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Weekly Chizuk

Bitachon and Crisis

I believe with perfect faith that G-d is One. There is no unity that is in any way like His. He alone is our G-d He was, He is, and He will be. (The second of the Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith).

When the crisis hits, the Rabbi suddenly gets desperate calls for moral support. That's what he's there for, isn't he? What they don't know is that usually, by then, it is late; very late.

Bitachon is a function of the heart and must be slowly internalized until your very essence becomes infused with emunah and bitachon. You must develop bitachon before the crisis. The mistake is that people use bitachon as a kind of segula. When the going gets rough, I'll have bitachon and everything will be OK.

Or will it?

In order not to be swept away by the flood waters of crisis, you must prepare yourself in advance by building up your bitachon. It takes much effort to become a Ba'al Bitachon.

It is said that the Arizal never kept any food for the morrow. His cupboards were always empty. In order to develop his bitachon, he forced himself not to save anything for the next day so that he would constantly have to turn to the Almighty. He was not content to have "bread in his basket" for even one day, feeling that it would indicate a lack of bitachon!

Rav Zundel Salanter (the rebbe of Rav Yisroel Salanter) was known to trust in Hashem with all his heart. When his second daughter became engaged, Rav Zundel took upon himself to support the young couple. At that time he supported himself by making vinegar. His profit was extremely meager and barely financed his household. In spite of this, he told his wife not to make one bottle more than the orders from his customers. This managed to support not only himself, but also the additional young couple. He used to say, "One who sits and learns Torah and doesn't worry about his parnossa, demonstrates his full trust in the One who sustains and gives everyone his livelihood, and thus is assured that he will get his parnossa!"

Years later the following incident happened to him. He lived in the city of Salant and made his living by importing merchandise from Germany to Lithuania. Once the customs confiscated his entire stock at the border. The value of the goods was worth more than his entire business. But you couldn't detect any pain or aggravation on his face. He told his worrying family that everything is in the hands of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. There's absolutely no room for worry. A few days later the customs officials arrived at his home, and for no explicable reason returned the entire stock.

Cultivating emunah and bitachon is the key to success in every area of life. When one has true bitachon in Hashem, it is embedded in his very essence. His heart and his entire body become completely permeated by this lofty ideal. He comes to recognize that he must always turn to the Almighty for all of his needs. This is a lofty level, attainable only after much work and self-discipline. How do we internalize bitachon?

Rav Yehuda Leib Bloch zt"l, the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, writes in Shiurei Da'as, that the first bracha of Shemone Esre is a powerful exercise in internalizing pure emunah. When you stand there in tefilla, and you say Baruch Ata Hashem, concentrate on the word Hashem the way it is written - "He is". He is all of existence from the beginning of Creation until the end of time. Imagine you are standing before the One who is everything and there is nothing besides Him. Your whole being should melt to bind with the One Who is everything.

But this is too lofty for us, so we have to start bringing it down to our understanding: "Elokeinu." This is more digestible. He is our G-d; we see Him in our lives. We have all experienced our personal hashgacha pratis. He is the G-d of our fathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. Each one of our Patriarchs had a different relationship with Hashem and Hashem guided and protected them throughout their many trials and difficulties. Avraham was chesed, Yitzchak was avodah, and Yaakov was Torah. Sefer Breishis is a tremendous mussar sefer, teaching us how the Avos trusted in Hakadosh Baruch Hu and succeeded against tremendous adversity.

This first bracha of Shemone Esre contains within it the entire universe from the beginning until its end, with all of Hashem's direct supervision over the entire Creation.

When we come to the final? of "Melech ozer, u'moshiah, u'magen," "the King who helps, who saves, and who shields," we lock into our cognizance that Hashem alone has the power to protect and save us.

These three expressions represent three ascending levels of bitachon in the face of threat, and corresponding grades of salvation. The Siddur HaGra explains:

"Who helps": On the first level, a person performs some action to bring about the desired result, and the Almighty helps (עוזר) him accordingly. Here, a person's actions are blessed by God.

"Who saves": On the second level, a person does absolutely nothing, and Hashem saves (מושיע) him. On this level, a person is not even required to exert any effort on his own behalf - God blesses him with direct salvation.

"And shields": On the third and highest level, the person performs an action lesheim shomayim, for a very noble purpose, even though it is contrary to reason. For the Almighty's sake, he exposes himself to risk, and Hashem protects (מגן) him by nullifying the danger that threatens him. Here, God protects those who rely upon Him and put themselves in danger for the sake of the Almighty.

Rav Bloch concludes that when one trains himself to pay attention to the meaning of the first bracha he will internalize true emunah and come to realize that everything, and that means everything, is directed with a very fine supervision by Hashem Yisborach. That will prepare him to tackle all of life's challenges with a clear head and a firm emunah.

One with a deep faith and trust in Hashem receives a very special protection and guidance from Above.

Rav Yechezkel Abramsky zt"l, often recollected about his miraculous Divine protection while he was in exile in Siberia:

Rav Abramsky was incarcerated with a large contingent of prisoners in a forced labor camp. When they arrived they were ordered to take off their shoes and socks and run in the freezing snow for several miles. Rav Yechezkel was of very weak constitution and very vulnerable to get sick from the cold. He was afraid that if this kept up he would die of pneumonia.

He started davening to Hakadosh Baruch Hu: "Tatta in Himmel, You wrote in Your Torah that everything is in the hands of Heaven except for cold and heat. If a person does not guard himself from cold, all of his mitzos won't protect him from getting sick. But here in Siberia I have no way of protecting myself from the terrible frost. This commandment doesn't apply to me; it is now up to Heaven. Therefore, I beg of You, Tatta, save me that I shouldn't freeze to death in this desolate land."

And so was it. He was in Siberia for several years and never once did he even catch a cold. The other prisoners suffered terribly and many died of pneumonia and frost bite. "I never once was afflicted with any type of cold during the entire duration of my exile, because I had already first gone straight to my Father!"

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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