Faith and Fortune

Question

Can belief and faith in God change a decree from bad to good? For example, if somebody goes into a scary situation saying “God will help”, is it more likely that God will indeed help? And if not, why do people say that? God doesn’t always help, and saying something false does not supply comfort. Thank you!

, 8 months

Answers

  1. Yes, absolutely. The Talmud teaches that everything is under the control of God except for a person’s fear of God. However, every person has the ability to improve his connection to God by following the teachings found in the Torah. The closer one’s connection to God, the greater is the possibility for the person to remove negative decrees. More than that, not only is it possible to remove the decree, but it is also possible to change the decree from negative to positive.

    Rabbi Chaim from Volozhin (1749-1821), in his seminal work named Nefesh HaChaim, writes that one who truly internalizes the words “Ein Od Milvado”, meaning “There is none besides Him”, can help completely turn away any negative decree and stay safe.

    A famous story told about the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchak Ze’ev Soloveitchik (1886-1959) illustrates this point. When the Germans occupied Poland at the beginning of World War Two he fled from Warsaw to Vilna. The roads were filled with German troops and Nazis were everywhere. The danger was horrific. Yet, the Brisker Rav traveled along without fear because he never stopped focusing on the words “Ein Od Milvado” and the promise of the Nefesh HaChaim. Once, when he was distracted, an armed Nazi approached him threateningly, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Straight away the Brisker Rav collected his thoughts and focused with all his concentration on the words “Ein Od Milvado” and the Nazi moved on.

    However, I think that there is an even deeper dimension to having faith in God’s protection that supersedes the idea of changing the decree from negative to positive. A person has the ability to completely accept the negative decree as being what God wants for him right now. For a reason known only to God. This is a very high level of faith, but when a person reaches this level, then whatever God sends his way is understood to actually be “good” – even if it doesn’t seem to be good according to our limited human “eye” and understanding.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team