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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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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.

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.