Replay: Getting in the Wheelbarrow

I first published the blog post “Getting in the Wheelbarrow” last spring on my now defunct Searching for the Light on the Path blogspot. Given the set of challenges I’ve been facing lately, it seemed like a good time to pass this message along again.

There are two words often lumped together and commonly perceived as synonymous, when in reality they are not.

The two are Faith and Trust. In Hebrew, emunah and bitachon. One way of explaining the difference between these words is that the former is the belief that G-d exists. The latter is the knowledge thereof, or, more accurately, the result of that knowledge, in mind, heart, and deed.

Rabbeinu Bechaya (in his book Kad Hakemach) puts it this way: “Anyone who trusts has faith, but not anyone with faith trusts.”

-Mendel Kalmenson
“The Real Answer to the Question, Who Moved My Cheese?”

This could be a useful answer to a lot of people’s difficulties in their relationship with God. It could be a useful answer to your relationship difficulties with God. It could be a useful answer to my relationship difficulties with God. We tend to think of having faith in God and trusting God as the same thing, but they’re not. Because they’re not, we’re expecting certain things to happen in our lives that aren’t going to happen. It’s like being married. If we believe in our spouse but don’t trust him or her, what kind of a marriage is that? Is it even a relationship at all?

Here’s another example from the same source:

This point can be further illustrated by a parable:

Long before the entertainment industry boomed, tightrope walking was a common form of amusement and recreation.

Once, a world-famous master of the sport visited a particular region. Word spread quickly, and many people turned up for the show. All was quiet as the master nimbly climbed the tree from which he would begin his dangerous trek.

But just before beginning his routine he called out: “Who here believes I can make it across safely?”

The crowd roared their affirmation. Again he asked the question and was greeted by the same response.

He then pulled out a wheelbarrow from between the branches and asked, less boisterously, “Which of you is willing to get inside the wheelbarrow as I cross?”

You could hear a pin drop.

Faith is the roaring response of the crowd; trust is climbing into the wheelbarrow.

It’s easy to have faith in God but not to trust Him. It’s easy to say “God exists and I believe in Him” as long as we don’t have to become personally involved in performing the weightier matters of Torah. We can have an incredible faith that the tightrope walker will make it to the other end of the rope as long as we don’t have to climb into his wheelbarrow.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.-James 2:14-24

When James (Ya’akov) says “that a person is considered righteous by what they do”, he’s talking about trust or bitachon. Our problem, is that we “think” about God, and we “feel” all warm and fuzzy about Jesus, but we don’t “do” anything about changing our lives to conform to our thinking and feeling. Here’s another example:

Maimonides is one in a long line of Jewish commentators who have proposed rationalistic interpretations of Scripture. Thus, words denoting place, sight, hearing, or position (of God) are interpreted as mental properties or dispositions. In our own vocabulary, it could be said that Maimonides has attempted to demythologize biblical narrative.

-from Maimonides: A Guide for Today’s Perplexed
by Kenneth Seeskin

Maimonides tends to see Biblical interpretation as either literal or allegorical and his strength as a theologian, philosopher, and sage is in his rational approach to the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). However there is a significant gap in his vision. We can also interpret the Bible and God through a mystic and experiential lens. The mystic seeks to encounter God in an extra-natural realm; meeting Him outside the boundaries of our physical universe, but we can also experience God in our day-to-day life by experiencing ourselves. We can “do” God and not just “think” or “feel” God. We can be the answer to prayer. We can have and live out faith and trust.

We can get in the wheelbarrow.

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