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prayer pings #21

It was the first time that we, as a collective, "had faith in God". And we make a point of referring to it as Psukai D'zimra approaches its culmination. "And Israel saw the mighty hand that God brought upon Egypt, and they had faith in God". The relevance of referencing this moment at this juncture is self-evident. The premise of the prayer we are about to engage in is the faith that God is concerned for our welfare and is there to be called upon in our hour of need. If not, why continue praying at all?

Without diminishing either the importance of this sort of faith, or of the pertinence of reaffirming it as Shacharit proper looms, I'd propose that the meaning and role of faith underwent significant development as Biblical time went on. Faith evolved from being a decision that was made in response to a particular insight or event, to a full-blown mode of worship that played out over a lifetime. In evolving thus, it became less dependent upon, or even correlated to, a definitive theological conviction, and much more so an expression of a personal spiritual conviction.

What does "A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath Day" (Psalm 92) mean when it famously praises the one who "declares Your kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness in the night?" "Day" and "night", as the rest of the Psalm makes plain, are not literal but figurative. Not phases in the earth's rotation, rather phases in our personal and national journeys. The night is the time when everything seems upside down, when "the wicked flower like grass", and God appears to be nowhere in sight. It is a time when faith as a rational, informed decision, comes undone, and the people say, "let us up and return to Egypt". And it is specifically during such a night that the Psalmist's prescribes a more evolved form of faith. Not the declaration of the empirical observation that "this is my God and I shall glorify Him", but the gritty, startling, defiant declaration that "though He slay me, I will yet trust in Him (Job 13:15).

This faith is statement of human self-determination, not necessarily a profession of a clear theological position. It is a stubborn mode of worship. A determination to walk in God's ways even when God Himself is obstructing the path. It is a faith in what God is, more than a faith in whether or where God is.

Can you imagine the Jews whom Moshe led out of Egypt holding Yom Kippur services in a concentration camp?

Faith begins upon seeing God's mighty hand. It matures in the night.

Rav Yosef

Mon, August 19 2019 18 Av 5779