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.

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.