Garden of Emuna – Book Review – R’Shalom Arush
This book is interesting. 79% of readers on Amazon give it 5 stars out of 5. “Goodreads” gives it a 4.6 out of 5. All that stuff on this blog about philosophical reasoning to come to Judaism and Torah … Rabbi Arush would say stay away because it detracts from emuna. “Emuna” roughly translates as “faith”. This book categorically explains what it means to live with perfect emuna with a high level picture, then discussing free will, then discussing individual situations from those who are not religious to those who are not Jewish to those who are in jail or have gambling addictions.
What’s taught is really nothing new that isn’t already in a plethora of other Jewish sources and books, but what makes this book different is that, first, it’s directed directly at modern man in modern environments. Second, it’s sharp and too the point taking emuna to it’s logical conclusion. Third, the author clearly isn’t swayed by arguments to contrary because . . . he has emuna. If you’re looking for clear perspective on what it means to live a life where you believe everything is run by a Creator who cares about us, you need only read chapter 1 of this book. The rest is applications of the principle applied to different situations.
For example, R’Arush speaks about a man who do not keep Torah and mitzvos but heard one of R’Arush’s lectures on tape and decided to apply it to his daily life. The constant trust in the Creator throughout his day to day struggles and events made him quite happy and he saw only good. His religious friend asked how it could be that he, the religious person did not have this level of joy in his life, but his not religious friend does! Answer: Torah and mitzvos are a vehicle to have emuna and that is the purpose of life. One can have emunah without Torah and do mitzvos without really having emunah … the taste of wine without the cup, or the cup without the wine. As R’Arush puts it, you can have access to the company car but not use it. Having the company car, one can still drive in the wrong direction and Torah can even be a block to emuna (as I understand R’Arush’s words)! The man who was not religious but had emunah would eventually get tired of taking his own path and use the company car.
Living a life of emunah means you have no doubts who is in control. When something happens to you, you don’t worry or stress for what’s in the past. That was meant to happen. However, in the future, you make changes and do what you should. This is the free will dichotomy of a Creator who knows what will happen, but we still have the choice. This is how someone with trust in a Creator views the world.
I am honestly not on this level of belief. As much as I say, “I believe, I believe” I have doubts. However, this is still the goal and still something to be worked on constantly. With emuna, there is no anger. With emuna, there is no pain. There is growth and connection back to the source. Those who think otherwise are constantly in a state of fear and anxiety because a disease or mishap can happen at any time beyond their control. With emunah, it’s all for a purpose and there is no need to have wakeup calls when you daily make those wakeup calls for yourself and attach yourself to your mission in life to reach back to the source.
Throughout, R’Arush discusses asking the Creator for things. When you ask for emunah and ask for things on a spiritual level he says that such things are almost always granted. When you ask for material things, such things are not so often granted because you are given what you need for your growth even if you don’t know it. Sometimes it’s better for you not to have it. (Take a look at lives of lottery winners – winning often shatters their relationships and they find themselves in debt often with unpaid tax bills.)
I’m hardly on the level where I can emotionally say that I believe everything in this book, but at the same time it’s own I’d recommend for anyone interested whether religious or not, Jewish or not. While the book is based very much on Jewish sources, the concepts are universal as they must be.