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HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN THE BOMBS START FALLING?What is true bitachon? The Chovos Ha-Levavos (Sha'ar Ha-Bitachon, ch. 1) writes: "The essence of bitachon is the peace of mind experienced by one who trusts in Hashem." Superficially mimicking bitachon will not bring you serenity, which is an internal, intangible condition. For example, think of wartime, and imagine a gadol (great personality), who has achieved sublime heights of bitachon, and who can complacently and deeply concentrate on his Torah studies despite the wailing of sirens and the danger of bombs exploding around him. He sits completely at ease and is oblivious to what is occurring, totally immersed in his learning as if nothing out of the ordinary was taking place. Could an impersonator possibly imitate such behavior!?
Of course, one who only imitates a ba'al bitachon can also remain in his room without making any effort to shelter himself. However, his behavior would be markedly different. He would be agitated and fearful, pacing back and forth unable to recite even Tehillim calmly. Yet when one has real bitachon, it does not even occur to him to be afraid. As the Prophet Yeshayahu declares (12:2), "Behold, Hashem is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid."
Living a generation ago, the Brisker Rav zt"l was well known for his bitachon. R. Shalom Schwadron zt"l, in his work She'al Avicha v'Yagedcha (vol. 1, p. 185), writes of him: "The Chazon Ish testified that in his entire life he had never met such a ba'al bitachon as the Brisker Rav. (I myself [comments R. Shalom] heard the Brisker Rav say about himself, 'People say that I'm a very nervous person. That's true. But I ask them, do you think that I'm nervous about the same things you are?'") R. Schwadron then proceeded to back up his statement with the following example:
During the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, the Brisker Rav was living in Jerusalem. In spite of the heavy artillery fire raining down on the city, the Rav remained in his top-floor apartment. His family tried to persuade him to go down to the bomb shelter, but he refused to leave his home. After much pleading on the part of his family and students, he reluctantly agreed to go down to the basement.
Later on, when the bombing slackened off, the family returned to the apartment. They were shocked to see that an artillery shell had penetrated the Rav's bedroom wall. Shrapnel from the shell was on his bed, and his pillow had been singed. R. Yosef Dov, the Rav's son, who had begged him to go downstairs, turned to his father and said in a triumphant tone , "Now it's clear that we had to go down to the shelter."
The Brisker Rav regarded his son for a moment, and then replied, "You're responsible for this! If you hadn't forced me to go down to the shelter, the shell wouldn't have come into the house and ruined the wall! And which one of you is going to pay for the burnt pillow?!" (See also R. Shimon Yosef Meller, Uvdos v'Hanhagos L'Beis Brisk, vol. 1, p. 12.)
I once met a person who had been in a yeshivah in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War. He told the following story.
From his yeshivah one had a clear view of the tomb of Shmuel Ha-Navi (known as Nabi Samwel in Arabic), which is situated on a mountaintop opposite Givat Shaul, with a large valley in between. The Jordanians had entrenched themselves in bunkers along this entire mountaintop, and they had a clear view of Givat Shaul. The valley below was no-man's-land. When word got out that there was a tank battle going on there, all the bachurim foolishly left the beis midrash and rushed to the roof to watch the action.
As the Israeli tanks slowly advanced into the valley and wound their way up the mountainside toward the Jordanian lines, the military forces around Nabi Samwel unleashed an artillery barrage. In Givat Shaul, air-raid sirens immediately started wailing and shrieking. With shells flying and sirens screaming, the bachurim were naturally quite shaken. (If you've only observed battle in a war movie, you don't realize how frightening real shooting can be.) The boys immediately headed for the shelter, which was in the basement of the yeshivah.
Only two people had not left the beis midrash when the battle broke out - the revered Rosh Yeshivah and his best student. When the sirens went off, they remained engrossed in their studies. They decided that there was no need to leave yet, for Torah provides the best protection of all. And so they remained - until a bomb fell nearby, causing the whole building to tremble and shudder. The Rosh Yeshivah and his student were nearly thrown from their seats. At that point they both agreed that the time had come to go down to the bomb shelter. They calmly proceeded to do so, and once there they continued to learn, and give classes and mussar talks to strengthen the spirit of the frightened bachurim.
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network