Faith doesn’t require us to test God as Jews did at Meribah, though with relative success. Rather, we should expect that at some point God will offer us an opportunity which we must seize. Leftists believe in reforming societies on a grand scale; we, the true liberals, must be on lookout for mini-opportunities to further the goals supported by our faith.

The problem isn’t Begin or Sharon. Jews just don’t believe in the burning bush anymore. And without a degree of faith the project of Israel is doomed. Secular Jews don’t believe the land is ours. Haredi Jews comfortably shrink into their prayer shawls and close their eyes to the world outside.

The faith of some is the only barrier to the assimilation of all. Already in the eighteenth century—and probably much earlier—the Jewish communities of Russia were striving for religious liberalization. Few people were living according to the rigid Shulhan Aruch laws, and observance was superficial for the most part. As a great Jewish writer Sholom Aleichem recalls, his grandma scolded his father for being irreligious even though he wore long hair locks. But the communities were kept Jewish by the immense spiritual power of a few rabbis. What was that power? I think I know it because I’ve met a handful of such rabbis who made secular, even atheist Jews deeply religious after talking with them for an hour or two on unrelated subjects. It is faith. If the empty ideological zeal of communist agitators was contagious, faith is infinitely more so. People are not only bodies, but also minds; not only individual, but also collective. In the age of fast-paced developments, when new orders crumble almost as soon as they appear, people long for simple and stable things. Faith is straightforward, stable, and provides an excellent sense of communal identity. No amount of extra-smart educational theories and seminars on Jewishness would make the Jews Jewish. By far most rabbis—in fact, almost all of them—have long lost the power to persuade their flock because they are not persuaded themselves. They just no longer believe in the simple truths that God physically revealed himself on Mount Sinai, consumed animal sacrifices with fire, and commanded the Jews to fight for the Promised Land. Too many of them don’t even believe in God as a super-intelligent being who listens to our prayers.

The communal is inherently irrational. No rational argument can convince people to stick with others whose ancestors also happened to be Jewish, on a tiny speck of endangered land among a sea of Muslim enemies. Rational analysis surely suggests that the best thing to do is to move out, not to move in. No amount of rational argument, no amount of books and discourses, would ever make the fledging Jews Jewish. Only the personal touch of faith can do it, only personal communication with the very few true rabbis. With every year they are in lesser supply; the new generation just doesn’t produce these eyes anymore, these faces lighting with faith.

Salvation comes only through faith.