How does a person acquire emunah peshutah?
Emunah peshutah means to be a ma’amin, a believer, without having to put in any work. And in most cases, it’s a chalom shav, an empty dream; there’s no such thing. It could be, if you lived, let’s say, two hundred years ago, in a Jewish town, and the air was saturated with emunah. The streets were full of emunah – everybody believed in Hashem; it was real, it was tangible. So you couldn’t help yourself. It came in by osmosis. It’s a system by which it soaks into you from the environment. When you saw even a woman or a girl, even a child, making a bracha, two hundred years ago, it was a different bracha than we see today.
Seventy years ago, Reb Yeruchom, the Mirrer Mashgiach, said, “We are not able to understand our elta-bubbahs.” Do you hear that? We are not able to understand our great-grandmothers. He said that seventy years ago. Our great-grandmothers were an entirely different kind of person. Not our type of people.
We don’t realize, but once upon a time, the Am Yisroel was tremendously frum, there was a fire in them. And therefore, in the olden days, emunah peshutahwas possible, yes. You lived among the ma’aminim, and it went into your hearts, and there was no question about it. You would give your life for the emunah.
But today, we live in an atmosphere of kefirah, of denying Hashem. The whole world is kefirah today. And so today, to get emunah peshutah is not easy at all. If a person says “I have emunah peshutah,” what it means is that he is dodging his responsibility. When you have to work to get emunah, so you look for an excuse to get out of it, that’s all. “I have emunah peshutah,” is an excuse, that’s all.
Emunah peshutah today is very, very rare. If you’re born into a very frum family, you get it a certain degree. But even then, the kefirah from the street it comes into the house and we don’t even realize it. Once you come into America, or you come into England or Holland, or into Eretz Yisroel today, you should know, you’re soaking in apikorsus. Even the frummeh, under the skin, they have no emunah at all – it’s a very thin veneer. You have to work hard, you must labor to get emunah today.
And so, it’s very important to listen to these lessons, and make up your mind that you’re going to dedicate your career to learning to be a ma’amin. You have to learn to be a ma’amin – it’s an aditude that you have to work on in order to achieve.
The Mesillas Yeshorim says, for instance, when you daven, you have to train yourself to feel that Someone is standing in front of you and listening to your words. You have to train yourself. This is what he says: “And although it is not easy – ” do you hear that?! “It’s not easy,” he says, “to think that Someone is standing and listening to you, because אין החוש מסייע לזה – your senses don’t help you, you don’t see anybody. But with a little work, he says, you can train yourself. In his day – that was two hundred years ago – it took only a little work; with some effort you could train yourself to feel that Somebody’s listening.
But today we need a lot of effort. That’s why, when you come to Shema Koleinu, you have to work hard, every time. שמע קולנו…כי אתה שומע – “You, Hashem are listening.” You have to say it with kavana; little by little it gets into your blood. כי אתה שומע – You are listening! Say it again and again, three times a day and it starts entering into your blood. That’s how you have to work on emunah peshutah. And then it’s not called emunah peshutah anymore. It’s emunah sichlis, it’s intellectual emunah; it’s a result of hard work. You have to work on emunah today, no question about it.
TAPE # E-220 (January 2000)