You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”(Psalm 27:8)
Psalm 27 lies at the heart of the fall festivals and perfectly encapsulates the attitude of the holy days. Within this psalm are two of the most important elements of a believer’s life: bitachon (“trust”) and emunah (“faith”). While these two words may sound similar in English, Mussar makes important distinctions between the terms.
Everyone has heard of faith. Faith is the element that all religions have in common, as it is the source of believing in something that cannot be empirically proven. All religions believe in a god (or gods) who has interacted with the world in some way and set out rules for its practitioners. For many, this is the most difficult element of religion as it tends to go against our logical, rational brain, but there are many things that we interact with daily that require a form of faith.
We place our trust in minor things throughout our lives, such as our alarm clock in the morning, the bus showing up on time, or even that the sun will rise. While these things are on a different level because we witness them take place consistently every day, there is no reason to believe that the next time will happen like the former. Our belief in God is similarly based on something, whether it be a personal experience or interacting with the spiritual world. At the same time, our faith is also established without empirical evidence or proof.
Mussar approaches faith in the same way, but there is an important caveat. Faith must not be only a mental belief but a true acknowledgment that produces action. As James 2:17 says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” There must be action taken within the person of faith. This is why the fall festivals and Psalm 27 are so important. These two elements remind the believer of the importance of his actions and turn us toward the mission of living out discipleship daily. The man of Psalm 27 knows that God is in control and walks daily trusting in God and sanctifying his name on earth. He approaches Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur knowing that although he has sinned and fallen short, God is faithful and will bring forgiveness and ultimately send us Yeshua once more.
However, with all this being said, why hasn’t Yeshua come? Why, after two thousand years, are we still waiting for God to fulfill his promises? This is when the counterpart to faith becomes vitally important. Bitachon, or trust, acknowledges that despite the evil of the world and the persecution we endure, God is still in control, and his plan is still underway. Trust, in its most pure form, was when Yeshua hung on the cross and looked out at his fellow brothers and the Roman soldiers and knew that, despite the circumstances, this was the greatest and most important thing to be done in the history of the entire world.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1-2)
What can man do to me? What can possibly go wrong in this world to such a level that I do not believe that God is in control? When this idea of trust is pushed to its limits, it is the most difficult trait to uphold. Especially when it comes to personal events of anguish and sorrow that take place in our lives. That is why it is most important. Trust is the foundation for our lives as disciples because it allows us to truly sanctify God in this world. When we view persecution or sorrow as a part of God’s ultimate plan and still praise his name despite the circumstances, people do not fail to notice.
Now, that is not to say there is not a time to mourn. Judaism has well-defined parameters around the mourning period, which is important because death is not the answer for believers, but the enemy. We should still seek the LORD in faithfulness and yearn for him to repair the world, while at the same time acknowledging that, no matter what happens, all is in his hands.
I believe God fully understands our struggle with faith and trust. He created us as intellectual beings who question and explore the depths of the universe. This is why he has given us important reminders of himself. As I stated earlier, these are moments of spiritual interaction, but he has also given us his Torah to be a guide for consistent living.
The Torah serves as a constant reminder of God and allows us to implement him into our daily lives. After Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot specifically fulfills this role. It is not wrong to question each year after the high holy days pass by and wonder why God has delayed in setting the world right, but Sukkot functions as a way for God to show that he is in control. That no matter how bad the world is, there is still good and joy that can be had.
This year as you are either setting up a sukkah or remembering the festival, take some time to contemplate your faith. Think about the nature of your belief in God and also your personal trust that you implement from day to day. Start seeing the interactions and moments of frustration as a means of displaying your trust in God’s control. Traffic is an excellent time for prayer and dedication. Always remember that no matter what, though he may tarry, God is planning the perfect time to send his Son back to establish his reign and truly establish our hope here on earth.