Faith Is Different Than Beliefs

Reb Zalman
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Where there is faith, there are fewer beliefs. We use beliefs to shore up opinions, rather than a relationship with the cosmos. Faith is what we call the relationship with the cosmos. It's different than beliefs. 

Beliefs would be sort of the candy that comes in a candy wrapper, out of faith. But faith is the function, the deep deep function. So when you use the word faith as a noun, it doesn't work. “I should have faith.” You know, I should go to the grocery store and see if I can buy some faith. It doesn't go that way. 

So what is faith? Faith is “faith-ing.” It's a verb. It's an activity. It's a function. And the function goes like this: “I open myself up to the central intelligence of the universe, so that I might live for the purpose for which I was made.” 

And when I can come with that attitude, which is the attitude that seeks to be in truth, which seeks to be able to say: what does surrender mean? Surrender means, I'm letting go of how I would like the world to be, and I'm asking the universe, "How do you want me to understand you?”

The beliefs are always going to get us into trouble! (laughs) I remember the bumper sticker that said, “Don't believe everything you think!” In a way it's saying, your mind and your usual way [don’t] have it together.

My experiences with fundamentalists that have been good experiences have happened when I've said to those brothers, (sisters weren’t much among them), I said to them: “Let's not talk about the difference between the church in Jerusalem, and the church in Greece and in Rome, and about the Jews of that time, [etc.]. Let's talk about today.”

You love God; I love God. [So for example,] do you think the book of Psalms is a good book to study? And then we sit down and we study the book of Psalms together. They can take any translation they want and I go back to the original Hebrew. And the thing is getting to be so good, because they have a ta’am (taste), they have a feeling: this is the word of God. 

When you get to the place where you study [a sacred text] in such a way, you become a lot softer. Because then those holy words are not slogans. 


Reb Zalman was one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal movement and an innovator in ecumenical dialogue. Excerpt from the video here.

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