AS: With over 200,000 copies in print, the Living Emunah series has had an enormous impact on the Jewish world. What were your goals when you set out to adapt its message to teens?
CN: My primary goal was to capture the inspiration of Rabbi Ashear’s work and make it more accessible to teen readers. To accomplish that, I used scenarios and stories that reflect the concerns of their lives. I wanted the average teenager to be able to look at the events of his or her life and spot Hashem in action. Building emunah at this stage of life equips a person to face the ups and downs of adult life with strength and optimism.
AS: A year of Covid, followed by the Meron tragedy, the accident in Givat Zeev, missiles on Eretz Yisrael, and anti-Semitic attacks worldwide. What are a teen’s unique challenges in such tough times?
CN: I think everyone feels challenged. Everyone is reaching out for chizuk. For teens, the special challenge is the lack of experience. An adult knows that we’ve faced many challenges, personally and as a Klal, and Hashem has always enabled us to regain our balance, heal from our wounds, and move forward. For teens, these crises seem like “never before” events, which can make them even more frightening.
AS: Like all Living Emunah books, much of the teaching is done through stories. Which story did you find the most powerful?
CN: I love stories in which Hashem seems to pop out of His hiding place for one flash of a second, just to give someone that spark of certainty that “I’m here!” One of these stories is about a woman who discovered that her babysitter was being impatient with her little boy. The mother wanted to leave her job, because she didn’t want to ever entrust her child to a stranger again. But she really needed the money. She felt stuck in her dilemma until she realized that it wasn’t up to her to solve it. She began davening to Hashem with total confidence that He would see her through. A week later, she was offered a job that allowed her to work from home, for an organization called “Save the Children.” Message sent, message received!