Olami Resources is happy to present the second essay in a series of free installments featuring Rabbi Avraham Edelstein’s important new book, The Human Challenge. Rabbi Avraham Edelstein serves as the Education Director of Neve Yerushalayim College for Women and a senior advisor to Olami. Many of Rabbi Edelstein’s foundational publications addressing the world of Kiruv appear on OlamiResources.com. This week we are sharing the opening essay from Section One – A Purposeful Life – entitled, Belief as a Relationship.


Belief as a Relationship

The source of my well-being, according to Judaism, is the knowledge that, since G-d created me, my existence is purposeful; since He is unique, He created me unique; since He created me to love me, I am intrinsically lovable; since He is all over, He will protect me everywhere.

Mrs. Shlomtzy Weisz [1]


It takes a lot more than simply believing that G-d exists in order to have a relationship with Him. Just as our relationships with our fellow humans have multiple aspects, so too, we need to explore multiple relationships with G-d. We need to approach Him through prayer and through the study of Torah, through the celebration of the Shabbat and through the awareness of His continuous Divine Providence. G-d will be the first Being we naturally turn to when we are in trouble. We may be angry with G-d or happy with Him — grateful, hurt, or perplexed — but, like in all true relationships, we maintain a connection.

That connection triggers G-d’s response in turn. King David stated, “G-d is your shadow.” [2] He set up the world so that He responds to the contours of a relationship that we must initiate. [3] He waits for us to do His will so that He, in turn, can exercise His will, which is to do good for us.

The prophet Habakkuk gave us a key to unlocking all of Judaism: “A tzaddik (righteous person) lives by his faith.” [4] One reading of this verse tells us, “Even if you are not righteous in everything, in faith you should be righteous. Be a tzaddik in faith.” [5] Perhaps we can be mediocre in acts of kindness, in self-restraint, or in not being materialistic. But in faith we must excel. In faith, we must all be tzaddikim.

Let’s not get this wrong. Habakkuk is not telling us to take a blind leap of faith. Faith is not a zero-sum game. It is not a case of either believing or not. There are many levels and facets to faith and many starting points:

  • There is the G-d of comfort — the Being I turn to and talk to.
  • There is the belief that G-d is involved in our lives, that He creates challenges for us that are just what we need — the G-d of Divine Providence.
  • There is belief in the fact that He gave us the Torah at Sinai, and that He will unfold the Messianic Era when His unity will be revealed. This is the G-d of history.
  • There is belief in the G-d of the covenant, resulting in the unique obligations of the Jewish People. The very nature of a covenant is a mutual commitment — in this case, G-d with the Jews.

These are just a few approaches. Faith, in fact, spreads a vast canopy that impregnates everything we do.

Continue reading Belief as a Relationship.

Read the Introduction to the Human Challenge

Purchase a copy of The Human Challenge.

[1] “The Inevitable Emuna Workshop.”

[2] Psalms 121:5.

[3] Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, Nefesh Hachaim 1:1.

[4] Habakkuk 2:4, as brought by the Talmud, end of Tractate Makkot.

[5] Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen. According to this reading, the comma comes after the second word, “Tzaddik Be’Emunato, Yichyeh — A tzaddik (righteous man) in faith, will live.” It is in faith that he is a tzaddik.

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