Thursday, October 15, 2015

ma'amin v'aino ma'amin -- emunah is not passive belief

Commenting on the fact that Noach only entered the ark once it started raining, Rashi writes that Noach was “m’ktanei emumah, ma’amin v’aino ma’amin.”  It sounds like Noach was straddling the fence, unsure of what would happen.  That’s a very difficult thing to say about someone who was a tzadik tamim!  So what does Rashi mean?  One of the standard answers is that Noach did not believe in himself – he trusted that G-d was going to bring the flood, but did not trust his own ability to do anything to stop it, whether through tefilah or some other means.  Some answer that Noach did not believe the midas hadin would actually overcome the midas harachamim and the punishment would come; others answers that Noach did not really believe the people in his generation would sink to such a low level as to deserve the punishment Hashem had promised (Shem m’Shmuel).  The Oheiv Yisrael has an approach that gives us a different perspective on the whole concept of emunah.  He writes that emunah does not just mean passive belief.  “Va’yehi omein es Hadassa” uses the same root as emunah, and anyone who has raised a child knows that it demands anything but passivity.  Emunah itself helps transform a belief into a reality -- to completely trust that something will happen is to help make it happen.  Therefore, Noach faced a dilemma.  On the one hand, G-d told him that there would be a flood, and that left no room in his mind for doubt that it would happen.  On the other hand, by believing that there would be a flood, Noach would in effect be having a hand in making it happen, something he wanted to avoid at all costs.  He wanted to have his cake and eat it too, “ma’amin v’aino ma’amin,” with no resolution, until the waters of the flood were upon him.
If believing in the flood would contribute to it becoming a reality, midah tovah merubah -- our belief in yeshuos v'nechamos can help make that a reality as well.

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