Being a “Tent Peg” by Practicing Emunah, Steadfastness

by | May 13, 2024 | Blog, by Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, Former Executive Director, Institute for Jewish Spirituality | 0 comments

Written by Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, from the IJS Awareness in Action Program

When we look for an example of emunah (the soul trait of trustworthiness or steadfastness) in Jewish tradition, we return to Moses, the trustworthy leader of the Israelites, during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

In fact, God comments on Moses’ trustworthiness, comparing Moses to other prophets. God communicates with other prophets through dreams or visions. But according to Numbers 12, verse 7, “Not so with My servant Moses; he is trusted (ne’eman) throughout my household.”

The 11th-century French Rabbi, Shlomo ben Meir (Rashbam, the grandson of Rashi), looked at this verse and provided us with a beautiful image we might hold in mind about what it might look like for us to practice emunah, to be trustworthy, and what the results may be for the confidence we engender in our relationships. He said, “Trusted, ne’eman, in the verse, means steadfast and rooted every moment of the day. As the prophet Isaiah says (Isaiah 22:23), ‘I will affix him as a peg in a secure place – b’makom ne’eman.’ The peg stuck in strong ground will not easily fall.”

Our practice of emunah, meeting our commitments, showing up for others even when it is hard, unpleasant, or inconvenient, really being there for the people who need us, helps us be like a tent peg planted in firm ground, rooted, solid, unflagging, steadfast.

This image of a tent peg is instructive, for the peg moves with the soil even as it keeps the tent from toppling over. Far from conveying stubborn inflexibility, emunah entails being responsive to the terrain of our lives and relationships, in a way that holds us and others up. We may not be able to show up in this way every moment of the day, as Moses did. Day after day, providing the people with water and food, a new structure for their society through the Torah, a sense of safety, and an ongoing sense of God’s presence.

In our mindfulness practice, we can apply hitlamdut, non-judgmental curiosity, and grow more aware of the habits of heart and mind that hinder our ability to show up for others and for ourselves. We can notice our bechirah, our capacity and opportunity to choose a wise response informed by our innate emunah, trustworthiness. And we can allow the godly faithfulness to flow more easily through us, so that we show up more consistently, day by day.