While he still lived in London, R’ Yechezkel Abramsky would deliver a weekly Friday night class to non-observant youth, inviting them into his home and teaching them Torah.
But the law permitting a Jewish soldier in battle to marry a non-Jewish female captive would pose a challenge. Indeed, when his less observant students learned the reason behind this law—if not permitted, the solider might marry her against Torah law (Devarim 21:11 and Rashi ad loc.)—they were incredulous: Is the Torah so pliable as to permit that which is prohibited simply because it is a struggle to obey the word of G-d?
In typical brilliant fashion, R’ Chazkel explained that they had it all wrong. The law permitting the female captive actually speaks volumes about G-d’s faith in us and in our ability to observe all His commandments. That the Torah permits a Jewish soldier to take a female captive for fear he would not be able to overcome temptation is an implicit recognition that, in all other instances, G-d believes in our ability to rise to, and overcome, the challenges we face.
In Judaism, we make a big deal about our faith in G-d. Indeed, “the foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdom is to know that there is a Creator who created the universe with profound wisdom” (Rambam, Yesodei HaTorah 1:1).
But G-d also has faith in each of us.
And that is monumental. The simple knowledge that someone believes in us can be a source of immense strength. That’s what G-d does. He believes in us—perhaps more than we believe in ourselves. No matter how many times we fail, He forgives us; no matter how many times we fall, He lifts us. As we remind ourselves every day in Elul, “My father and mother might abandon me but G-d will gather me in” (Tehillim 27:10). We fail, we fall, we stumble. But G-d still believes in us.
Before making man, G-d created a group of angels and put the question to them—creating man: good idea or bad idea? “Bad idea,” they said. “Man will only sin.” So G-d destroyed them.
Then G-d created a second group of angels and asked them the same question—creating man: good idea or bad idea? “Bad idea,” they said. “Man will only sin.” So G-d destroyed them.
Then He created a third group of angels and asked the same question. “Master of the Universe,” they answered, “the first and second groups of angels told You not to create man, and look where it got them. The universe is Yours. Do as You wish.” So G-d created man.
When mankind later sinned during the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Tower of Babel, the third group of angels said to G-d, “Were not the first and second angels correct?” To which G-d quoted this verse, “Even to old age I will not change, and even to grey hair, I will still be patient” (Sanhedrin 38b). That is, I believe in man. I’m not giving up on man.
G-d created mankind He has faith in mankind. We fail and fall and falter. But each time, G-d says, “Even to old age I will not change, and even to grey hair, I will still be patient.” I’m not losing faith.
Perhaps this adds new meaning to G-d’s role as “the G-d of faith” (Devarim 32:4). He is the “G-d of faith” by virtue of His faith in each of us—“He had faith in the world and created it” (Sifri, Devarim 307; Yalkut Shimoni, Devarim 942). We start each day with that empowering thought, thanking G-d “for returning our souls to us” and reminding ourselves that “Your faith is great” (see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:2; Eicha 3:22-23). We thank G-d for having faith in us. Because if G-d returns our souls to us, it means He still has faith in us. Indeed, every person is obligated to say, “The world was created for my sake” (Sanhedrin 4:5). Because, in a sense, it was.
Indeed, if the Torah had to be encapsulated in one simple thought, it would be this: “and the righteous lives by his faith” (Chabakuk 2:4; Makkos 23b). Who’s faith? Plainly, this means that the righteous lives by his own faith in G-d. But perhaps it is also “His faith”—i.e., G-d’s faith in the righteous—that keeps the righteous going.
And it always has.
The story is told of a man who described himself as the last Jew. Before the Holocaust, he had lived in Warsaw, and when the ghetto was liquidated, he managed to escape to the woods where he hid away in the small crevice of a rock. He snuck out only at night to scavenge for something meagre on which to subsist, isolating himself completely from all human contact. He was sure he was the last Jew alive. And who could blame him?
Where did he get this strength? Where do we Jews always get this strength from? Asked these questions, “the last Jew” would explain that it wasn’t his faith in G-d that kept him going. It was knowing that G-d had faith in Him. That’s what kept him alive in those darkest of times. And perhaps that’s what keeps us all going in the darkest of times.
The fictional story is told of a man who dreamed he was walking on the beach with G-d. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life, and, for each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, the other to G-d. But he noticed that, at times, there was only one set of footprints. And he also noticed that those points were the very lowest and saddest of his life.
This bothered him a great deal, and he decided to ask G-d about it. “I’ve noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. Why did you abandon me when I needed You most?”
“My son,” G-d replied, “I would never leave you. During your trials and sufferings—when you see only one set of footprints—it was then that I carried you.”
“To tell of Your kindness in the morning and Your faith in the nights” (Tehillim 92:3). In the “mornings,” when things are good, it is easy to speak of G-d’s kindness. But at night, during those hard times, we must lean on G-d’s faith in us. It’s not the Jew’s faith in G-d that gives him life. It is G-d’s faith in the Jew.
You have problems. You have problems because everyone has problems. For some, it’s health. For some, it’s family. For some, money.
I’m not telling you to have faith in G-d. You know that already.
But sometimes in life—especially in those dark times—it’s not so much about your faith in G-d. It’s about His faith in you.