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Parashat Devarim - The Foundation of Torah: Emunah and Bitachon

And in the wilderness, as you have seen, Hashem bore you , as a man carries his son, on the entire way that you traveled, until you arrived at this place. Yet in this matter you do not have faith in Hashem, your G-d, Who goes before you on the way to seek out for you a place for you to encamp... (Deut. 1: 29-33)

Faith and trust (emunah ve'bitachon) in G-d are the foundation of the Torah. Our sages said (Makot 23b-24a): Six hundred thirteen mitzvot were given to Moses... David emphasized eleven of them... Isaiah emphasized six... Micah emphasized three... Isaiah returned and emphasized two... Habakuk emphasized one, as it says (Habakuk 2:4), “The righteous man shall live by his faith.”

Emunah, faith, means accepting and knowing clearly that G-d truly exists, that He created everything, and that He performed great miracles for Israel's sake. In other words, it is decisive knowledge regarding something in the past, i.e., that G-d indeed created the world and performed miracles for our ancestors in Egypt and at the Sea of Reeds, and everywhere else described in Scripture. Bitachon, on the other hand, is the direct result of emunah, and points to the future. It is the conviction that just as in the past G-d performed miracles and wonders, He will do so for us in the future, as well, as shall be discussed below.

[...] Faith, emunah, relates to the creation of the world and everything in it ; the other aspect of faith is the belief that G-d performed great signs and wonders for our ancestors. Neither aspect is based on blind or theoretical faith, but on seeing, on real testimony. In Egypt and the desert, the Jewish People were direct witnesses, because G-d's miracles were performed before the eyes of all Israel. The Torah instructs us that throughout the Exodus, the plagues that broke Egypt were performed openly, so that Israel would see the reality of G-d, would believe in Him, revere Him and cling to His attributes and commandments. The connection between the signs Israel saw and faith in G-d as Creator of the universe is alluded to in the Torah's starting out with Creation - “In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth” - and ending with the phrase, “all the mighty acts and great signs that Moses displayed before the eyes of all Israel” (Deut. 34:12). The mighty acts and the miracles and wonders performed before the eyes of Israel imbued them with the belief that G-d created heaven and earth, and that He is the One Supreme Power. The Torah's conclusion attests to its beginning. Such is faith.

Bitachon, trust, on the other hand, is the result of emunah. Since we believe that in the past G-d performed the things I have enumerated, we are certain that He is capable of doing so in the future as well, and that He will fulfill what He promised us. Whoever does not trust in G-d shows that he does not believe in G-d's power and ability, a sign that he does not really believe in G-d's existence. Bitachon, trust, includes also the idea that G-d is all-powerful and in charge of everything, as well as the central idea that we, lowly, weak and finite, are incapable of dealing alone with our adversaries and our troubles. Trusting in G-d means admitting that we are few and weak, that we need to raise our eyes to G-d for help. “Keep my soul and deliver me. Let me not be ashamed, for I have taken refuge in You” (Ps. 25:20); “Place your hope in the L-rd. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yeah, place your hope in the L-rd” (27:14); and, “Be strong, and take courage, all ye that place your hope in the L-rd” (31:25). From the last two verses, we learn the secret of true bitachon: it is exceedingly hard to withstand crushing misfortune, to stand on the brink of despair, and to trust in G-d all the same. This requires enormous strengthening, and it was for this reason that King David said “Place your hope in the L-rd.” Beset by misfortune, place your hope in the L-rd and trust in Him. If you try and it is hard, then “Be strong and take courage.” Fortify yourself and you will find the strength to trust in Him, and then your trust will strengthen you on its own. The rule is this: Bitachon means a Jew's recognizing and acknowledging that he is a worm and not a man, dirt and dust, like a broken potsherd, weak and finite, and that only G-d can help him in times of trouble, because G-d is omnipotent and infinite, and none can stand against Him. The worse the situation looks, the greater the despair, the more one must strengthen himself with bitachon: “Many are the ills of the righteous man, but the L-rd delivers him from them all” (Ps. 34:20).

Rabbenu Bechaye says (Kad haKemach, entry: Bitachon), “Bitachon must not be tinged with doubt. Even if many evils befall a righteous man, he should serve G-d valiantly and truly trust in Him.” Rabbenu Bechaye adds (Ibid.): If someone has bitachon, then we know that he has emunah as well. Bitachon is like the fruit of a tree, and emunah is like the tree. Just as the fruit's existence signifies the existence of a tree or plant on which it grew, but a tree' s existence does not signify the existence of fruit, as some trees, such as shade trees, produce no fruit, so too does the presence of bitachon guarantee the presence of emunah, but not vice versa.

We should reflect well on this holy man's ostensibly puzzling comment that “emunah is no guarantee of bitachon.” Surely, someone who believes that G-d performed miracles for our ancestors, created the world and everything in it, and controls, manages and directs everything, will be certain that G-d will fulfill what He promised us if we follow His path and keep His mitzvot. Surely such a person will act accordingly, despite all the difficulties. What then is the meaning of Rabbenu Bechaye's comment that emunah is no guarantee of bitachon? Is not bitachon a logical, necessary result of emunah? To our chagrin, it is not. Many fine Jews cry out heartfelt declarations of faith in G-d and in His omnipotence, yet few trust in Him and endanger themselves for the sake of His commandments and for the sake of sanctifying His name. How easy and pleasant is it to declare one's faith, to make loud speeches about G-d's power and might in the days of old! Who among the Torah-observant does not declare his faith that G-d performed miracles and wonders in Egypt, or that He appeared from Mount Paran to give Israel the Torah? Who does not recite in synagogue the psalms in morning prayers, which state (Ps. 146:3,5), “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, through whom there is no salvation... Happy is he whose help is the G-d of Jacob.” Yet how many of all those who are proud of their daily recitation immediately before the morning Shemoneh Esreh, that “G-d redeemed us from Egypt... delivered us from the house of slavery, slayed all their firstborn... divided the Sea of Reeds, drowned the arrogant but took His beloved ones across,” carry through on their faith in the past with trust in the future?

The prime blight of our day is lack of bitachon, hesitating to trust in G-d, whether due to uncertainty over His true ability to help, fear of mortal man, or fear of “reality” which destroys fear of G-d and our trust in Him. This is so both regarding the individual Jew and the whole Jewish People. It applies both as far as our fears and worries regarding our personal future and private troubles and our fear of enemies threatening the Jewish People. The same Jew who mumbles in his prayers, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we call upon the name of the L-rd our G-d” (Ps. 20:8), cannot understand how the Jewish People and their state will be able to hold out without chariots and horses. The banner of emunah, faith, which is so easy to wave and answer Amen to, demands nothing of a person. Not so, however, bitachon, trust in G-d. Bitachon demands of a person that he act, accomplish, give, sacrifice, risk his life, he, himself, right now, all the while trusting that ultimately things will turn out well. Not every believer has bitachon. A person's lack of trust in G-d ultimately proves the weakness of his faith, or , G-d forbid, its falsehood.

[Tracing this back to our Parasha, we know that] both Joshua and Caleb demonstrated [...] trust in G-d. Even so, when G-d swore that Israel would not enter the Land, it says, “The only exception will be My servant Caleb, since he showed a different spirit and followed Me wholeheartedly. I will bring him to the land that he explored.” Why was Joshua's name not mentioned here, when he, too, stood firm in his bitachon? It also says, “only Caleb son of Yefuneh will see the land... since he followed the L-rd wholeheartedly” (Deut. 1:36). Why, again, was Joshua omitted? The answer is inherent in G-d's comment, in both Num. 14:24 and Deut. 1:36, that Caleb “followed him wholeheartedly.” Here we learn once more the need to have full bitachon. Our bitachon must express itself in readiness to sacrifice our lives to sanctify G-d's name, and this was evinced by Caleb but not Joshua. After the ten spies issued their bad report about Eretz Yisrael and incited the people, it says, “Caleb quieted the people for Moses and said, 'We shall surely go up and inherit it'” (Num. 13:30). He silenced them and began to express ideas which ultimately opposed those of the majority. He did not hesitate, although he knew the people's mentality and was aware of their stubbornness and what they had done to Chur [who had been killed]. He – not Joshua – was the first to rise up and try to blot out the chilul Hashem, and in doing so, he took a risk and was ready to sacrifice his life. Caleb “followed G-d wholeheartedly", thereby surpassing Joshua and meriting to be mentioned alone by G-d.

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