The Rebbe warns us to distance ourselves from philosophical speculation and skepticism. How is this topic relevant to me, if I anyways don’t read this type of material?
A) You should know, that the Rebbe says “People think that Emunah is something small. By me, Emunah is a very great thing.” (Sichos Haran 33). It should be clear by everyone that the basis of Yiddishkeit is belief in Hashem. Without it, it would be impossible to perform any Mitzvos. But for whatever reason, it has become accepted to thing that every Jew who keeps Mitzvos already has Emunah. If you would ask him if he believes, he would certainly answer in the positive. He would of course be ready to sacrifice himself for Hashem’s name. Because of this, we have almost no motivation to strengthen ourselves in Emunah, unless some type of tragedy occurs. Only then do we try strengthening ourselves in order to endure the difficulties with words of faith. But the general conversation is to strengthen ourselves in performing Mitzvos and Torah study.
This is what the Rebbe meant, that people think Emunah is a small thing. “Emunah is the main thing, and every individual must search within himself and strengthen himself in Emunah.” (Likutei Moharan II 5) Emunah is something that we must constantly be involved in, to awaken it and keep it alive. It can be compared to dough, which starts leavening and souring when left alone.
B) The Rebbe reveals an awesome thing, “that even thought it appears that the general public is distant from speculation and skepticism, and are not philosophically inclined at all, in reality, everyone is caught up in speculation. Every person has doubts; even children have confusing and doubting thoughts.” (Sichos Haran 32) But people usually don’t identify these thoughts as “skepticism”. Only after some time is their influence recognizable. It’s like a mosquito bite, which isn’t felt at the time of the sting, only afterwards… When a person starts to lose his liveliness in Avodas Hashem, it’s a sign of an itching sting. This is why the measurement of time for leavening of dough is 18 minutes, because the souring of Emunah causes someone to lose his liveliness (Life חי=18)
All this starts with a tiny skeptic which sits in the heart and thinks, “Does Hashem really need me, is He interested in my Mitzvos, does He still love me even after I fall? Why do I have so many difficulties, why was I born into this family, why am I so unsuccessful, is true satisfaction really in holiness?”
The Rebbe gives us a clear indication which proves the existence of hidden questions – that during davening we aren’t full of fervor from the fact that we are speaking to Hashem. “If someone would know in his heart that Hashem’s Glory fills the world, and that He is standing over him during his prayers and listening to his prayers, he would surely pray with great enthusiasm, and would be very exacting with himself to concentrate by every word.” (Likutei Moharan I 62)
How can we achieve a clear Emunah?
A) Even though we explained that everyone is full of speculation and doubts, still, the way to increase your Emunah is not by looking to see how far you are from it. The proper way is to motivate yourself to remind yourself that you do have Emunah in your heart, which you just need to awaken (see Parpaot Le’Chochma II 5). Through trying to grab a moment and another moment of thinking about Hashem, you will grow your faith, little by little.
You should know that thoughts don’t just pass through our minds. They are real entities which cause great and elevated things to happen up high, as explained throughout all the works of Tzaddikim, and the Rebbe himself discusses it many times. With every thought of Emunah you can be performing many Mitzvos.
B) The main way to build up a heart with Emunah is through being involved in prayer. Both by praying for Emunah, by crying out to Hashem from the depths of your heart that Hashem should give you faith, and also by accustoming yourself to speak to Hashem in your native language and asking Him for all you needs, and to thank Him for everything good which happens to you. Be adamant about this, even if you still aren’t feeling Emunah. With time, you will get used to seeing that everything is from Hashem, and everything is in His hands and only He can help you. Your entire Yiddishkeit will take on an entirely new form.
C) When you try going into the Avodah of Emunah, don’t panic when you see that the doubts and confusions continue to come up, perhaps even more than before. The truth is that all of these questions were there before, but you just weren’t conscious of them. They seemed to be just one solid piece of distance from Hashem. When you start to awaken the Emunah, you can start to pay attention to the difficulties in accepting the realities of Emunah. You should know that this is how it goes; sometimes Emunah wins out, sometimes the opposite. This is Hashem’s pride in us; that a Jew continues to try fighting his thoughts, and strives to think only of Hashem.
D) You should know that when it comes to Emunah, there are many infinite levels upon levels. For that reason it’s necessary to study the books of the Tzaddikim who go in the path of the Baal Shem Tov. Especially Likutei Halachos, which reveals wonderful ways how to feel Hashem’s existence, on many levels and in many ways, by thinking about encouragement and closeness to Hashem. Sometimes with simple faith without any feeling, sometimes with feeling, sometimes with intellectual inspiration, etc. All things which can all lead to a great desire for Hashem.
Their holy works speak about the fact that Emunah is already in every Jew’s heart, because we are all parts of Hashem’s presence. They thereby reveal ways to cling to Hashem and thinking about Him. These all bring a person into a reality of a life of Emunah, of tasting how Hashem is good.
[This is in contrast to other books of Jewish thought which try to bring a person to Emunah through explanations and intellectual arguments. They usually don’t have the ability to give a person a way how to liven up our hearts with Emunah, only to bring us to an intellectual agreement on Hashem’s existence.]