Thursday, June 12, 2008

Faith or something like it.


When I was growing up in the Christian atmosphere, everything was about faith. If you have faith in Jesus as the son of G-d and faith in the belief that he died for our sins, you'd be saved. All it took was faith. It wasn't necessarily belief or understanding, it was just that word -- faith.

From Merriam-Webster:
Etymology: Middle English feith, from Anglo-French feid, fei, from Latin fides; akin to Latin fidere to trust
Date: 13th century

1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one's promises (2): sincerity of intentions
2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs faith
Firstly, I'm shocked that the word only dates to the 13th century. Secondly, I went to my faithful Torah site and searched the translated text for the word "faith," and it only appeared twice, in Genesis 32:11 and Exodus 21:8. Is it true that the word faith appears nowhere else in Torah? I expanded the search and it appears in Haftorot and Brachot here and there, but not in abundance.

I guess I'm trying to decipher where -- or if -- the word "faith" fits into Judaism. The common construct within Christianity, I believe, is the "firm belief in something for which there is no proof ... complete trust." No questions asked, just pure, unwavering faith. When questions would be asked, it always came back to simply having faith. It was necessary, essential, it was the purpose. There was faith, and that was enough.

In Judaism, though, we question. We argue, debate, knock our heads against the wall trying to figure things out. We seek answers and at some point there is a certain sense of necessary believing, but I don't think it's faith in the manner that I understand what faith means.

Whenever people comment to me about something or say "you just gotta have faith," I always respond with "faith is a Christian construct." But then I started thinking about it.

So, readers, I ask you: What is "faith" in Judaism? Does it exist? What does it mean?

Please answer! If you want to shoot me an e-mail, feel free. You can find it in the profile info. Either way, I'd like to hear and share some answers because I'm perplexed.