Faith is Certain

Emily Goldberg
April 12, 2012
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I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. With all of the scientific facts and astronomical data we are blessed with today, I can expect to wake up tomorrow and see rays of light emitting through my window. There is also no debating time. Our clocks, both digital and internal, will continue to function in their typical cycles under any given circumstance. These are only two of the many inexorable certainties that we experience in life. These proven facts in our daily lives, however, are limited.

There are things in life that we cannot physically see or explain, but choose to believe anyway. When our little siblings place their fallen teeth underneath their pillows, hoping to see a winged fairy deliver gifts in return, they are relying entirely on an unproven belief. When students choose universities to attend, they do not know what the outcomes of their decisions will be, nor can they predetermine their futures after school, but continue to grow and experiment with life anyway. Even the wisest of theologians and clergymen have very few answers to the questions pertaining to God’s existence that enter our minds on a daily basis. All of these situations represent a feeling that we all hold onto so dearly: faith.

Faith alone offers no guarantees. Faith is not the proof of our beliefs, but rather the hope that what we choose to believe in is right. While the proven theories in life can only extend to a given limit, the world of faith is truly endless. This sense of hope is also the foundation of most religions; it brings people comfort to believe in some greater force in the world, even if it will remain unseen forever. When a religious institution is filled with people who are gathering to believe in something greater than themselves, there is a sense of unity and humility felt in that environment. And with that unity, there is a reliable community, built and sustained through a common faith.

Unlike the established certainties, faith can be expanded, tested, or even demolished. Circumstances in life shake people; those victims then only want physical answers or just comfort—two factors that faith alone cannot always supply. It is not easy for a family of three, twelve, or even seventy-two to continue believing in an ominous theological being after experiencing a loss deeper than words. It is not easy for anyone to attend a synagogue, church, mosque, or any community of faith after having his/her own faith threatened. The moments in life where we struggle, doubt, and search for certainty in our respective religions, however, is when our faith shines through the strongest.

In some cases, faith has been taken to the wildest extremes. Radical thinkers have disgraced their respective religions through their actions or words. There are faithful people who choose to jeopardize others in the name of their own faith. It is truly a shame that we live in world where Haredi Jewish women are continuously demanded to sit behind men, both in buses and in their community. Many of us shudder when thinking of the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent Baptist organization, and the plethora of funerals they have picketed. If those entities do not open our eyes to the lack of respect in the world, then just look in your own circles. We cannot deny that some of the harshest judgments are created within the walls we’ve built for ourselves. How many times do we look at our neighbors as more or less “Jewish” than ourselves? When we strive to create Jewish and interreligious pluralism, it is these groups and messages that hold us back. Unfortunately, too many of us—Hardei Jews, Westboro Baptist Church goers, and all religious affiliates– unremittingly carry this idea that the faith we practice is the only certainty in the world. We automatically think that in order for our faith to be right, another must be wrong. We proudly walk alongside our religion, whichever that may be, and assume that the rest of the world is stumbling or simply lost.

Luckily, faith is not limited to those mindsets.

In most of the other cases in life, faith has inspired the skeptics and the spiritually weak. For many, maintaining a faithful lifestyle and mindset has ignited the utmost mental strength and optimism. With a solid faith and an open mind, we can change the world.

It takes true faith, or hope, to accept that we may have not found any tangibility to religion. It takes undeniable strength to not only recognize both the proven and unproven factors in life, but to believe in them as well. It takes a community of faith to believe that the sun is still shining, even when it is not seen in the sky. It is also our obligation to take those unseen rays of light and spread them to communities that mourn in darkness or hopelessness. There is no doubt that time will continue to pass before us; that is a certainty that will never fail. It is what we do with that time, however, that defines where we stand in our faith. By living with a sense of faith, we can mend the communities whose values broke them apart rather than strengthened them. That, for me, can be a new certainty.

So from now on, I will continue to wake up each morning with not only the awareness that the sun has risen in the sky, but also with the faith that it will continue to shine through any storm.

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Emily Goldberg is a freshman at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She loves sharing her perspective on faith and religion, especially with her own growing Jewish community. She began recording her own ideas in her blog, “A Leap of Faith.” In the future, she hopes to pursue interfaith studies, social action, theology, and writing. This past summer she joined a life-long community of Jewish thinkers and leaders, The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel. This year, she pursued her passion for spiritual leadership through her rabbinic internship at Romemu [www.romemu.org], her pastoral internship at St. Patrick's Cathedral and her job as a counselor at Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia. She hopes to lead a liberal and innovative Jewish community of her own someday, one where others can be inspired to pursue coexistence and positive change.

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