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!

Put It In Your Pocket

I was once driving with friends in the car and needed to fill up on gas. As we were getting close to the gas station, my friends tried to pressure me to ask the attendant something odd instead of the usual, “Fill regular, please.” They decided I should say, “Fill decaf!”

I absolutely refused.

I was so focused on not listening to my friends advice, that as I rolled down my window, the words that popped out of my mouth were, “Fill decaf, please!”

In Novorodok, there was a practice to do things like this intentionally. The common example was to go into a pharmacy and ask for nails. (In a time where pharmacies actually only sold medicine…)

Rav Yehuda Leib Nekritz explained the reason for this behavior was to train yourself to have courage in any situation. Once you can make a foolish request intentionally, you start being able to stand up for what’s right even when you feel foolish. This wasn’t something they did everyday, rather just occasionally so they would have the courage “in their back pocket” for when it was needed.

The same goes for practicing bitachon. Once you start and get a little experience with smaller things, you know that you have the ability to have bitachon when bigger things arrive. It’s already in your pocket.

A Hand or a Finger

In Tehillim (121:5) it states, “Hashem tzilcha,” – “Hashem [is like] your shadow.” In what way is Hashem like a shadow?

When you make shadow puppets and put one finger in front of the light, your shadow will have one finger. When you put your whole hand in front, you see a whole hand.

Hashem responds to us like our shadows do. When we rely on ourselves, Hashem responds by only giving us whatever we can accomplish on our own. But when we rely on Hashem’s mighty hand, he responds with His full strength!

It is up to us to choose how to receive Hashem’s blessings.

The Candle from Nowhere

The Alter of Novorodok was once studying bitachon. As an exercise, he went to a hut that he had in the forest and intentionally did not bring a candle*. He sat there learning knowing that it would get dark and he had no way at all of getting any light. The Alter remained in the hut as night fell, leaving the hut completely dark.

After a short while, a man whom the Alter had never seen before arrived at the door of the hut holding a candle! Without a word, the man handed over the candle and hurried off into the forest.

The Alter never found out the identity of the man.

This was the strength of his bitachon, even in a situation where he didn’t need to have bitachon, he knew that bitachon would help anyways.

Bitachon helps in any situation, at any time. and for anything.

As a postscript to the story: The Alter held on to the stub of this candle as a reminder of the power of bitachon. One day, there was a fire that destroyed the Alter’s home, including the candle. His family was very distraught at the loss of the candle stub which meant a lot to them.

The Alter told them, “Until now, we needed the candle to help us with bitachon. It must be that now we reached a level where we no longer require a reminder.”

* There is a slightly different version of this story that is recorded by the Steipeler, however this is the way it is presented in the Alter’s sefer and how it was passed down in the family.

Who’s Doing the Favor?

Rabbi Y. Perr shlit”a relates a personal story about two of his father’s cousins, Gittel and Faigel. Gittel was around ten years older than Faigel and was elderly and needed care. Faigel took Gittel into her home where she faithfully took care of Gittel day and night.

After a few years of this arrangement, Gittel passed away.

Now that she was no longer taking care of her sister, Faigel had some time to take care of herself. Faigel had a knee that needed to be replaced and she decided that now was a good time to do it.

Shortly after the procedure, Rabbi Perr went to visit Faigel in the hospital. When he arrived, Faigel was not in the room. He found Faigel’s husband looking ashen.

“Where is she?” Rabbi Perr asked.

“She’s in the ICU.” Faigel’s husband answered. “This morning, before I came to visit her, she was served a bagel for breakfast. As she was eating, she began to choke. The doctors rushed in and performend CPR, but she’s still not responsive .”

Shortly after, Faigel passed away.

Rabbi Perr spoke by the levaya and pointed out the unlikely way the Faigel died – in a hospital from choking while surrounded by doctors! It made very little sense.

It’s possible that Faigel’s time to go may have come earlier, but it was the merit that she had for taking care of Gittel that kept her alive! We thought that Faigel was helping Gittel, but really Gittel was helping Faigel!

Often in life we make assumptions about the challenges we face. We usually don’t realize the benefit we receive from them.

Tap Into It

Continued from previous articles.

There is a principal in bitachon that we can see from the story of Rava.

If we think about it, if Rava hadn’t seen his sister in many years, it must be that they lived far apart. This means that by the time the guest arrived by Rava and made his request, Rava’s sister must have already been on the road with her basket of chicken and wine. So how do we attribute the guest getting what he wanted to bitachon if it was already coming before he had bitachon?

When Rava’s sister was on the way, anything could have happened that may have prevented her from bringing the gifts. It could have been stolen, rotted, or even left behind. It was the guest’s bitachon that ensured it’s safe arrival.

The same is in every situation in our lives. Hashem sends the solution to our troubles in advance. If we have bitachon, then the solution reaches us. But when we fail to believe, the solution might pass us right by. It is our job to have bitachon so we can tap into the answer that Hashem has already sent for us.

Getting or Giving?

Parasitism (social offense)

Social parasitism is a pejorative that is leveled against a group or class which is considered to be detrimental to society. The term comes from the ancient Greek παράσιτος (parásitos), “one who lives at another’s expense, person who eats at the table of another,” used to label the social offender. (The English language borrowed the word/concept “parasite” as a social label in the 1530s; the later use of “parasite” as a biological metaphor developed from the early 17th century.)
For example, the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was charged with social parasitism by the Soviet authorities in a trial in 1964, who found that his series of odd jobs and role as a poet were not a sufficient contribution to society.

When the Alter of Novorodok wrote his sefer, being a parasite was considered a serious crime in Russia. Many Jews were found guilty of this crime as they were barred from many forms of employment and had to live off a charity. So he wrote as follows:

Someone who lives with bitachon doesn’t have to concern himself with living off of others as he knows he is really only receiving from Hashem.

In fact, it may very well be because of him that others have.

If we look at the story of Rava and his guest, it is very possible that because the guest had bitachon for wine and chicken, that is the only reason it came. In fact, most likely the guest shared the chicken and wine with Rava. Anything could have happened that would have prevented Rava’s sister from bringing the meal.

When someone relies on bitachon, they are not taking, they may be giving.