Ultimate Emunah by Ezra Seplowitz (‘20)


At the very end of the fifth Aliyah of Parashat Lech Lecha, Hashem promises Avram that He will provide him with as many children as the stars in the sky. BeReishit 15:6 states, “VeHe’emin BaHashem, VaYachsheveha Lo Tzedakah," “And he believed in G-d, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Rashi (ibid. s.v. VeHe’emin BaHashem) raises the point that Avram only asked Hashem for a confirming sign two Pesukim later, when Hashem promised him the Land of Israel.

Nachalat Ya’akov elaborates that Noach, just like Avram, communicated with Hashem through prophetic visions. Despite this, when Hashem promised Noach that He will never again bring such a disastrous flood, Noach requested a sign of assurance. Avram, however, did not. Nachalat Ya’akov therefore concludes that Avram possessed an ultimate faith in Hashem.

However, there is a problem with Nachalat Ya’akov’s answer:  He does not address Rashi’s initial concern, that Avram does in fact request a sign in 15:8, which presumably detracts from his ultimate Emunah. Furthermore, Ramban (s.v. VeHe’emin BaHashem etc.) asks, “Lamah Lo Ya’amin Be’Elohei Amein, VeHu HaNavi Bi’Atzmo,"  “Why should he not believe in the God of trust, as he himself is the prophet [who spoke directly to God]?” Ramban explains that it is less significant for a Navi who has experienced G-d’s miracles to believe in G-d’s word. Ramban questions Rashi’s explanation of the end of the Pasuk, “VaYachsheveha Lo Tzedakah," “And He reckoned it to Him as righteousness," which Rashi took to mean that Hashem reckoned Avram as righteous.

Ramban explains that these words mean that Avram believed that the righteousness of Hashem, and not his personal merits, would grant him children. Unlike Rashi, Ramban maintains that the second part of the Pasuk, “And He reckoned it to Him as righteousness,” is referring to Avram, like the first part of the verse. Ramban draws support for his explanation from BeReishit 15:8, when Avram asks Hashem for a sign that his offspring will inherit the Land of Israel. Ramban explains that Avram had complete faith in the righteousness of Hashem, just as he did in BeReishit 15:6. Rather, Avram was unsure whether or not he or his children would sin, thereby becoming unworthy for such a blessing. As such, for the eternity of that promise, Avram requested a confirming sign.

Faith in Hashem is one of the fundamental principles of Jewish faith. In fact, the Rambam begins his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah, by saying, “Yesod HaYesodot, Ve’Amud HaChochmot, Leida SheYeish Sham Matzuy Rishon," “The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being.” Throughout his lifetime, Avraham Avinu displayed an utmost belief in Hashem. Ramban famously states, “Kol Mah She’Ira La’Avot Siman LaBanim," “Everything that happened to the forefathers is a sign for the children [that it will occur again to them].” From leaving his hometown to his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son, Avraham Avinu never lost faith in Hashem. Today, with faith in G-d, one can clearly determine that Hashem has fulfilled his promises to Avraham, granting him a multitude of descendants and the Land of Israel. May we merit to follow in the ways of Avraham Avinu with complete faith and trust in Hashem.

VeShamru Derech Hashem: Morality and the Path of G-d by Rabbi Ben Krinsky ('05)

An Ancient Word Scramble by Rabbi Duvie Nachbar