The social stigma of the poverty we don’t like to talk about

photo from here
There’s type of poverty that we don’t hear people talking about too much. I read about it, but rarely do I hear people I know actually discussing it (of course, I’m writing about it and not discussing it also). Baruch Hashem, many opportunies are available in bigger Jewish communites for assistance with food, tution, shul dues, medical care, debt consolidiation, rides, learning, and homework. Financial aid committees are in place in most schools and many g’machs have been created to help with many of our phsyical needs.
The type of poverty that I’m not sure how we hear about, and one that has touched me from time to time, is being poor in emunah. So poor that there is nothing either your emunah checking account or your emunah saving account. It’s something we don’t really talk with our friends about at the Shabbos park or at a kiddush. Why? Well, I think that there is a social stigma that’s associated with it. To admit to having a lack of faith shows that we are not “100% frum”. I have read on various blogs over the years that people, both those frum from birth and baalei teshiva, tend to feel burned out or lose their emunah to some degree. Again, bringing this up to people is, for some reason, a taboo subject, almost like telling someone, “I almost turned on a closet light on Shabbos because we couldn’t see” or “I was so hungry that I almost bought a packaged salad at the grocery story…without a hechshar”.  We might think about telling others, but we recoil from what their reaction might be and how they would view us. 

I’ve seen a trend recently in seforim being published that deal with issues of emunah. R Lazer Brody’s The Garden of Emunah happens to be an incredibly popular sefer. The translations of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Building A Sanctuary in the Heart (vol 1 and 2) are amazing and, for me, changed the way I saw many things and my relationship with Hashem. A translation of the Chazon Ish’s Emunah v’Bitachon, Faith and Trust, was recently published as well.

Many times I’ve seen statements online such as, “Why don’t they have kiruv programs that can inspire those who are frum without feeling?” or “How come there are no programs to help strengthen emunah?”.

I wish I could announce a brand new program for those who find their “lack of faith disturbing” (to throw in a Star Wars quote). I think it is something that kiruv organizations should look into. If lectures, workshops, or guest speakers are organized and people start attending these events, this stigma and state of emunah-poverty might be helped. This would be an idea solution.

However, with the economy in the state that it is right now, every organization is just trying to keep their heads above water and to secure more funding for a new program might not be in the cards.

I offer the following suggestion to anyone reading this:  Make an emunah book club or informal chaburah/vaad. A book club that is based on the many writings about emunah currently available might be just the right fit for many people.

Note: Also see this post on Rav Schwab on Emunah and Bitachon.

5 thoughts on “The social stigma of the poverty we don’t like to talk about

  1. Mark

    Neil, great post. When you say lack of Emunah, are you talking about:

    1) doubts on the existence of Hashem, Torah MiSinai or Olam Haba

    2) intellectually believing in Hashem, but not living with the Emunah as a reality

    3) not having Bitachon in Hashem as evidenced by much worry about life situations

    4) something else

    – Mark Frankel

  2. Neil Harris

    Mark, I’m talking about #4, which I think is believe that Hashem runs the world and has a personal connection with us.
    Numbers 1 and 2 are also emunah-issues.
    4 is a whole other ballgame.


  3. Tsiki kedera

    rav moshe wolfson tells many come to him and confess lack of emuna . The RAMBAM ,rebbi nachman and r kook emphasize emuna . Todah to LII FOR THE LINK.


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