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 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.

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.