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The Power of Bitachon to Bring About Miracles

And God said to Moshe, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go."?(Shemos 14:15)

This is based on the Or Ha-Chaim's commentary on the Torah.

Imagine the scene: The Jewish People are gathered at the edge of the sea. Behind them is the mighty Egyptian army, relentlessly advancing on them. The situation is getting more desperate by the minute, and there is nowhere to turn. At this dark hour, Moshe turns to Hashem in heartfelt supplication. The Almighty's startling response is, "Why are you praying to Me?!"

Incredible! To whom should one pray if not Hashem - and especially at such a difficult time as this?! And if one's prayers are not answered, he should continue to pray until he sees some sign that his prayers have been accepted. Logically, we would have expected God to answer Moshe's prayer by instructing him to lift up his staff and split the sea. Instead, He told him to stop praying! What is the meaning of this?

Furthermore, what did God mean by His pronouncement: "Tell the Children of Israel to go"? Go where? Behind them were the Egyptians, and in front of them was the sea, which had not yet split open.

In answering these questions, the Or Ha-Chaim teaches us a very important principle in life. Chazal tell us that when the Jewish People were standing before the sea, they were on trial in Heaven. The prosecuting angels claimed that the Children of Israel were not worthy of being saved. While in Egypt, they had begun worshiping idols just as the local people did. "These [the Jewish People] are idol-worshipers, and these [the Egyptians] are idol-worshipers!" (Zohar, Terumah, 170b). Moreover, the Jews had just shown their lack of faith in God by saying that they would rather go back to Egypt than die in the desert.

How does one win a case in the Heavenly court? Normally, the side of rachamim (mercy) is strengthened by the good deeds one performs. However, the Jewish People's idolatry had just the opposite effect, and gave strength to the side of din (strict judgment) instead. Hashem wanted to judge Israel favorably, but He saw that the power of Heavenly mercy was very weak.

In order to bolster Israel's position, Hashem gave Moshe a potent piece of advice: "Why are you crying out to Me?" It's not in My hands. Even though I want to perform a miracle, the force of strict judgment is preventing Me because they are not worthy. Therefore, "tell the Children of Israel to go." This is My advice to strengthen the side of rachamim. Speak to the Jewish People and tell them to rely on their emunah by going into the sea even before it splits. Tell them to have faith with every fiber of their beings that I will perform a miracle for them, to match their willingness to endanger their lives. By doing so, they will strengthen the power of rachamim. Because of their actions, the sea will miraculously split. Such is the power of emunah and bitachon to tip the scales to the side of merit; they are such tremendous forces that they can overturn midas ha-din.

The Power of Bitachon

This idea is echoed by R. Chaim Volozhin in Nefesh Ha-Chaim (section 1, ch. 9):

We read in the Torah: "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go." This tells us that everything depended upon them. If they were to display perfect emunah and bitachon by fearlessly going into the sea, then the sheer power of their faith would cause the waters to split before them. Their faith alone would arouse Heaven to perform a miracle for them.

Tangible Bitachon

The following is from Avi Ha-Yeshivos by R. Dov Eliach, as cited in Yalkut Lekach Tov, vol. 5, parashas Devarim, p. 124.

R. Chaim Volozhin organized a select group of students and gave them lessons on emunah and bitachon. His goal was to help them overcome life's unexpected tests and trials. In the course of these lessons, he revealed wondrous ideas about the ways of Hashem. Expressions of support and encouragement were constantly on R. Chaim's lips. Instead of speaking in generalities, he would relate his own personal experiences to the boys, in order to drive his point home. He helped his students recognize Hashem's direct supervision of the world, and his teachings were was so vivid that the students felt them with all their being.

In the real-life lessons that R. Chaim taught the boys, there is one incident they witnessed that stands out among the rest:

It was close to two o'clock in the morning, and R. Chaim was speaking to the group. In the middle of the lecture, he stopped and asked if anyone knew what time it was. In those days, a watch was a luxury item that only the wealthy could afford. Considering the grinding poverty that gripped so many Jews at that time, and especially those who dedicated themselves to the Torah, it was not so surprising that no answer was forthcoming.

Before returning to the specific topic he was discussing, R. Chaim utilized the situation to teach yet another lesson on bitachon.

"My dear students," he said, "it seems that we have not yet acquired true bitachon in our hearts, for if we had, Heaven would have seen to it that we had a watch available to us - and a gold one at that!" With that, he resumed his deep lecture regarding bitachon in Hashem's supervision of each and every individual.

As he was developing the discussion, a Russian soldier wearing an expensive suit and an army cap entered the beis midrash. The man looked all around, and spying R. Chaim, purposefully made his way over to him. "I am a Jew and I live in a small city near Lodz," the soldier related. "I was called up to serve in the Czar's army. My father is very wealthy, and he paid off the chief doctor to have me released from service. This man promised my father that he would forward my exemption papers to the proper authorities. I relied on his word and went to the induction office expecting to get a certificate of release. I was so confident that everything would work out that I didn't even think of changing my nice suit for something simpler. However, I received a rude surprise when my name was called. It turned out that the chief doctor had made a mistake and switched me with someone else. The other boy happily left with my release papers and I was drafted into the Czar's army.

"For the last several weeks I have been spending my time in the camp, the only Jew among thousands of Gentile soldiers. I am afraid they will steal my expensive gold watch. I am now on a short leave and I came to the city. Heaven directed me to the light glowing from the beis midrash and I came in. I beg of the Rav, please take care of my watch for me."

R. Chaim was somewhat taken aback by this unusual soldier and his strange tale, but he was willing to help him. "However," he informed him at the outset, "I have to tell you that my house is like a public thoroughfare. With so many people passing through, it is not hard to imagine that something might happen to the watch. Therefore, although I'm prepared to do my best to look after it for you, I cannot accept any responsibility should anything happen to the watch.

The soldier took a moment to think over what R. Chaim had told him, and then said, "Rebbe, I am giving you my watch as a present. It is certainly better for me to give it to a Rav than have it stolen by those soldiers." Without waiting for a reply, the visitor put the watch in R. Chaim's hand and hurried out. R. Chaim, who abhorred gifts, ran after him to return the watch, but the soldier had disappeared into the night.

R. Chaim then went back inside the yeshivah to finish his lecture, but not before commenting on this strange turn of events: "You heard what I said before, that if we really had perfect bitachon, Hashem would send us a watch from Heaven, and even a gold one at that. Here you have a tangible example of bitachon in Hashem that passed the test."

This incident is merely a story about R. Chaim that has been passed down orally. Nevertheless, the underlying point is supported by what R. Chaim himself writes in his masterwork, Nefesh Ha-Chaim. The management of Creation, writes R. Chaim, has been entrusted to man, albeit in an indirect fashion. Through his actions, a person activates the Heavenly powers that influence both himself and the entire world.

In keeping with this idea, R. Chaim explains the significance of the Almighty's response to Moshe when the Jewish People were standing by the sea. When Hashem told Moshe to stop crying out to Him and to tell the Children of Israel to go, He thereby let the Jewish People know that the redemption was entirely in their hands. If they were to confidently forge ahead, certain that the sea would split before them, their bitachon would set off a reaction in the Heavenly spheres and a miracle would be performed on their behalf. (Nefesh Ha-Chaim, section 1, ch. 9)

Complete bitachon that arises from pure faith will cause one's expectations to materialize into fact. This is the guarantee that the expectations won't result in disappointment, whether they concern something great like the splitting of the sea or something small like a gold watch.

Moreover, it is important to realize that bitachon is effective for both great individuals and simple folk. In the name of his Rav, the Vilna Gaon, R. Chaim often voiced the following remark: "Bitachon in Hashem is not something that only tzaddikim can acquire; even a Jew who sins and disobeys Hashem's commandments should have faith that He will fulfill his needs." R. Chaim once expressed it like this: "We read in Tehillim (34:23): 'And all who long for Him are never desolate.' This verse doesn't specify Eliyahu, or Chaim. It says 'all' - everyone!"

Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rosh Yeshiva

Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood). You can access Rav Parkoff's Chizuk Sheets online:

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