A question that many people want answered these days, as Israel continues its defensive military action and Jews around the world are faced with rising antisemitism, is what it means to have faith. The horrible loss of life and the anguish of the families awaiting word on their abducted loved ones are enough to lead a person to question faith. Add to that the rearing of antisemitism’s ugly head and there is all the more reason to be unsure about what we believe.
That brings us to the actual meaning of the word “faith,” or more specifically the Hebrew word “bitachon.” Bitachon is different from the word “tikvah,” meaning hope. Bitachon comes from the root “betach” which means certainty — faith isn’t just something we hope for, but it is something we are certain about. We don’t hope that things will turn out well, we are certain that they will.
When a person hopes for a good outcome in any given situation, they are in a sense leaving the door open for disappointment. We hope that it will all be good, but who knows... Faith, on the other hand, means that you are certain that what you believe will happen will in fact come to fruition.
Torah is replete with stories of faith, but one that stands out is the incident with Abraham’s servant Eliezer, who was sent by his master on a mission to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The Torah depicts Eliezer standing at the outskirts of the city of Charan, where people were gathering with their livestock at the local watering well. Believing in the sanctity of his mission, he offered a prayer to G-d in which he asked that in the merit of his master, he find the right woman for Isaac.
He then suggests, as part of his prayer, that the first girl he asks for water and she will offer to draw water for his camels too, will be the right woman for his master’s son to marry. And no sooner than the conclusion of his prayer, Rebecca appears and things go exactly as he planned: He asked her for water and she offered some for the camels too. Without hesitating, and before he even asked her what her name was and who her family was, he began handing her all the gifts Abraham had sent for his potential future daughter-in-law.
When Eliezer prayed, he wasn’t expressing “hope” that his mission would be a success, he wasn’t leaving any options for failure. He was certain that his mission was going to be a success, which is why as soon as Rebecca offered water for the camels, he didn’t have to ask her any further questions; he knew that she was the one. He had no doubt that his prayer was answered and that his mission was going to succeed (although he still had to convince Rebecca’s family to allow her to leave and marry Isaac).
That’s what placing our faith in G-d means — the certainty that things will be better. We don’t know why things are the way they are and we don’t understand why G-d allows for atrocities to occur in His world, but we know without a doubt that things will be good. So when we pray for Israel, and when we pray for Jews around the world, we demand that we merit to actually see how things improve and that it happens sooner rather than later, and we do so with the certainty that our prayers will be answered.
Incidentally, the Hebrew word for faith, bitachon, also means “security.” So in that spirit, let us pray with faith and certainty that our brothers and sisters in Israel be safe and secure, that the brave soldiers of the IDF succeed in their mission of eradicating the evil, that hostages who have been abducted more than a month ago return home, and we all merit to see the ultimate redemption with the coming of Moshiach very soon!