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Hishtadlus & BitachonAnd He afflicted you and let you go hungry, and then fed you with mann, which you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, so that He would make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of the Lord does man live. (8:3)
The Alter from Novhardok (Madreigos Ha'adom p. 222) taught his talmidim that the proper path to reach real perfection is absolute trust in Hashem, with the most minimal hishtadlus. Let Hakadosh Baruch Hu take care of you.
In the days of Yirmiyahu (this took place towards the end of the 1st Beis Hamikdash, about 800 years after Yetzias Mitzrayim), when Yirmiyahu was rebuking [the people], he said, "Why do you not occupy yourselves with the Torah?" And they answered him, "If we leave our work and occupy ourselves with the Torah, from where shall our livelihood come?" He brought out the flask of manna for them to see and said... "This is what your fathers were sustained with. The Almighty has many messengers [many means] through which to provide food for those who hold Him in awe." (Yalkut Shimoni, see also (Rashi on Shemos 16:32, quoting the Mechilta)
Hashem pays special attention to those who devote themselves to Torah. Their parnossa is prepared in unexpected and unexplainable ways without the need for hishtadlus. Their parnossa emulates the mann which rained down on Klal Yisroel in a totally inexplicable manner.
This is pshat in the the possuk, "And He afflicted you and let you go hungry, and then fed you with mann, which you did not know." The mann had to be miraculous, because man has a tendency to attribute even the most unlikely cause to what happens in order to attach what happens to something that makes some sort of sense. Therefore Hashem had to make the mann fall totally unnaturally. No amount of hishtadlus could have brought the mann down. He wanted to teach following generations that Hashem provides sustenance to those who fear Him.
We must remember the Golden Rule of Bitachon: In the same measure a person acts, Hashem responds in kind. The possuk in Tehillim states that Hashem is your shadow. The way you move, so too does your shadow. If you truly have bitachon, then Hashem responds in kind. However, if you increase your hishtadlus unnecessarily, Hashem also responds in kind and leaves you to the natural world.
If You Have To Ask - You Don't Have It
R. Shlomo Wolbe shlita, in his outstanding work Alei Shur (vol. 2, pp. 573-74), writes the following: "There is no madreigah [spiritual level] about which so many people are mistaken, no spiritual level which so many people incorrectly think they have attained, as bitachon!
"Every beginner seems to feel that he can easily jump to the most sublime level of bitachon, where he will not need to exert himself in material matters. People never tire of asking all sorts of questions concerning the definition and prerequisites of bitachon, as if it was their own natural character trait.
"In fact, there is a simple method to determine whether one truly has bitachon in Hashem: when a person finds himself asking questions about this subject, he most certainly does not have bitachon! If one has genuine faith, he will not ask questions. Indeed, such a person may not even realize that he is acting with bitachon. Rather, he just conducts himself in a manner he thinks is the most normal way to do things, not even realizing that he is scaling sublime spiritual heights."
You Can't Fake It
Perhaps one can imitate another person's mitzvah, for the essential part of a mitzvah is the physical performance of the act itself. However, the soul of the mitzvah depends entirely on one's heart. This is avodas ha-lev - the individualized job of "cultivating the heart" - and it is something that cannot be mimicked.
When one has true bitachon in Hashem, it is embedded in his very essence. His heart and his entire body become completely subjugated to this lofty ideal, making self-delusory emulation impossible.
Hey! Don't Go Away!
Unfortunately, many people delude themselves into thinking that their bitachon is the genuine article. A very revealing story about some of the talmidim of the Vilna Gaon perfectly illustrates this all too common occurrence:
Several of the Gaon's students decided to improve their level of bitachon. At one point, they heard from their master that, when a person seeks to better himself in bitachon, Hashem sends him many opportunities to do so, until he finally is able to integrate this trait within himself.
Once, these talmidim went into a cave to learn. They didn't take food or drink with them, trusting that the Almighty would provide for them. They remained in the cave without sustenance for two days. On the third day, they saw a man passing near the entrance of the cave carrying a basket with several loaves of bread. Joyfully, they thought that this must be Hashem's food on its way. However, one of the talmidim noticed that the man stopped well outside the cave's entrance, and there was no sign that he was planning to enter the cave. The student went to the entrance of the cave and motioned for him to come in. The man, however, paid him no attention, and left.
The students immediately understood the lesson they had just been taught. By motioning to the man to come into the cave and give them the bread, they had demonstrated a lack of 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 even "bread in his basket for one day," feeling that it would indicate a lack of bitachon! That was the holy Arizal. For us, it is enough to recognize that we must always turn to the Almighty for all of our needs. Of course it's difficult. However, cultivating emunah is the key to success in every area of life.
So You Think You Have Bitachon?
In his introduction to Zichru Toras Moshe (p. 17), the Chayei Adam raises the following question:
Do you think that you're a ba'al bitachon? Try examining yourself. Most likely you will find that you really don't have any bitachon at all. If you really have this quality, why do you spend the whole day working? Moreover, are you completely honest in your business dealings? Do you use underhanded tactics to get your way? Would a ba'al bitachon act like that? Furthermore, all this raises the suspicion that you don't really believe the Almighty watches over you and sustains everything - for if you did, why don't you trust Him?
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network