by Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
[One of the most misunderstood topics in Jewish thought is that of Bitachon -- trust in G-d. What are the rules for trusting G-d? When and how much trust is regarded as appropriate? Some insights:]
Life is full of trials. All too often we look at them as problems and nuisances, like pesky weeds that crop up in an otherwise beautiful garden. However, this attitude can be ruinous, for when faced with the unending succession of life's trials, we might easily become overwhelmed. And just as weeds can overrun a garden over the course of time, our problems can eventually destroy our lives.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we develop the right attitude toward these "weeds" that constitute our problems. They are an integral part of life, and not merely purposeless irritants with no essential function. We need to accept them, to understand them, and immediately to do whatever is necessary to grow in the right direction. Pretending that they don't exist won't make things better; neither will it help to become inflamed with anger by their presence or devastated by fear. Rather, we must work on viewing them in a different light, considering them as challenges that we must accept and overcome. By adopting this attitude, we will be better off for having experienced them...
Returning to the analogy of a garden, it's obvious that if everything in it were perfect, it would not require any tending. But in fact, much of the satisfaction in keeping a garden lies in taking care of it: planting the flowers, fertilizing it, and watching out for any weeds or insects that may harm it. So too, we should not view our problems as burdens, because they are the very things that make life interesting, giving us the satisfaction that derives from tending the garden of our lives. The trials we face keep us vigorous and strong; they keep us vigilant regarding what needs to be done to keep the garden of our lives healthy and rich.
When There Is No Way Out - You Have No Obligation
"When you have no means to act, you are relieved of the obligation to make any efforts and are only required to have trust in G-d." (Beis HaLevi, Kuntres HaBitachon)
At the outbreak of World War II, the Brisker Rav lived in the Polish capital, Warsaw. The Germans began the invasion of Poland with an unending series of air raids meant to bomb the country into submission. Warsaw, naturally, was the primary target. Like everyone else, the Brisker Rav sought shelter in the cellar of his building. Amazingly though, as the bombing raids intensified, he suddenly returned to his apartment, which was on the top floor of his building.
Everyone was bewildered. When the bombs first started falling, and it was relatively less dangerous, he went down to the cellar; yet when they started falling with greater intensity, why would he unnecessarily expose himself to more danger?
Later on the Brisker Rav resolved the riddle:
"The reason I left the shelter was because a person has to have strong trust in the Almighty regarding everything. However, Maimonides states that we must not rely on open miracles. Therefore, when the bombing first started and was relatively weak, I went down to the shelter and sat there with everyone else, for at that time it was reasonable to assume that the shelter could protect us.
"Later on, however, when the intensity of the bombing increased, the shelter offered no more protection than any other place. When things reached that stage, I asked myself, ‘What difference does it make if I am in the shelter or out of the shelter? I can sit in my house with the same protection.’ And so I did."
(Rabbi Shalom Schwadron, She'al Avicha v'Yagedcha, vol. 1, p. 185)
Escaping the Dilemma
The Chazon Ish writes:
When a person encounters something that is normally expected to result in some danger, his spontaneous reaction is to fear the "natural" outcome. His apprehension weakens his ability to remember that there is no independent power of "chance occurrence" or "bad luck" in the world. Indeed, there is nothing whatsoever preventing the Almighty from switching everything around and delivering the person from his predicament.
In order to develop the trust in G-d that can help one overcome a difficult situation, a person must practice self-restraint. He must internalize the idea that what is happening to him is not just an unfortunate stroke of fate. Everything is from G-d, whether good or bad. This credo will weaken one's terror and give him the courage to believe in the possibility of escaping from his dilemma. In reality, matters do not incline more toward the bad than the good.
Trust in G-d means holding firmly to one's faith even while anticipating the possibility of suffering. A person must realize in his heart that he is not being attacked by "misfortune." Misfortune implies chance occurrence, but there is no such thing as "chance" in the world at all. Everything emanates from G-d. As the two Jewish prisoners said to their Roman prison guards: "We were condemned to death (by Heaven). The Almighty has many agents who could kill us, and if it's not you it would be something else" (Talmud - Ta'anis 18b). Their response represents the epitome of trust in G-d.
The approach one develops to succeed in the face of hardship will be different as a result of trust in G-d. Instead of running to influential or prominent officials and desperately seeking out futile strategies, a person who has trust in G-d will concentrate on examining his deeds, and will increase his prayers and supplications, and will give tzedakah, so that the evil decree will be torn up."
(Emunah U’Bitachon 2:1)
Waiting for the Train
[And finally, a revealing story:]
A poor man was sitting in a train station for a long time when the train finally pulled in. However, when everyone went to board it, this man didn't make a move to get up. Another man, who had also been waiting, asked him, "Why don't you get on the train?" The poor man replied, "Because I don't have any money to buy a ticket."
The other fellow stood there for a moment, perplexed. "If you don't have any money, why are you sitting here waiting for the train?"
The answer of the pauper was quick in coming: "I have faith that the Almighty will send me a ticket."
The other fellow burst out in laughter, shook his head disparagingly, and proceeded to board the train himself.
Abruptly, over the hustle and bustle of the train station, the shrill whistle of the train blew: once, twice, and... the third and final whistle. You could hear the ponderous sound of the engine revving up as the train made ready to depart.
The man who had boarded the train looked out the window and saw that the man without a ticket was still expectantly waiting. In an annoyed tone of voice, he called out, "Why are you just sitting there? The train is getting ready to leave! If you don't have a ticket, well, then... here, quickly! Take this money and buy one!"
The poor man took the proffered money without hesitation and ran to the ticket booth. He managed to jump onto the train just as it was leaving the station.
As he sat down next to his benefactor, the latter turned to him and said disparagingly, "Now just think for a minute and see what a fool you are. How can you rely on your trust in G-d? Why, if I hadn't given you the money for the ticket -- you wouldn't be on the train now!"
Excerpted with permission from "TRUST ME!” - an anthology of emunah and bitachon. Published by Feldheim Publishers - http://www.feldheim.com.