An Introduction

What is Bitachon?

         Bitachon can be described as applied emunah. While emunah is belief in Hashem and realization that He created and runs the world, bitachon is the faith that He personally takes care of every individuals needs. Emunah may sometimes be easier to obtain than bitachon. One can see proof of Hashem from nature and science, but to rely solely on Hashem for your needs may take work.

The Joy of Studying Bitachon

R’ Yisroel Salanter compared the subject of bitachon to a “fetteh tupp” – a pot of cooked goose fat. In our terms, it would be like a bowl of icing – there’s just something irresistible about it that you feel compelled to take a lick. The same is for bitachon, once you start to hear a little about it you feel the urge to try it.

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The Rules of Bitachon (Part 3)

How can we know when we should do hishtadlus and when we must have Bitachon?

As a rule: When something is within your ability and in your possession is an area where you may not rely on Bitachon. For example, someone cannot say, “I have bitachon that the money in my pocket will just come to my hand,” or “The food will just get from my plate to my mouth.” It’s self-understood that this is just plain foolishness.

The clearest area that calls for Bitachon is where what you need is not within your ability to obtain nor is it in your possession. Such as needing a certain amount of money which you have no way to obtain.

If something belongs to you but it’s lost or stolen, or even if you lent it out and the borrower refuses to return it, you can certainley have Bitachon that your item will be returned.

The only grey area is where something belongs to you, and the person who has it is willing to return it but they’re not in a hurry to give it back. It’s possible in this situation one must put in the effort to retrieve the item, however, it’s also possible that one may have Bitachon here as well.

The Rules of Bitachon (Part 2)

The Shevet of Levi doesn’t have a portion in Eretz Yisroel. They live off the terumah and ma’aser given to them from the rest of the Jewish people. They have a special promise from Hashem that He will make sure they will be taken care of.

The Ramba”m takes this further by saying that this promise is not only given to Shevet Levi, but anyone who dedicates themselves to properly serving Hashem and stops worrying about worldly troubles is given this promise.

The 24 gifts of kehuna were given to the Kohanim specifically because they weren’t involved in anything besides the avodah. They were given them without doing any effort at all to receive them.

So to anyone who wants to be dedicated to growing in their avodah will be given all that they need without any effort.

The Rules of Bitachon (Part 1)

R’ Yisroel Salanter zt”l explains that there are two main opinions regarding Bitachon:

The Chovos Halevavos maintains that you must do hishtadlus along with Bitachon Not that Hakodosh Baruch Hu can’t do miracles, rather we just don’t rely on miracles.

However, the Ramban is of the opinion that Bitachon is to rely solely on Hashem without any additional effort.

Even according to the Chovos Halevavos, it is still forbidden to do too much hishtadlus, you may only do a small amount so that whatever Hashem sends you looks like it is “natural” and not miraculous.

But it would be a complete lack of faith in Hashem to believe that some people are just “lucky” or that the only way to succeed is to work as much as you are able.

The Alter adds, that it seems that the way of the Chovos Halevavos is for ordinary people but those who want to have a special connection with Hashem choose the way of the Ramban. The Chovos Halevavos also mentions that there are individuals who work very hard on their middos and are supported without any effort.

[It is possible that even like the Chovos Halevavos, there is no specific requirement to have bitachon with hishtadlus, rather there is a chiyuv to have bitachon, and for those who are not holding by not doing any hishtadlus they must still have bitachon with hishtadlus until they are able to have without.]

Can a Sinner Have Faith?

Everyone with Bitachon is a believer, but not every believer has Bitachon.

The Ramban explains that in order to have Bitachon you must believe in Hashem, otherwise who would you be having faith in? But believing in Hashem does not mean that you have Bitachon. There’s often a doubt in our minds whether we will receive help from Hashem because maybe we’re not worthy of it. We feel like we do to many aveiros. We even find that Ya’akov Avinu was worried that he would be harmed by Eisav because he may have sinned.

But the truth is as the passuk says, “בטח על ה’ ועשה טוב” – First trust in Hashem, then do good. Chazal even say that even a rasha who has Bitachon is surrounded with chesed of Hashem. (The Gr”a even goes as far as to say that a thief who has Bitachon that he will be successful in stealing will be successful).

This doesn’t mean that sins will be overlooked. Rather, they are not considered when Hashem helps a person who trusts in Him.

So why then was Ya’akov afraid that his sins would affect him?

When we look at what Ya’akov Avinu did, we notice something interesting. He split up his camp into two groups so that if one was attacked the other could still survive. But intstead of splitting his family into two, his entire family was in one group and only his servants and flocks were in the other.

Ya’akov had complete Bitachon that nothing would happen to him or his family. It was only with his possessions that he was worried that his sins would cause harm to him.

Every person can have Bitachon and every person will be helped when they have Bitachon.

Windows from the Heavens

During the days of Elisha HaNavi, the nation of Aram surrounded the Jewish people in Shomron and started a siege. The people were so starved that they were forced to pay exorbitant prices to obtain even a donkey’s head to eat.

Elisha came to the city and announced, “Tomorrow, the a se’ah of flour will be [the very low price of] a shekel, and two se’ah of barley for one shekel.

There was an officer of the king of Israel standing nearby who called out, “Will Hashem make windows in the sky? How can such a thing be?!” He doubted that such a miracle could occur.

The Navi responded, “You will see this with your own eyes, but you will not benefit from it.”

That night, Hashem scared off the Aram army by sending noises that sounded like a tremendous army coming to attack. In their panic they left everything behind including a large quantity of food.

Some Jews discovered the abandoned camp and told their king. When he saw the vast spoils left behind, he sent an announcement to the city. “Tomorrow the price of flour will be one shekel for a se’ah and two se’ah of barley for a shekel.”

As the Jews went running to see what was going on, the doubting officer got trampled to death under their feet. He saw the miracle but did not partake in it. (Melachim II 6 – 7)

How is this officer different than us? Chazal say that someone who has food for today but worries about what he’ll have tomorrow is lacking faith. (Sottah 48b) If we doubt that Hashem will provide for us, why aren’t we punished like the officer?

The truth is that we do suffer the same fate.

When we worry about what we don’t have and look around at everyone else who looks like they have it all, we never get enjoyment from what we do have! In reality, everyone is doing this, even the people who seem to have it all are jealous of people who have more than them. It’s a self-fulfilling curse!

Once we realize that no matter what we do it’s impossible to get even a penny more than Hashem knows we should have, then we can start enjoying what He sends us and stop worrying that we’re not doing enough.

To Eat or to Sweat?

Continued from previous articles.

We have been discussing the importance of enjoying what you have now instead of scrimping and saving for the future.

Why did the Torah choose to teach us this lesson specifically by Shmittah? If appears that this was only a one-time challenge. Once the first Shmittah passed, everyone saw how the land produced enough for three years so they no longer had to worry about future Shmittahs. Why would we need a special lesson for a one-time event?

The answer is, that this was a lesson not only for the first Shmittah, but for every Shmittah, and it’s also important for bitachon n general.

Hashem usually deals with this world within the boundaries of nature, except when someone has bitachon. As we mentioned previously, Hashem responds to a person corresponding to the amount of trust they put in Him. The more you rely on Hashem, the more he provides directly.

The Torah tells us that the sixth year will have extra growth and there will be enough food for Shmittah. But this bracha is directly dependent on whether a person has bitachon or not.

If someone is nervous and they put aside food every year to save up for Shmittah, then they are choosing to follow the laws of nature. They will have food for the Shmittah year, but it will be because they saved up and they will not see the bracha in the sixth year.

Someone who has faith in Hashem for the six years and they enjoy what they are given during those years without scrimping and saving, they are the ones to see the bracha in the sixth year.

The choice is always ours. The amount of blessing in our lives was already determined for us on Rosh Hashana. But how we receive it is up to us. We can either put matters into our own hands and work extra hard and save up or we can leave the details to Hashem and live in the moment.

The results will be the same but the journey will be very different.

You Must Enjoy Today

Continued from previous article.

When the Torah tells us, “You shall eat and be satisfied, and will live securely in the land.” It is not a blessing or a guarantee as it sounds like, it is a command.

The Torah commands us to eat until we are full and not to penny-pinch and save up for Shmittah. The Torah understood that human nature is to worry about the future, so it warned us to enjoy what we have now and that’s how we can “live securely in the land” – without worry.

However, because worrying what will be is actually logical, the Torah continues to say, “If you will ask what will be in the seventh year… the grain will provide for three years.” You don’t have to save up and prepare for Shmittah, Hashem will do all the preparation for you.

Your job is to sit back and enjoy what you have and when Shmittah comes you will still have what you need.

Shmittah Conondrum (Pt. 2)

As we mentioned in the previous post, a person can begin worrying about what will be even in the first year of the Shmittah cycle.

Such a person is completely losing sight of what Shmittah is. He says his intention is to save up now in order to be able to keep Shmittah properly. But the main purpose of Shmittah is to remind a person that everything is in the complete control of Hashem.

This is why the Torah forbade even things that grew on their own during Shmittah, to take us to the opposite extreme of hishtadlus. We are not allowed to be involved in any part of the growing process, to remind us that in reality we never have a real part in the process because Hashem is doing the work.

A person can start off saying that he’s doing hishtadlus for a mitzvah by saving food so he will be able to keep Shmittah. But this attitude begins to creep in to every area in life and the hishtadlus increases in whatever he does. And without bitachon it becomes hard to do any mitzvah or to face nisayonos.

Of course the opposite is true as well, having bitachon with small things leads to greater strength during challenges and enables a person to do mitzvos properly.

Shmittah Conundrum (Pt. 1)

There’s a fascinating pasuk that talks about Shmittah.

ואכלתם לשבע, וישבתם לבטח עליה. וכי תאמרו מה נאכל בשנה השביעית, … וצויתי את ברכתי לכם בשנה השש’ת ועשת את התבואה לשלש השנים. (Vayikra 25: 19, 21)

“You shall eat and be satisfied, and will live securely in the land. If you will ask, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year?’… I shall command My blessing in the sixth year and the grain will provide for three years.”

After the Torah has already concluded discussing the laws of Shmittah, it tells us that we will have plentiful food, and then it goes back to discussing what we will have in the seventh year. Why is the Torah going back now?

The bigger question is. When would someone ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year?” During the first years of the cycle they have food, and they’re not worried yet about Shmittah. In the sixth year, he sees the triple crop, and in the seventh he has it to eat! So when is he worried?

The answer must be that in the very first year of the Shmittah cycle people are already concerned what will be in seven years! The nature of a person is to begin worrying immediately once a possibility of difficulty enters his mind, even if the threat is in the distant future.

As it says in Mishlei (13:25), “The stomach of a rasha is lacking.” This is not because he doesn;t have what to eat. He puts away what he has today because he’s always worried that he might not have in the future.

Already in the first year that the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael, after they planted and harvested, some began to worry about the Shmittah year, They saw that they had food now, but they were worried that the bracha for the sixth year may not happen, while they knew they must keep Shmittah.So for six years they worried and put away food.

To be continued.

A Wagon of Treasure

The Alshich zt”l once delivered a speech regarding having bitachon without doing any effort.

Among the crowd that was listening there was a simple man whose job was to transport materials. When he heard that Hashem sends the same parnassah regardless of effort, he said to himself, “I have to be a fool to keep working! All day and night I work so hard wearing myself out. If I have bitachon I will have the what I need without the heartache!”

The man made up his mind, stopped working, and sat at home saying Tehillim. His family tried to encourage him to take his wagon and go find work. “Rachmana litzlan!” he cried, “The Alshich said I will have parnassah without working, so that’s what I’m going to do. Hashem will provide us with our needs.”

Eventually, this man sold his donkey and wagon to a gentile.

One day, the gentile was in the forest digging up dirt to sell in the city, when he uncovered a buried treasure! He loaded up the wagon with a bag full of treasure and headed back to dig up more. As he was digging, a stone was dislodged and killed him.

After a while, the donkey became impatient and not knowing what to do, wandered back to its original owner’s home.

When the family saw the donkey with the treasure, they ran inside and told the man that his bitachon worked, they were now wealthy!

When the Alshich’s talmidim heard about this, they asked him, how can this be? We’ve been working on bitachon for so many years without such success, and this simple farmer becomes wealthy right away?!

The Alshich explained, when this simple farmer heard what I taught, he accepted it completely. He had no doubts whatsoever that Hashem will provide him. But we know, “the greater the person, the stronger the yetzer hara is.” (Sukkah 52a) You have all sorts of thoughts on when and where you may or may not have bitachon, or whether it will help in your situation.

A person must be firm in his belief that Hashem is able to take care of us in every time, place, and situation. There is nothing that can stop Him.