Nutkeh (Part 2)

After the wedding, Rav Zundel agreed to support Nutkeh so he would be able to learn. Support in those days was one meal a day, known as kest.

Every day R’ Nutkeh would come home to his meal, but his wife would never eat with him. She always had a different excuse why she wasn’t hungry.

One day, R’ Nutkeh was in the beis medrash and he overheard a conversation (that was probably meant for him to hear).

“Who does he think he is? R’ Zundel has no food for himself, and he has to support Nutkeh!”

Now R’ Nutkeh understood why his wife never ate. There was nothing for her to eat!

R’ Nutkeh went straight to R’ Zundel’s house and told him he no longer wants the kest. R’ Zundel asked if something was wrong with the meals. “No, I just can’t eat when you have nothing for yourself.”

R’ Zundel replied that R’ Nutkeh’s meal was not part of the cheshbon of the family at all. He then called in his wife to explain.

“Right now,” she explained, “the way we make a living is by making and selling vinegar. When you got married, R’ Zundel told me to take another barrel and fill it with water, and that will become vinegar for us to sell in order to support you.”

“If so,” asked R’ Nutkeh, “why isn’t there enough for my wife as well?”

R’ Zundel told him that it’s only for someone learning Torah.

When Rav Aharon told this story, there were talmidim that were surprised that he would tell over a mofes as this is not the litvishe tradition. But, R’ Aharon never told over a story without having the facts precisely accurate.

Additionally, my grandmother personally heard from Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky that the litvishe gedolim are able to perform the same mofsim as chasidish gedolim, however, they choose not to.

Nutkeh (Part 1)

Rav Zundel Salant was Rav Yisrael Salnter’s rebbi. He was know for his tremendous bitachon. Every year he would change the source of his livelihood in order to remind himself that parnassah comes only from Hashem.

R’ Aharon Kotler told over the following story:

Rav Zundel had a daughter who needed a shidduch. At that time in Yerushalayim there were very few families altogether and there were no boys for her to marry. R’ Zundel’s wive begged him to do something. R’ Zundel said he was going to have bitachon and everything will work out.

The next morning, R’ Zundel headed for the port of Acco to see if any marriageable boys had arrived recently.

At the port there was one ship docked. R’ Zundel asked the captain if there were any single boys on board. “Yes,” replied the captain, “There was one. You can find him over there.”

Not to far away was a young man standing wearing wooden shoes and a piece of rope for a belt. (R’ Aharon would laugh as he said this over. Europeans were very formal and could not fathom someone dressing like that.)

Firm in his bitachon, R’ Zundel approched the boy. “Shalom aleichem. What’s your name?”

“Nutkeh.” (Nosson Nuttah)

“Would you be interested in marrying my daughter?”

“I would.”

So R’ Zundel headed back home with his new son-in-law to be.

The family was horrified! The whole city was talking about it! A boy who looked like a peasant! An am ha’aretz! How could R’ Zundel do such a thing??

But R’ Zundel was not concerned. He had had bitachon, and this is who Hashem sent.

The wedding date was set for after Pesach. In the meanwhile, Nutkeh was sent to the beis medrash where he sat quietly in the back keeping to himself.

On erev Pesach, R’ Zundel’s other son-in-law, Rav Shmuel Salant, was in the beis medrash with his chavrusah. They were discussing a very difficult inyan regarding chometz and were arguing loudly without coming to a conclusion.

Suddenly, from the back of the room they hear, “My zaideh the Shaagas Aryeh explains like this…” And Nutkeh launched into an intricate explanation of the topic.

R’ Shmuel was shocked! He ran home to tell the family. “Not only is he a grandson of the Shaagas Aryeh, he’s also a tremendous talmid chacham!” (The way he dressed was actually for prishus.)

The family was overjoyed! They went to tell R’ Zundel the great news. R’ Zundel wasn’t moved. He had bitachon that Hashem would send him the right son-in-law and never doubted for a second that Nutkeh wasn’t the right one.

R’ Zundel understood that bitachon is guaranteed. If you put your full trust in Hashem, He will respond as you expected.

To be continued.

Stop Chasing

The more a person worries about what’s going to be and the more hishtadlus one does, the harder it is to get what you want.

The Gemorah in Eiruvin (13a) tells us, “The more a chases after stature, the more it runs away from him. The more a person runs away from stature, the more it chases him.” The Vilna Gaon z”l explains that this is true for any middah and desire, the more you pursue the harder it is to obtain.

Certainly this is true for bitachon. When you rely only on Hashem, what you desire comes to you in a much easier way. But when you chase it, you find that you are exerting a lot of effort while it still eludes you.

It Was Worth It

Part 3

So why was Yosef punished?

The first possibility is because he was destined to be the ruler of Egypt.

A leader is always held to a higher standard. Even though some immoral actions are overlooked when done by ordinary people, when they’re done by presidents or prime ministers they become unacceptable scandals. Everyone understands that the leader is supposed to be a role model.

Yosef was to be an example for the entire Egypt and beyond, so it was important for him to have impeccable middos.

The other answer is that Yosef was previously on a high level of bitachon. In fact, he knew his brothers may want to harm him and still he went to check on them for his father.

Now that Yosef slipped and started doing hishtadlus to get out of prison, it was worthwhile for him to remain in prison for an extra two years in order for Yosef to get back to his original madregah. Hashem often helps people get back to spiritual heights they have lost.

What’s more, these lessons were so important for Yosef, that the entire history of the world was postponed for two years! Yosef being freed put into motion the entire story of the slavery in Egypt and ultimately the redemption which lead to matan Torah. All this was pushed off for just one person to reach greater heights in bitachon.

Sin the Right Way

Part 2

We find two types of people who sin. The first is “Sheva yipol tzaddik v’kam” (Mishlei 24:16) – Someone who falls into sin, but keeps getting up and trying again. The second is, “Avar vishana, nasis lo k’heter.” (Kiddushin 20) A person who does the same sin twice, and now it starts to seem to him that it’s permitted.

What causes these different reactions to sin?

A person who views life as a learning experience will make mistakes but will know how to move on. Each mistake is evaluated afterwards to see where he went wrong and how to avoid this in the future.

Even if he does an aveira on purpose, he understands that he fell in because he’s human. He doesn’t view himself now as a sinner, rather he understands that this is also part of growing in life and fixing what he has done is a stepping stone towards greatness.

The other reaction is a non-growth mindset. The idea that once a person has done an aveira there’s no going back. This is who I must be. Mediocrity become this persons shitta.

This was Yosef’s mistake. The first time he asked the Sar Hamashkim to remember him was a lack of bitachon. But people make mistakes. The second time showed that he was accepting this lack of bitachon and willing to live with hishtadlus. For this he was punished.

To be continued.

Remember Me

Part 1

After years in jail, Yosef had finally had the opportunity to attempt getting freed. All he had to do was ask the Sar Hamashkim to tell Pharaoh about him. But the Medrash (Yalkut Miketz 41:147) tells us that Yosef made a mistake. He asked the Sar Hamashkim twice to remeber him. Because of this little error, two years were added on to his jail time.

What was so terrible about Yosef’s mistake?

Before we try to answer this, let’s analyze why Yosef wanted to leave prison.

Yosef surely didn’t need to leave prison for physical reasons or because it was unpleasant there. We see many “ordinary” people who go through trying circumstances but are still happy even with the difficulties. They know it’s what Hashem wants for them. Surely Yosef was accepting of his challenges.

Yosef surely wanted to leave Egypt so he could go back to learning Torah from his father as he had done before he was sold. For spiritual desires it should have been a mitzvah to put in effort to be freed! What was wrong with what Yosef did?

To further complicated the matter, Yosef already did hishtadlus by asking the Sar Hamishkin to remember him once. Why was the second time worse?

Why was Yosef punished severely for this tiny lack of bitachon?

To be continued.

There’s No Tomorrow

Continued from previous articles.

After we discussed how great Yaakov Avinu’s bitachon was, there is one area Chazal point out where Yaakov had the slightest lapse in bitachon.

After making arrangements with Lavan, Yaakov tells him, “V’ansah bi tzidkasi b’yom machar.” – “My righteousness will speak for me tomorrow.” (Bereshis 3:33) Yaakov wanted to make a deal with Lavan that would later prove how righteous he was.

But Chazal mention on this passuk, Al tishallel b’yom machar” – “Don’t praise yourself regarding the future.” (Yalkut) Even in such a worthy situation, where Yaakov intention was only to show how righteous he was, it is still seen that he was lacking in bitachon by preparing for the future. Yaakov should have left how Lavan would perceive him in the future to the hands of Hashem.

If preparing for the future of looking righteous is considered a flaw, then certainly worrying about the future for physical needs is something we need to avoid.

What’s With the Sticks?

Continued from previous article.

Now that we saw how great Yaakov Avinu’s bitachon was, we have to answer a seeming contradiction. After Yaakov worked out his payment with Lavan, Lavan separated all the striped and spotted sheep do differentiate which ones belonged to him and which would belong to Yaakov. After this, Yaakov begins placing sticks with markings into the troughs of the animals. The animals then have children with similar markings which were the ones that they agreed would go to Yaakov.

If Yaakov had so much bitachon, why would he need to do such a thing? Why couldn’t he just rely that Hashem would make it work out in the end?

To answer, let’s remember that Lavan switched the deal even after the sheep were expecting. This would make the sticks pointless anyways!

The Alter has an explanation. In order for sheep to produce offspring, they need to be around other sheep with markings and patterns on them. (Although scientifically this has not been shown, science does not know what causes the fertility cycle in animals.)

When Lavan removed all the marked animals, there was nothing to keep up the production of sheep anymore. As a completely faithful worker, Yaakov took it upon himself to provide the needs of the sheep by placing the sticks instead of the marked animals.

It turns out that this was not in any way a lack of bitachon. Rather it was a sign of how trustworthy and faithful Yaakov really was.

Lavan Was No Fool

Continued from previous article.

When Yaakov and Lavan arranged Yaakov’s pay, Lavan kept trying to gain the upper hand. They made an arrangement that only animals born with certain patterns would go to Yaakov. Lavan knew that no matter what pattern they agreed on, Hashem would always make the animals be born with the pattern that was meant for Yaakov. Because of this, Lavan kept switching the agreement once he saw that the animals were expecting, assuming that it was too late for their patterns to change.

We have to realize that there is no such thing as only one party changing an agreement; both sides have to accept the change. This means that every time Lavan wanted to make a change Yaakov agreed!

Yaakov held on strong to his bitachon and accepted whatever terms Lavan wanted because he knew that Hashem would help him despite any agreement with Lavan. The animals changed patterns even while they were about to be born so that they should be in Yaakov’s favor!

And still, Chazal tell us that anyone can achieve this level of bitachon.

You Can Be Like Yaakov

Yaakov Avinu’s level of bitachon was tremendous. Even nature would bend itself for his needs. When Yaakov dealt with Lavan, everything always worked out in his favor even though it was clearly against nature. (As we shall discuss in later articles.)

But still, Chazal tell us something incredible. The passuk (Bereishis 31:11) says, “Vayomer elai Haelokim bachalom Yaakov.” – “Hashem spoke to me (Yaakov) in a dream and said, ‘Yaakov.'” Hashem gave a message to Yaakov and to all his generations. The message was that in every generation there will be people like Yaakov.

Bitachon is not only for the great people. Every single Jew has the ability to have the bitachon of Yaakov Avinu!