for both that the disposition of the soul should become an attitude of life. Both, fidelity and trust, exist in the actual realm of relationship between two persons. Only in the full actuality of such a relationship can one be both loyal and trusting.

(Two Types of Faith 28-29)

In this way, Emunah is less theological, philosophical, or axiomatic and more relational. 

Seeing that my name is Avram, I always yearned for that “Hey” of God to complete me. Belief might not come naturally,  but I feel that Buber’s ‘relational faith’ is one that I can strive for and work on. In so many ways, you,  Emunah, are my “Hey”. Thank you Emunah. Thank you for the person you are, the person you are becoming, and the person you make me want to be. 

In our founding Emunah narrative, God took Avram outside in the dessert and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them”, “So shall your offspring be.” By design this is an impossible task. No one could count all of those starts. But Avram did it anyway:

וְהֶאֱמִ֖ן And he put his trust in God,who reckoned it to his merit.

(Genesis 15:5-6)

Emunah- While we still hope that you continue to develop a deep relationship with God, we are more interested in your deeds than your creed. 

In the spirit of Buber, your Mami and I strive to model for you healthy and open relationships with each other, our family, our community, and the world. We love you and bless you with all of these deep relationships in your life. You are emerging as someone who is thoughtful, caring, and “both loyal and trusting”. May you be blessed like Avraham Avinu in being worthy of trust. There is nothing you cannot accomplish when you step out and cast your eyes to heaven. This will be reckoned to you for merit. We expect great things from you.

Mazel Tov – Emunah

Other posts I have written about Emi over the years:

  1. Dear Child to Me: On Emunah and this Blog
  2. Little Birdy: Emunah and Protecting Our Children
  3. 7 Years of Emunah: Reflections on Faith and Fidelity
  4. Emunah Second Birthday
  5. Our Type of Emunah
  6. Our Blessing for Emunah
  7. Fearless: On Emunah’s Bat Mitvah and being a Nazir

Fearless: On Emunah’s Bat Mitvah and being a Nazir

In memory of our friend Sheryl Grossman z”l and in preparation for Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah I learned the mishnayot of Sotah and Nazir. It seemed fitting as they both appear prominently in Naso, Emunah’s Torah portion. There in Nazir we conclude the mishna with an interesting and unusual aggadic statement about the nazir. There we learn:

Samuel the prophet was a nazir, in accordance with the statement of Rabbi Nehorai, as it was stated that when Hannah, his mother, prayed for a son, she vowed: “And no mora shall come upon his head” (I Samuel 1:11). How is it derived that mora is an expression of being a nazir? It is stated with regard to Samson: “And no razor [mora] shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a nazir to God” (Judges 13:5), and it is stated: “And no mora,” with regard to Samuel. Just as the term mora” that is stated with regard to Samson means that he was a nazir, so too the term mora” that is stated with regard to Samuel indicates that he was a nazir. Rabbi Yosei said: But doesn’t the word mora mean nothing other than the fear of flesh and blood? The word should be read as though it were written with an alef, and not a heh, so that it means fear. Rabbi Nehorai said to him: But isn’t it already stated: “And Samuel said: How can I go; if Saul hears it he will kill me” (I Samuel 16:2). This verse indicates that there was fear of flesh and blood upon Samuel. Consequently, the term mora must be understood in accordance with its plain meaning of a razor. If so, Samuel was indeed a nazir.

Mishnah Nazir 9:5

When we read about the nazir, it seems like a theoretical construct, but was this ever something that people did IRL? When we think about person who was actually a nazir most of us jump to Shimshon, about whom we read about in the Haftarah, or Rav David Cohen, known as “Rav Ha-Nazir,” a disciple of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. But, few jump to Samuel. But when we stop to think about them both, it makes sense. The parallels in their origin stories are striking. Both Manoah’s wife and Hannah had difficulty conceiving children. When each of them found that they would be blessed with a child they learned that this child would be a leader and live a life apart from the community. For Samuel in the Temple. And for Shimshon and, according to Rabbi Nehorai, also Samuel as a nazir, not drinking alcohol, not coming into contact with the dead, and not cutting their hair.

This mishna is also interesting in that the distinguishing feature of being a nazir is their hair and not their not drinking or coming into contact with the dead. It is telling in that we associate people less with their experience, how they identify, or even their behavior, and more so with how they are identifiable. Their hair is the signature element of being a nazir.

When I think about this mishnah in the context of Emunah’s becoming a Bat Mitzvah, three things come to mind. The first is how central hair is to the idealities of the Emunah and the nazir. Here is a picture of her from when our little angel was just one with her golden locks:

The second is how Rabbi Yosei’s opinion hangs on a misreading of the word mora. He claims that the word should be read as though it were written with an alef, and not a heh, so that it means fear. Even if it is ultimately rejected, it is seriously entertained. Emunah and I share a bond in that we both have dyslexia. While it can be challenging, I believe that if it is treated seriously this creative reading will open up a worlds of creativity.

The third issue that is compelling regarding the mishna is how we prove Rabbi Yosei wrong. It turns out that Samuel had fear of King Saul who would be upset with him looking for a new king in David. With this Rabbi Nehorai proves that Samuel was actually a nazir. From the earliest age Emunah has been fearless. I recall when they were younger they went to the doctor for some medication. There only had two nasal doses and the rest were shots. Without hesitation Emunah rolled up her sleeve to take the shot, while her older brothers squirmed.

My blessing for Emunah is that she continue to read creatively like Rabbi Yosei, argue respectfully like Rabbi Nehorai, and unlike Samuel continue to be fearless. Emunah is no nazir, but on this occasion of her becoming a Bat Mitzah she is on her way to becoming a wonderful woman.

Mazel Tov- Emunah

Other posts I have written about Emi over the years:

  1. Dear Child to Me: On Emunah and this Blog
  2. Little Birdy: Emunah and Protecting Our Children
  3. 7 Years of Emunah: Reflections on Faith and Fidelity
  4. Emunah Second Birthday
  5. Our Type of Emunah
  6. Our Blessing for Emunah

Dear Child to Me: On Emunah and this Blog

I remind each of my children all of the time, ” I love them the most of all…just like their three siblings.” This year as I have been feebly trying to prepare for the High Holidays during Elul. One thing that had helped is that I have found myself singing again and again to different covers of Deveykus‘s Haben Yakir Li. The lyrics are taken from a section of Jeremiah that we read on the second day of Rosh HaShanah. There we read:

Truly, Efraim is a dear child to Me,
A child  in whom I delight!
Whenever I speak of him,
My thoughts would dwell on him still.
That is why My heart yearns for him;
I will receive him back in love
—declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 31:20

For me it expresses an extraordinary expression of God’s anthropopathic love of Israel. Here is one version with some nice violin:

There is some ambiguity about the text when it says ” Whenever I speak of him“. Is it when I speak to him, about him, or even against him? Rashi explores the meaning of “whenever I speak of him” and comments:

Every time that I speak of him. And the Midrash Leviticus Rabbah (2:3) explains: It is enough My speech (דַּי דִבּוּרִי) with which I endowed him, that I taught him My Torah, for Me to have mercy on him.

Rashi on Jeremiah 31:20

This is an interesting thought. It is as if God recalls learning with Efraim and that reminds God how much God loves him.

This parental love through learning reminded me of a Rashi from Parshat Vayigash. Yosef, Efraim’s father, reveals his identity to his brothers. Finding out that their father is still alive he sends agalot– wagons to bring Yaakov to Egypt. There Rashi comments:

By sending the wagons (agalot), Yosef sent him a sign. What was the (topic) they had studied before he (Yosef) left? The topic of the egla arufa -beheaded heifer (see Shoftim). Thus the text states, “when he saw the agalot which Yosef sent,” and not which Pharoh sent.

Rashi on Bereishit 45:27

There is something deep about parent’s love of a child. Even though he was told that Yosef died years earlier, once he saw these agalot Yaakov just knew that Yosef was alive due to the learning that they shared before Yosef’s abduction. This love gets even deeper when it comes in the context of their learning Torah together. This is a love that never could believe that Yosef is truly dead. This is also a love that wants to allow Efraim’s return regardless of his misdeeds.

I was thinking about this parental love in the context of learning while studying with Emunah in preparation for Bat Mitzah this coming spring. It feels special, just like the learning I do with her three siblings. They are all dear to me.

On another level I was thinking about Emunah when sharing this Torah thought with you through this blog. I started this practice of writing a weekly blog when she was born. Emunah and this blog* recently turned 12.

*For those following along at home this is my 756th blog post.

Our Type of Emunah

21400d45b5e9b7d592f596a53674141414c3441People keep on asking me what we named our daughter. After they hear the name, Emunah, they ask what does that mean. I know the simple answer would be ‘faith’, but that does not exactly articulate our intention. While I am a Rabbi, faith is not something that comes easily to me and not a name that I would necessarily give our daughter. I found this quote by Martin Buber in his book Two Types of Faith that seems to get a little closer.

Buber writes, “This ‘existential’ characteristic of Emunah is not sufficiently expressed in the translation ‘faith’, although the verb often does mean to believe (to believe someone, to believe a thing). It must further be noticed that the conception includes the two aspects of a reciprocity of permanence: the active, ‘fidelity’, and the receptive, ’trust’. If we wish to do justice to the intention of the spirit of the language which is so expressed, then we ought not to understand ’trust’ merely in a psychical sense, as we do not with ’fidelity’. The soul is as fundamentally concerned in the one as in the other, but is decisive for both that the disposition of the soul should become an attitude of life. Both, fidelity and trust, exist in the actual realm of relationship between two persons. Only in the full actuality of such a relationship can one be both loyal and trusting.” (28-29)

While we hope that our daughter Emunah develop a deep relationship with God, we are more interested in her deeds then her creed. We strive to model for Emunah healthy and open relationships with each other, our community, and the world. I hope over time that my faith and our daughter Emunah prove “to both loyal and trusting”.

Faith is not always some things that I can beleive in ,  but I feel that Buber’s ‘faith’ is one that I can strive for and work on. Tell me what you think.

Our Blessing for Emunah

Emunah with Abuela

Emunah with Abuela

In Shemot Rabbah 51:1, Rabbi Tanhuma bar Abba opens by explaining Proverbs 28:20 “ Ish emunot Rav Berachot- A dependable person will abound with blessings” You will find that God always brings blessings by the hand of a person who is dependable. Being steadfast and trustworthy are the means to bringing blessings to humanity.

Adina and I hope that our daughter Emunah should be a trustworthy, steadfast, reliable, committed, devoted, and dependable person and in so doing bring many blessings to her family, community, and the world. Our intension was that she should lift up the soul of her great- grandfather Baruch Boris Frydman.  Baruch desired to live an accomplished life filled with curiosity, culture, and the outdoors. He was ambitious and incredibly loyal to his family and as a new immigrant to Argentina he worked arduously to provide for the needs of his family.  A caring and dependable man, Baruch adored his children.

Tragically Baruch died in the prime of his life and his dreams, ambitions and potential were not fully realized.  Three generations later, we pray that Emunah will live a long and healthy life that is personally meaningful, is filled with the love of her family, and makes a difference in her community and to the world. Our blessing is that Emunah will fulfill her potential while elevating the spirit of her namesake.

———————————————————————————————————-

Rabbi Tanhuma bar Abba comienza Shemot Rabbah 51:1 explicando el versiculo “Ish emunot Rav Berachot de Proverbios 28:20 – Pleno de bendiciones esta quien es leal. A traves de quienes son constantes, resueltos y confiables es bendecida la humanidad.

Adina y yo esperamos que nuestra hija Emunah sea una persona confiable, constante, determinada, leal y dedicada a su familia, a su comunidad y a la humanidad. Nuestro deseo es que Emunah eleve el alma de su bisabuelo Baruch Boris Frydman. Baruch soño con una vida llena de sorpresas, descubrimientos, cultura y naturaleza. Era ambicioso y extremadamente leal a su familia, y como nuevo inmigrante en Argentina trabajo arduamente para lograr la estabilidad de los sus seres queridos. Era un ser leal y dedicado y amaba a sus hijos.

Baruj murio en la plenitud de su vida y sus sueños, ambiciones y potencial se vieron truncados e interrumpidos antes de tiempo. Tres generaciones mas tarde, rezamos por que Emunah viva una larga vida, llena de salud y de realizaciones personales, que este llena de amor familiar y que sus contribuciones a la comunidad ayuden a crear un mundo mejor. Bendecimos a Emunah para que logre alcanzar su maximo potencial y en el proceso honre el espiritu de su nombre.

And her name is…

Emunah

Emunah

With much thought, that you will get to read about in this blog, Adina and I decided to name our daughter Emunah. This is most often translated as “faith”. But I will give myself some time to actually spell out a better explanation/translation.  I imagine it could take some time to explore why faith as we think about it popularly is not what we have in mind. It seems reasonable to give myself until her Bat Mitzvah. As for now, let us just say that she was born out of a deep foundation of trust and commitment between Adina and me and that we love Emunah very much. We hope that she grows into the depth and breadth of what inspired her name, but we are also happy that her brothers have taken to calling their sister Emi. We look forward to celebrating her arrival with a ceremony in the near future.

And on her 2nd Day

Her Second Day

Her Second Day

We will share her name soon enough. I will be taking the boys with me on Shabbat to give her a name. Calling her FO #3 will just not work. We are looking forward to having a larger event to introduce the world to our daugher and our daughter to the world.  We look forward to sharing this Simcha with you soon.

On Her Birthday

Our Daughter's Birthday

Our Daughter's Birthday

September 2nd 2009, on her birthday. Here is a picture of our third child.  She is already giving her mother, big brothers, and me tremendous joy. Mother and daughter are both healthy and coming home for Shabbat. The boys are very excited.


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