A Fat Chicken and Old Wine

A guest once arrived at Rava’s home. Rava wanted his visitor to feel at home so he asked his guest, “What are you accustomed to eat?”

“A fattened chicken and old wine,” was the reply. Expensive delicacies.

Rava was taken aback. “Aren’t you concerned that you’re being a burden on the tzibbur with such a request?”

“Absolutley not! I’m not eating from your food, I’m eating from what Hashem provides.

“The passuk says, עיני כל אליך ישברו, ואתה נותן להם את אכלם בעתו – ‘… You give each of them their food in his time.’ It says ‘in his time” instead of ‘in their time’ because everyone is given his own needs at the right time for him.”

As they were having this conversation, Rava’s sister arrived who he hadn’t seen in thirteen years, and with her she brought… a fattened chicken and old wine!

Rava was shocked at the turn of events. He apologized to his guest and invited him to eat. (Kesubos 67b).

We take from this story that there are no limits to bitachon. When you live with bitachon you do not have to live a frugal life. You can enjoy life as you are used to.

We can’t say you can only have bitachon for certain things and not for others, becuase Hashem’s abilities are endless!

Once you know that the Ribbono Shel Olam will be taking care of everything you need, you can rely on that more than you can rely on the money you have in your pocket!

Topic to be continued

Don’t Follow the Stars

The Yerushalmi (Shabbos 6:9) brings an interesting story:

There was once an astrologer who became a ger. One day he had to travel someplace. Before he left, he calculated through astrology that this was an inauspicious time for travel. He thought to himself, “How can I travel in such a time?!”

But then the astrologer caught himself. “The whole reason I joined this holy nation was to distance my self from such things!” He announced, “I will go forth with the name of the Creator!”

As he was on the road, a ferocious lion approached. He quickly offered his donkey to the lion and was able to flee.

The Yerushalmi concludes, that the reason he was attacked was for doubting Hashem, but in the end he was saved for having trust in Hashem.

We take from this story, that one who trusts solely in Hashem doesn’t need to fear even if if the time or place seems dangerous. The Ribono Shel Olam is the one in control and we can always be calm when we recognize that.

Enjoy What You Have

Shlomo Hamelech describes the difference between a ba’al bitachon and someone without. צדיק אוכל לשבע נפשו, ובטן רשעים תחסר – A righteous person eats to satiation, but the belly of a wicked person is lacking. (Mishlei 13:25)

A tzaddik who has food for today doesn’t worry about tomorrow. He eats what he has now until he is full and knows that with bitachon he’ll have what he needs tomorrow also. He has nothing to worry about today.

But someone who relies on his own effort is never satisfied. He won’t eat all that he has today because he’s nervous he won’t have tomorrow. That’s why his stomach is never full, he’s always scrimping and saving for a “rainy day.” No day is lived to the fullest because he always has the fear of the future in his mind.

When you have bitachon, every day and any situation is the same. If you have what you need now, enjoy it. Hashem will make sure you have your needs tomorrow as well.

Scattered Soul

A person without bitachon leads a stressful life of “pizzur hanefesh” – “Having a scattered soul.”

Sometimes the pressure of life makes him do unpleasant things. Lying, cheating, and stealing might not be natural for a Jew, but pressures and worries may sometime lead a person there.

Even when dealing honestly, a person without bitachon may have to go to great lengths or travel far to earn a living, putting his physical and spiritual life in danger.

He always worries. Maybe he didn’t flatter or honor the right person? Maybe that person doesn’t like me?

Also, since he relies on others, he has to always worry about the people that the people he relies on rely on! It’s a horrible chain of worry as he never knows what will happen. He worries about the markets, he worries about disasters, he worries about politics!

All this fear, worry, and stress are outcomes of a lack of bitachon.

Good and Better

Now we can understand what Yirmiyah was telling us. “Baruch hagever asher yivtach baHashem” – A person who trusts in Hashem has everything in his life taken care of for him. He doesn’t make himself crazy with effort. He knows his physical and spiritual well-being will be just fine and he lives a life of tranquility.

But Yirmiya’s main point is: “Vvehaya Hashem mivtacho.” That you have on Who to rely. Since Hashem is eternal, bitachon is eternal as well. No matter what happens in the world around you, bitachon is always there and will never fail you.

To illustrate this: Reuven is newly married, and his father-in-law Yaakov agrees to support him financially. Yaakov is a hard-working man who manages to feed his family and can occasionally afford some luxuries. Reuven relies on Yaakov, but in his mind he’s always concerned that maybe his father-in-law won’t be able to continue this arrangement, so he puts money aside now and sometimes worries about the future.

But let’s say that Yaakov was a man of means like Bill Gates. His son-in-law Reuven would never concern himself with financial worries, it would take a tremendous upheaval to bring down Yaakov’s empire!

Certainly someone who relies on Hashem for support has no worries. Hashem is always with us and He has complete control over all resources.

Spinning the Gears

Berel realized one morning that his term paper was due tomorrow! If only he hadn’t pushed it off so long! The topic was “Chinese Rice Production in the early 18th Century.” How was he supposed to research that in only one day?!

Berel skipped school for the day and quickly ran as fast as he could to the library. He frantically scanned the shelf for the book he needed only to find a gaping space where the book belonged!

The librarian informed him that that book would be back next Tuesday. “Next Tuesday!” he cried, “But I need it today!” “Alright,” she said, “There’s another copy in our branch located an hour away, you can try to get that one.” “So how do I get there?” he begged. “I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to give directions,” was her response. After much pleading – and maybe a bit of crying – he had the directions and was on his way.

But soon he was completely lost. A gas station attendant helpfully informed him that the librarian had told him to take the wrong turn and he needed to turn around and head 10 miles the other way! Berel pulled up to the library just as the branch manager was locking the doors. “Please, please, please!” he cried, “I need the book!” The manager acquiesced to his pleas and let him in and he found the book of his desire! What Hashgacha!

He finally arrived home after his long day and cracked open the book. “Chapter 22 – Rice Production in China.” said the index. Chapter 19… 20… 21… 23! Chapter 22 was gone, neatly cut out from the book!!

And then, Berel remembered. Last year Yanky did an excellent report on this exact topic…

Berel dialed Yanky’s number. “Yanky,” Berel asked, “Do you remember the report you did last year?” “Do I!?” Yanky replied. “Sure I do! I got it right out of the book!” (He sure did!) And with that, Berel was able to get the pages he needed to complete his report.

The Alter calls this concept “Gilgul Hasibos.” – “Setting causes into effect.” This idea is similar to turning gears, there is so much effort involved in spinning one gear which moves the other and so on, until the right gear is moved. This is what people do to get their needs met. They work, and try, and work some more until they get what they are after,

Just like Berel, someone without bitachon spends much of his life exerting effort into many different causes hoping that he will achieve success. But in reality, success is in Hashem’s hands and might be right by your doorstep (just like the book was already by Berel’s friend). When you leave things to Hashem, there’s no need for exertion.

The Second Blessing

The second, and more important, blessing in a ba’al bitachon’s life, is that he has a “Derech HaBitachon.” This means that this person’s life is one where he lives bitachon. This is of greater value than of just having your needs met through bitachon.

To illustrate the idea: Josh is the top political adviser in the United States. He has been hired to work on some of the toughest political campaigns, including many senators and even a few presidential candidates. Josh is known for his results. A candidate who has Josh on staff has a serious advantage.

Now, it’s true that Josh takes a hefty fee for his service, but he’s not known by his wealth – he’s known for his skill. The fee is just a fact. It doesn’t detract from his talent. He is the top political adviser whether or not he gets paid!

The same is for someone who has a “Derech HaBitachon,” Of course he has total calmness from not worrying about his needs, but it is much greater that he has a life of bitachon. For such a person, even if a time comes where he seems to be lacking, he still is calm, knowing that things will turn out good as they always do. He is like someone who owns a thriving business. If one day there’s a storm and no customers walk into the store, the owner isn’t worried. This is a successful enterprise! Tomorrow things will improve as always.

(As an aside, the same way becoming a political expert doesn’t happen overnight, attaining the Derech Habitchon doesn’t either. They both require practice – with trial and error – to become an expert.)

No Fears

Even when the world around you is in disarray, when you have bitachon you have nothing to fear. Nothing can ever happen to you if it’s not what Hashem knows is best for you.

During the Russian revolution, there were armies roaming the streets breaking out in sporadic fights. On one Motzei Shabbos, the Alter was standing and making havdalah when gunshots rang through the air. Everyone in the room began to panic and ran for cover. But not the Alter. He remained standing in his place, completely calm, and not even a single drop of wine spilled from his kos! This was his bitachon. If the bullets weren’t meant for him, then he had nothing at all to fear!

This is the first blessing that a ba’al bitachon has. A complete calmness in his life; no worries and no depression. He sees he has what he needs now and knows that he never has to worry about tomorrow. Everything in his life will be taken care of with bitachon.

Be Yourself

When a person relies on others, he loses his sense of self. For example, he makes sure his views are aligned with those of his boss so that he’ll always be on good terms. He feels that he must make sure he’s always conforming if he wants to get a promotion.

A person with bitachon can always be himself; he never has to sell out on his beliefs. Following you true beliefs can never take away from your parnassah, because it comes straight from Hashem!

The fact is clear: It is impossible to add or detract – even a tiny amount – from what was decreed from you. You can be yourself and you will never lose.

Double Blessing

The passuk implies that a ba’al bitachon has double blessings in his life, as it says,”Baruch hagever asher yivtach…” and “vihaya Hashem mivtacho.”

Let’s look at each one separately.

The First Blessing

A person who has bitachon in Hashem is saved from so much suffering that is naturally caused by a life of worry. Someone who is relying on himself to bring home money is going to find himself in many unpleasant situations. Desperation can lead to risky investments that may destroy a person – financially and spiritually – if they fall through. Lying and cheating in business is also an outcome of failing to see where parnassah truly comes from.

When you have believe that Hashem is the provider, there’s no need for risk. Hashem will take care of you even without your investment. There’s no need to work yourself down to the bone, the money is going to come either way.

Much of the stress we face in life is from the uncertainty in what we’re doing. Maybe I should work harder, switch careers, move to a different city?? Bitachon melts away the stress. The Ribono Shel Olam takes care of us in every situation.

When you have what you need today, you can be calm about tomorrow; it will be taken care of.