24 January 2009
In G-d we trust
It states (Exodus, Ch. 2 ) that Moshe Rabbeinu witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. Glancing around and not seeing anyone, Moshe killed the Egyptian. On the following day, Moshe saw two Israelites arguing and tried to intervene. At that point one of them exclaimed: "Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Moshe now realized that his killing of the Egyptian overseer had become known and the Torah continues, “Then Moses was afraid …” Indeed, when the Pharaoh did hear of this, he tried to kill Moses who then fled.
Rashi, commenting on the phrase “Moses was afraid”, cites a Midrash that says Moshe was worried that the fact there were wicked individuals amongst the Israelites indicated to him that the people as a whole were not worthy of redemption.
The question arises as to why Rashi is dissatisfied with the simple explanation (that Moshe was fearful for his life) and brings additional support from a Midrash, an explanation that is seemingly not hinted at. Additionally, this second interpretation draws our attention away from the narrative (“the matter became known”) which only seems to emphasize that the reason for Moshe’s fear for his life was only a result of his killing the Egyptian.
Morever, Rashi’s citing the Midrash seems to indicate that Moshe Rabbeinu was in effect saying to himself that the matter he had been wondering about, i.e. why the Israelites were considered more sinful than all the seventy nations of the world and were therefore fit to be subjected to back-breaking labor, was now obvious to him. “Indeed, I see that they deserve it”. [From Exod. Rabbah 1:30]
Rashi’s intent here is to settle a general difficulty in this a passage, i.e. what is different in this detail from when we are told that Moshe expressed his concern that the matter became known? Indeed, this apprehension did not lead to action on his part. Only when Pharaoh heard about it did Moshe flee to Midian.
That’s why Rashi cites the Medrash here saying that Moshe questioned the worthiness of the Israelites to be redeemed.
The general rule is that the Torah needs to be interpreted at the literal level. In that light the conclusion must be that Moshe was indeed afraid for his life.
This brings up the issue of bitochon (trust, certainty). Bitochon is not only the faith in G-d’s ability to do good by someone and remove him from suffering, etc. Rather, it is an awareness that G-d will in actuality do so and to such an extent that one is completely at ease and not at all worried that it will indeed be so.
It is explained in the Duties of the Heart that “the essence of bitochon is a complete state of tranquility of him who trusts. It will be that his heart will completely rely on Him who assured the person that only total goodness will transpire in relation to the matter upon which the person is reliant on G-d.”
An explanation is needed to understand the basis of this assurance. Although there may be an explicit promise from G-d, it may so happen that that the promise will not materialize as the result of a transgression that may have occurred after the assurance was given and even much more so when there is no explicit assurance.
Thus, the apprehension over a possible transgression can happen to anyone, as it is written “ there is no righteous man who will only do good and not sin “(Koheles 29).
And even Yaakov Avinu was afraid that he may have sinned!
This may be explained as follows:
The concept of bitochon is based on the belief that everything stems from G-d and when difficult and trying circumstances arise, it is not that the source of difficulties in any way has control over the person to whom the difficulties are occurring.
Everything is from Above. Bearing that in mind, the recipient of difficulties will automatically find himself in a state of complete tranquility, i.e. since no evil is coming his way then assuredly, G-d will free him from those circumstances.
This is also in a case when, in the normal order of things, there is no chance that he will be saved as it is not up to him to change Nature. Furthermore, even if he is not worthy to be saved from punishment, even then he experiences tranquility because he is aware that nothing untoward will result from the situation since only G-d is exclusively in control.
This awareness will result in fearing only G-d (while bearing in mind not only that the tribulations are for his own good, as is known that even punishments mentioned in the Torah represent G-d’s chesed aimed to cleanse man from damage sustained as a result of sins; in which case there is no place for worry and fear.)
Therefore maintaining a state of complete bitochon in G-d, even while bearing in mind the possibility of “causing sin” and not meriting salvation from difficulties, will not cause a lessening of his tranquility due to his awareness that whatever happens to him proceeds from G-d directly.
The meforshim state that, in the view of the Midrash, “it’s fitting not to fear” (and not to derive that Yakov and Moshe were fearful).
Thus, it follows, based on the writings, that nevertheless, they were fearful: Yakov of Esav: “vayar Yakov meod” and Moshe in his circumstances. This type of fear would indicate that they had a complete lack of bitachon in G-d.
But this explanation is insufficient. The essence of bitochon isn’t just a state of tranquility and assuredness but rather a person believes that it will be good for him specifically in a revealed and obvious way and that G-d will remove troubles from him.
Based on the above explanations it would follow that the matter of bitochon (according to its basic meaning) is not applicable to the majority of Jews (since “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins”, Eccl. 7-20). And who is able to proclaim about himself that he is fitting to receive “chasdei G-d” ?)
It follows then that the matter of bitochon, as far as they (majority of Jews) are concerned, is in essence, that even if they are not meritorious of receiving G-d’s kindness, nevertheless they’re in a state of complete tranquility in as much as everything emanates from G-d is therefore good, albeit not necessarily in a revealed and obvious way.
Only the completely righteous who are complete in their service and therefore are not preoccupied with the “shema gorom chet” (perhaps it will cause sinning), only such individuals are able to exhibit a complete bitochon that they will experience goodness in a revealed and obvious way.
In the Duties of the Heart, he writes (in explaining the reasons based on which it is appropriate to exhibit bitochon that it will be good in a revealed and obvious way):
“ There will be upon Whom to rely on for beneficence and kindness, this applies to both to those that are fitting and to those that aren’t and this is in a continuous, unceasing way.”
In view of this, it follows that the idea of bitochon is based on the premise that G-d does good also to those that are not fit for it.
This needs to be explained, since G-d’s kindness extends also to those that are not fit for it, is it then appropriate that man should receive punishment over his deeds that are not good? How does that affect the foundation of bitochon, namely that man places his trust in G-d that He will do good by him even if he’s not found to be fit for it??
This can be understood by examining the answer the Tzemach Tzedek gave to someone who was begging him to arouse G-d’s mercy on behalf of someone else who was seriously sick. The answer given was “think good and it will be good”. It follows from his answer that the essence of positive thinking (an example of bitochon) brings positive results in an open and obvious way.
The duty to have bitochon is not simply a detail (or an automatic result) of the belief that everything is orchestrated by the Heavens and that G-d is compassionate and regarding which there is no specific obligation.
On the contrary, this obligation is a service in and of itself whose essence and definition is that man should rely entirely on G-d to the extent that he leaves his destiny completely up to Him as it says “Cast your burden upon the Lord” (Ps. 55-23) and that man has no other support in the world except for G-d.
There is an opinion that this is the meaning of what the Duties of the Heart states that bitochon is a situation similar to that of “a slave who is imprisoned in jail on the directions of his master.” The prisoner’s condition is completely dependent upon his master’s will to the extent that “he’s imprisoned by his master’s will and is incapable of causing either harm or benefit to someone else”.
(it is therefore understood that this bitochon in G-d is of the kind that the natural order of things plays no role at all. This also applies when, based on the natural order of things, a person may be prevented from being saved from an undesirable situation. The solution should be to rely on G-d who isn’t limited by the laws of nature.)
Thus it would seem that the essence of man’s bitochon is that G-d will do good by him in an open and revealed way even if he is not worthy of His kindness.
The fact that man exhibits this bitochon is not because he believes that G-d’s kindness is limitless irrespective of the recipient’s worthiness to be able to receive this kindness without any effort at all (this would then obviate any notion of reward and punishment). On the contrary, bitochon is a result of his soul’s own avoda and effort which then elicits G-d’s beneficence that occurs as a result of man’s efforts to trust in HH. In other words, a person relies entirely only on G-d to the extent that he experiences no worries at all. This arousal itself effectuates that G-d will reciprocate by behaving towards him in a similar manner and will benefit him (this even applies to someone who may not be worthy of this).
And this is the essence of the commandment "Trust in the LORD", man should cast his burdens upon G-d who will do good by him in an open and revealed way.
If a person exhibits such an attitude (by relying on G-d exclusively) without trying to figure out whether G-d is able to save him or not, then from Above a reciprocal action will take place based on the idea of "measure for measure" that G-d will have compassion and will watch over him regardless of any considerations of worthiness.
This thus is the explanation of the Tzemach Tzedek's words that bitochon in and of itself will bring about positive results inasmuch as there is no side issue to bitochon but the definition of bitochon commanded to us.
Based on this we see that this is the intent of the verse that talks about the fear that Moshe Rabbeinu felt when he heard "...will you kill us just like you killed the Egyptian?" This is designed to instill within us the basis of this event based on the idea of bitochon, i.e. that having bitochon itself will bring about salvation from G-d.
Thus this premise indicates that if a person is unable to remove himself from danger means that there was a lack of bitochon.
And this is why it states "Moshe was fearful that the matter became known” and immediately following that it says that the Pharaoh wanted to kill Moshe and Moshe fled. It is precisely because Moshe was afraid and wasn't relying on G-d (that no harm would result from Moshe's good deed in protecting the Israelite slave from punishment by the Egyptian and later the epsode with the "two Hebrews..." ).
This manifested fear lead to Pharaoh’s finding out about this matter and wanting to kill Moshe who was then forced to flee.
It is even possible to postulate that the verse itself “he said that now the matter became known” indicates that not only did Moshe Rabeinu harbor thoughts of doubt but he verbalized them also. This would indicate a further heightening of his apprehension and a lack of bitochon.
This can be contrasted with a scenario where, had he trusted G-d with a complete trust and not worried at all over his situation (that the matter had become public knowledge and reached Pharaoh’s attention), then the trust itself would result in the matter being forgotten, etc. and Moshe would have experienced a revealed and obvious good.
This teaches us a practical lesson:
When one encounters obstacles and delays in performing mitzvos and in Torah study, he ought to know that the removal of these obstacles is dependent upon him and his behavior. This means, that if he has complete bitochon in G-d that He will help so that it will be good, to the extent that the person remains in a state of total tranquility without any worries whatsoever (this is coupled with the fact, obviously, that the person will act within nature to do everything possible to remove these obstacles) then he is guaranteed, based on the concept of think good and it will be good that this indeed will be so, i.e. that any and all obstacles and delays will be removed from him and he will experience obvious and observable good:
In reference to the Egyptian exile it says that Israel was redeemed in the merit of bitochon. Likewise, this can be applied to this present, last exile, as the Medrash points out “they are worthy of being redeemed for the reward itself” and thus it will be with us that in the merit of the bitochon of the Jewish People that “My coming salvation is at hand”, we will be meritorious that G-d will redeem us speedily and completely.
Likutei Sichos, vol. 36