Writing Practice: Faith

How would you describe faith?

Is it something inside you–a deep trust in God, an unwavering belief in God’s presence–that flows like a swiftly running river toward the sea?

Or is it more like a flickering flame, a candle burning brightly one day, waning the next, mysteriously gathering strength and intensity then fading to a shadow without reason or explanation?

Do you think faith is something that you work toward like climbing a tall mountain… something you have to seek out, searching for a clear path to reach the pinnacle, slipping and sliding off the path, only to regain your footing with more certainty further on?

Or is faith like a rock inside you, sturdy, unswerving, always present, never in doubt?

We have different experiences of faith, and each of those experiences can serve as sources of inspiration in our writing.

We can write about standing amidst fellow Jews on Shabbat and offering our prayers to God and feeling a certain faith that God is listening.

We can write about approaching the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem and sensing God’s presence in history, in our lives, at that moment.

We can write about learning that someone we love has cancer and not giving up hope.

We can write about a dear spouse who may have survived a car accident or hip surgery and praying for his or her recovery.

We can write about losing a parent, giving birth to a child, caring for an ill aunt, helping a frail grandfather… and how each individual, each experience, influences our faith, for better or worse.

How does faith play a role in these experiences? How does faith play a role in your life?

Can you define faith without checking a dictionary? What does it mean to you? How would you describe a life with faith versus a life without faith? And how does having faith–or not having faith–influence the way you view your Jewish identity?

Can you think of a time in your life when you felt your faith challenged… and can you describe what happened? Set the background for the event and how you came to find yourself in the situation. What made you feel that your faith was challenged? How did you respond? And did you feel after the experience that your faith was stronger or weaker?

Can you think of a time when you realized that you didn’t possess any faith? What prompted you to realize this? How did it make you feel? And how did you respond to this revelation? (Do you still pray? Can you still believe in God, even if you doubt His or Her existence?)

Look at passages in the Tanakh for examples of individuals who displayed–or failed to display–faith. Abraham when he set out on his journey. Nachshon when he led the people into the sea. The ten spies when they entered the Land.  What can you learn about faith from these passages? Can you compare the faith–or lack of faith–displayed by these individuals to your own?

In writing about faith, you may discover your faith deepening, running swiftly like a river’s steady current, or you may discover an empty well, barely illuminated by a flickering flame. Whatever you find in your search, let us know. Sometimes sharing the search is enough to inspire faith in others, if not in ourselves.

Bruce Black


Filed under Jewish identity, Jewish writing, writing practice

2 responses to “Writing Practice: Faith

  1. This hit home because last night I watched “Contact” with Jodie Foster for the first time since it came out and I had forgotten how much the film was about faith. The answer changes for Foster’s character and I think it does for some of us, sometimes dramatically, sometimes slowly, without our awareness. The questions raised here make me think of others, like, “Is faith always about God?”

  2. Thanks for raising some really interesting questions. I am a librarian at a Jewish Day School in Minnesota, and these are questions both teachers and students wrestle with on a regular basis. Thanks for providing some good fodder for me to think about and write about in the future.

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