“What does emunah – faith – mean to you?” Reb Menashe asked the scholar.
The scholar reviewed various positions on the matter of faith, from Medieval to Chassidic. Reb Menashe listened patiently and then responded:
“It is so much simpler than that,” he said, “Emunah is the feeling that the baby has that its mother will not drop him.”
A child wrapped in the cradling arms of his or her mother conveys the most powerful yet gentle image of certainty. The mother, merely by being present, confers unconditional love to the child. The nursing mother, in Hebrew called the omen, gives the child a sense of safety and clarity. As Reb Menashe was aware, the word emunah – faith – plays on the word omen – nursing mother. Listening carefully to the nuance in the Hebrew language, we can thus appreciate that ‘faith’ is infused with connotations of the babe in its mother’s arms. Conversely, we can also see how the act of nursing a newborn child contains with in it echoes of God’s relationship with humankind. This is the experience of Leah nursing her baby Judah.
With this perspective on faith and on a mother’s love, we can begin to approach an understanding of how Leah’s praise to God became the matrix of our morning prayer (mantra*) of core certainty. [Continue reading]