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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Naso

Bitachon - Aspiration vs. Expectation

Paying the Stipend on Time

Rav Menachem Partzovitz told over this story. His father Rav Yechezkel Partchovitz, zt"l, Mashgiach of Yeshivas Tifferes Tzvi, lived in Yerushalayim. He had just come back from a fundraising trip to Chutz Le'aretz. Someone there had given him a large amount of money to bring to the Brisker Rav for his Kollel. As soon as he returned to Yerushalayim he sent his son Menachem to the Brisker Rav to give him the money. He arrived at the house and the Brisker Rav invited him in. He told him that his father had just returned from America and a certain person had sent this money for the Kollel. The Brisker Rav told him, "I don't need it. What I needed for last Rosh Chodesh, I paid. It's two weeks until the next Rosh Chodesh. True, right now I have nothing. But I don't need money for another two weeks." Rav Menachem returned to his father with the money.

Two weeks later, exactly the morning of Rosh Chodesh, at 4:30 in the morning, Rav Yechezkel woke his son up and told him, "Go to the Brisker Rav right now and give him the money." Around 5:00 AM Rav Menachem Partzovitzknocked on the Brisker Rav's door and was ushered in. "What happened, Menachem?" "My father sent me with the money. He told me that didn't want to send me yesterday. Perhaps the Rav would say he doesn't need it yet. He has another day until Rosh Chodesh. Now it's Rosh Chodesh and certainly the Rav needs it. He didn't want to wait a few hours, perhaps someone else would give the Rav the money. So he calculated to send the money at 5:00 AM; probably the Rav still has no money and he will take it."

The Brisker Rav didn't answer him on the spot. He stood there a few moments thinking. Then he said, "Yes! Now I need it." Why did he hesitate? At 5:00 in the morning, no Kollel member would come to take his stipend. Perhaps it was still too soon. But the Brisker Rav decided that today is Rosh Chodesh and he needs money to pay the Kollel.

There was a similar incident with Rav Chaim Salomon, zt"l. One Sunday, two days before Rosh Chodesh, he came to the Brisker Rav. He told him that on that Shabbos he had an liyah, and in the mi sheberach he had donated the money for the liyah "for whatever the Brisker Rav is missing for this month's stipend." Now he wanted to fulfill his pledge and give the Rav whatever is still missing for this month's stipend. The Brisker Rav told him exactly the amount he had to give, and it turned out to be more than 80% of the month's stipends.

Rav Chaim was stunned. He said, "That wasn't what I was expecting. Two days before Rosh Chodesh, probably the Rav had most of the money. I thought that only a small percent would be outstanding, not 80%! It's an enormous amount. I wasn't expecting that. I never meant to pledge such a sum. But, in spite of everything, I want to keep my word, and so I'll pay it."

That was the bitachon of the Brisker Rav: perfect.

* * *

On the other hand, we read about the need to live in the real world and exert normal effort - hishtadlus:

"You might think that a person could just sit back and do no work. The possuk (Devorim 15:18) tells us, 'And the Lord your God shall bless you in all that you do'" (Sifre parshas Re'eh, section 70. See also the commentary of the Torah Temimah.). We have to do! We are not allowed to rely on miracles!

The Ramban in his commentary to Vayikra 26:11 states that the Torah prescribed pure bitachon only for the generations that lived during the time of the Beis HaMikdash. Today, however, the vast majority of people are not on such a level to allow them to practice pure bitachon.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe, zt"l, writes that we must teach our children to be careful with their money; we cannot act as if we are living in a miracle world. "One of the cardinal rules of a kollel family," writes Rav Wolbe, "must be to avoid getting into debt unless there is a life-threatening situation. One should act with money according to Hashem's will. This means, 'If I have the cash I can buy, and if I do not have the cash, I cannot.' (This is especially relevant to the credit-card syndrome.)

"Getting into debt is poison," continues Rav Wolbe. "The avreich comes to kollel and has to juggle loans because he bought furniture that was much too costly. Perhaps he bought curtains that were more expensive than he could afford and he had to borrow money to pay for them. With his mind preoccupied with how he is going to pay back all these loans, how can he expect to concentrate on his studies?

"If you want your son to be an avreich who is totally engrossed in his studies, it is vital that you train him not to spend money when he doesn't have it, and not to take on debts for any reason.

"This painful subject is also relevant to wedding expenses. For example, a young couple is forced to go into debt in order to live in a certain city. It is better that they should go to a smaller city where an apartment costs less. (Rav Wolbe's comment refers specifically to Eretz Yisroel, where renting is almost non-existent and everyone must buy an apartment.) That way, they will not have to enter into debt and the husband will be able to study with more peace of mind. Perhaps one might claim that the opportunities available in smaller cities are much more limited than in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak, and the kollels are not of the same quality. This may be true, but still there is no question that the young man's studies will be more successful in a small city. There, his mind will be free and he will be able to focus exclusively on Torah study. In Jerusalem or Bnei Brak, he will be preoccupied with his financial problems."

Rav Yechezkel Levenstein , the mashgiach of Ponevezh, offered an even firmer opinion. He writes that we read in Pirkei Avos (2:9): "What is the evil path that a person should distance himself from?… One who borrows and does not repay… As it says (Tehillim 37:21): 'The wicked one borrows and does not repay.'" "It would seem that this verse is backwards," comments Rav Chatzkel. "It should say: 'One who borrows and doesn't pay back is wicked.' Only if he does not repay the loan at the end is he wicked, but not at the onset, when he borrows the money!

"Moreover, why is he characterized as wicked? It is not his fault; he just does not have any money to pay back the loan. What would we have him do?

"In fact, this verse is telling us that the contrary is true. Yes, he is in difficulty right now, when repayment is due. However, he should not have gotten into this predicament in the first place. If he did not know how he was going to pay the loan back, he should not have borrowed the money to begin with. For this reason he is already considered wicked for borrowing the money."

We find another example of one's responsibility to follow normal patterns of hishtadlus concerning illness:

It is a Torah obligation to seek medical help when sick, and sometimes one is even required to seek the most accomplished doctor and the best possible medical treatment. One who ignores the Torah's injunction in this area, and instead relies on the Almighty to miraculously cure him, is nothing more than a fool. Such a person is considered negligent regarding his health, and eventually, he will be forced to answer for his behavior before the Heavenly court. (Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 11, section 41:7, citing the Shevet Yehudah, Yoreh De'ah 636)

The Shevet Yehudah continues: it is true that we find tzaddikim who at times of illness prayed for Heavenly mercy and were answered without having to seek medical treatment. We, however, are forbidden to learn from their behavior in this area. These people are different, for through their pious actions and their many merits, they have risen above the rule of nature. These exalted people are few, and one should not trust that he has reached such a level. Moreover, even these individuals do not totally rely on miracles for their salvation; rather, they always begin with the intent to seek a natural cure. Heaven, however, miraculously sends them relief and thus obviates the need for them to pursue medical treatment.

* * *

We see that we are obligated to deal with the real world and not try to live miraculous lives. So how are we to view all the inspiring stories of tzaddikim who lived with absolute bitachon defying all logic? How are we to come to terms with this dichotomy?

It becomes clear that it is impossible to give clear guidelines. Bitachon is not a cut-and-dried halacha that one can put in the Shulchan Oruch for everyone. The acquisition of emuna and bitachon is primarily a function of the heart and mind. Bitachon depends upon the person. What is bitachon for one person is a foolhardy lack of responsibility for another. There are as many levels of bitachon as there are many different types of neshamos. Each neshama may very well have a different set of standards that will lead to his perfection.

Everyone is required to strive to reach the highest levels; but in practice, one must know where he is really holding and act accordingly. Acting as if one has perfect bitachon when in reality he is fooling himself may actually backfire. Heaven may now test him to see if he really means it. (And vice versa: one who really believes and performs too much hishtadlus, is also held accountable. )

To paraphrase the Mesillas Yesharim (end of chap. 26): "It is understood that each individual must guide and direct himself according to his calling and according to the particular activities in which he is engaged. The path appropriate to one whose Torah is his calling is unsuited to one who must hire himself out to work for his neighbor, and the path of neither of these is suitable for one who is engaged in business. This holds true for all of the particulars in the affairs of men, each calling for a path corresponding to its nature. One, who, out of necessity, plies a humble trade, can attain true piety, just as one whose mouth never ceases from learning. It is written (Mishlei 16:4), 'God created everything for His sake' and, 'In all your ways know Him and He will straighten your paths (Ibid. 3:6).'"

Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
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