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Bitachon in a DesertThe Lord spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the Tent of Meeting… (Bemidbar 1:1)
Why in the Sinai Desert?
The Midrash asks why this possuk has to state specifically that Hashem spoke to them in the Sinai Desert. It seems to have been a very important fact that it had to be mentioned. The Midrash answers, this is coming to tell us that the Torah was given specifically in the desert. One who studies Torah has to make himself just like a desert.
Rav Yaakov Neiman, zt"l, Rosh Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel in Petach Tikva (in his sefer Darchei Mussar), remarked that the possuk is subtly hinting to us that a basic prerequisite of Torah is that one must feel himself in a desert. He is totally alone and has nowhere to turn for his needs except to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He must develop perfect and absolute bitachon. Then the Torah will be given to him as a gift. This is the tefilla we say every morning in ahava rabba: "Because of our fathers who trusted in You and You taught them the statutes of life. So too grant us and teach us." This teaches us a very important principle that bitachon brings to understanding the Torah.
We can compare this to one who spends a lot of time in the company of an illustrious wise man. He eventually becomes a part of the household and dines with him. In the course of time he will hear many words of wisdom. This was the situation of Klal Yisroel in the desert. They dined on the table of the Ribono Shel Olam (they ate the mann). And in the course of 40 years they learned the entire Torah. Thus each and every one of us, according to his personal abilities the amount of his trust in Hashem, becomes a member of the Heavenly household. Thus he will walk away with a phenomenal amount of wisdom.
The Chofetz Chaim used to say over the moshol of a child who went to learn in cheider, but forgot to take his lunch. Is there any doubt in his mind that when his parents realize this they will let him go hungry? Certainly they will do everything to ensure that their child gets fed. So too one who learns to the utmost of his ability is ensured that Hakadosh Bartuch Hu will worry about providing him all his needs.
"I saw this myself," Rav Neiman recounted. "We suddenly suffered a terrible scarcity of food and prices became very expensive. I was struck with fear that we wouldn't have enough money to buy food for the yeshiva for the bochurim. The yeshiva was saved by a miracle. Not only were we spared during the shortage, but our financial standing improved and became firmer specifically because of the hard times."
We see from this that In order to succeed in learning one must develop a very strong bitachon. Bitachon is the reason for one's success in learning Torah.
Rav Neiman continued that his Rebbe, Rav Moshe Rosenstein zt"l, the mashgiach of the Lomzha Yeshiva, once derived this from the possuk (Devorim 32:10), "He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye." When does a person merit "He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye?" This is when he fulfills the first part of the possuk, "He found them in a desert land, and in a desolate, howling wasteland." When a person is stranded in the desert, he suffers from overbearing loneliness and realizes that he has no one to rely upon besides his Father in Heaven. So too each and every one of us should feel that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is watching over us and protecting us. Dovid Hamelech said, "I am a stranger (âø - a ger, a convert) in the land" (Tehillim 119:19). I am like a ger who has no relatives; he is a stranger whom no one knows. He has only Hashem Yisborach. One should not be like that proverbial farmer who declared in his davening, "If You don't help me, I'll go to my rich uncle." Then Hashem won't help him because He doesn't help those who trust in others.
Therefore Torah was given in a desert to teach us that bitachon is a precondition to success.
The Midbar teaches us something else also. A desert is empty of people. There is no one there to rob you and deprive you of anything. So too, even when surrounded by people you have nothing to worry about. The will of Hashem is what will prevail and only Hashem has the ability to take from you, or to give you.
Why is it that when a horse is standing by the riverbank and wants to drink it starts kicking with its feet? As it lowers its head to the water to drink, the horse sees the image of another horse trying to steal its water. Therefore she starts kicking with her feet to scare it away. In the meanwhile the water gets full of dirt and becomes undrinkable. This is man. When he fears his neighbor is going to deprive him of something, he makes all the efforts in the world to stop him and even take away what rightfully belongs to this other fellow. In doing so, he loses even what is coming to himself. But one who trusts in Hashem and knows that there is no one who can hurt him, will never lose anything.
Nisyonos - The Sign of a Ben Torah
Adapted from Emuna u'Bitachon, vol. II by Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita.
We live in a world of nisyonos. When one encounters difficulties, these are his tests. If one finds it difficult to learn or to get up for davening, this is the nature of Man. The obligation is to "be strong like a lion" to break this nature. Nisyonos are the sign of a Ben-Torah. Lack of nisyonos is an indication of spiritual bankruptcy and disconnection from ruchniyus. For example: Meshulachim (fund-raisers) go out from quite a large number of yeshivos collecting money in America. If people say that a certain yeshiva has no need for meshulachim, I do not think that it could be called a yeshiva. "This is the way of Torah," to toil and trouble oneself, this is the very being of ruchniyus. If it goes easy, without difficulties, it is not a yeshiva.
The maskilim once complained to Reb Chaim Ozer that according to the rules of Nature it is impossible to maintain Torah. Reb Chaim Ozer answered them, "Torah is never maintained according to the Laws of Nature." It is possible to run a business according to normal accounting practices. Torah, however, works on miracles contrary to Nature. Therefore, each Ben Torah must be prepared for problems and difficulties. If not today, then tomorrow. Happy is the one who understands that it must be this way in order to develop properly. Then, when he goes out into the world and encounters difficulties, he will be prepared and they won't break him.
The Alter from Kelm said that the best soldier is tested on the battlefield. There we see his strength. So too, the real Ben-Torah is tested with nisyonos and obstacles. The yeshiva is the place to prepare for life. "Void of all transgression and clean from all sin, and attached to fear of You," (Shemoneh Esreh of Motzai Shabbos). This is the goal of everything. Through proper fulfillment of all the mitzvos a person earns true attachment to yiras Hashem (fear of God). From there he goes on to the next step of, "Grace us with Your wisdom, understanding, and intelligence."
Rav Dov Yaffe once heard the following from the Chazon Ish: Just about every Ben Yeshiva is a potential gadol hador. After several decades of hindsight, we see that quite often not every young student who was expected to become great did so. And on the other hand, many others totally unexpectedly became great Torah personalities
Adapted from Lekach Tov, Pirkei Emuna U'Nechama, p. 67.
There is a story told about a person who suffered constantly from illness and pain. The most terrible tragedies somehow always found him. As a result he felt abandoned and lost. He lifted his eyes to Heaven and asked, over and over again, "Why have You forsaken me?"
One night he had a dream. He was walking along a path surrounded by trees and bushes. It was a very long path and the shrubbery was so tall one could see nothing outside of the path. Looking back, however, he was able to see everything. Much of the path was wide enough for two people to pass, side by side. Still there were many sections where the path narrowed so that only one person could pass.
As he was contemplating the path behind him, he realized that this was none other than the path of his life. Starting at his birth, continuing through his childhood, to adolescence, adulthood, and finally to old age. He saw how HaKadosh Baruch Hu had accompanied him along this path through life, lighting up his way. There was a remarkable association between the changes in the width of the path and the events of his life. When the path was wide, it coincided with the times that had been wide and expansive. The narrow parts indicated times of trials and tribulations. It was so narrow, only one person could pass. It seemed to imply - he thought - that he had earned God's escort only during the good times; the difficult times he had to tread his path alone.
Then a loud cry escaped his lips, "Oh, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why do You abandon me exactly when the times get hard, when I'm so broken and depressed? Why do You force me to find my way alone? That is when I really needed Your support more than ever!"
The answer from Heaven was not long in coming. Suddenly he heard a soft and gentle voice, emanating calmness, security, and endless tranquility. "My dear beloved son, you are making a mistake. Yes, at the time of trouble the path became too narrow for two to pass side by side. You thought that you had been forsaken. You are mistaken. Just the opposite happened. Those were the times there was no need for a broad path. I wasn't by your side. I was carrying you in My arms. You should know, my son, precisely when you felt yourself lost and abandoned, I was with you more than at any other time."
When he woke from his sleep, he was a new person. From then on, he knew how to carry his burden with emuna and bitachon. He never stopped singing, "Even when I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil, for You are with me!"
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).
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