Monday, April 16, 2012

No Atheists in Foxholes

There is a famous saying: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” This indicates that, despite a person's protests, the moment he is under pressure he instinctively turns to Hashem for aid. This is not an intellectual exercise, like some kind of a gamble; it is a nearly universal reaction that is very revealing. The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, explains this in depth. “If one observes, he will find that emunah definitely never leaves a Jewish heart. Those who claim not to believe—or for some reason act like one who lacks belief—simply cannot focus on faith in an honest way due to the ulterior motives of their physical drives. The moment they are confronted with hardship, they naturally turn to Hashem because the trial brings the emunah to the fore. Our job is to work to reveal the emunah from deep within, to recognize it and value it.” Although teshuvah is open to everyone, it is not always easy to return as the Mahartiz, zt”l, points out: “Our sages tell us that 'כל שפסולו בקדש אם עלו לא ירדו'. This means literally that anything which was placed on the altar but became defiled is not removed. We can learn an important lesson in avodas Hashem from this statement. Even if a person acts in a פסול or defiled manner, but he is still בקדש, still knows the truth of Torah and mitzvos despite his weakness;אם עלה –if he is hit with a thought to do teshuvah, לא ירדו he will succeed and not fall again. But the opposite is also true. If the pesul is not בקדש, that is one acts sinfully because he sees himself as a kind of חוקר פוקר or philosopher-skeptic, even if he has a thought to do teshuvah it will be very difficult for him!”

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