Thursday, December 11, 2008

bitachon (I)

I hate to digress from the topic of rov, but I want to address the issue of bitachon a little more thoroughly because it relates to this week's parsha, but also because it is an important and timely topic. I don't pretend to have reached maskanos and have found my own views on this topic changing over time. I say that not just to convey caveat emptor, but also because I think implementing bitachon and growing in it's understanding is an individualized, ongoing process. The best a post or shiur on the topic can do is to inspire a person to look at the sources and start that process.

A good starting point on this issue is a little kuntres of the Chazon Ish printed in the back of the Taharos section and reprinted as a separate sefer entitled Emunah u'Bitachon. The C.I. contrasts emunah, which means theoretical belief in G-d, with bitachon, which is the day to day implementation of emunah. Emunah tells us that G-d is in charge of the world; bitachon tells us how to live with that knowledge. Bitachon does not mean that G-d will not make a person suffer illness, unemployment, or other tragedy; it simply means that a person who is suffering is allowed to make whatever the normal efforts to relieve that situation are and then trust that whatever ultimately happens is due to G-d's plan. I think this summary by R' Hershel Shachter shlit"a sums it up well:

The Chazon Ish explains in his essay on Emunah and Bitachon, that when we ask a sick person to have bitachon, it does not mean that he should be convinced that he will recover. That would be ridiculous – one can not be sure that he will not die. Bitachon simply means to live by emunah, and emunah means believing that G-d has complete control over everything in the world. If G-d wants me to live and be healthy and happy, then there is nothing anyone can do to negate that. If for some reason, G-d wants me to suffer, then as that is His will, we should accept it with joy, with the knowledge that anything G-d does is for the good.
So, to respond to a comment yesterday which raised the question, "How should I have trust in Hashem that all will be well?", the answer is, at least according to the Chazon Ish, that you should not! There is no such guarantee that all will be well. All we can say is that whatever happens is directed by G-d, but we cannot say that things will be pleasant for us along the way or that we will get the hoped for outcome just because we want it to happen and trust Hashem to make it so.

(As an aside, compare the Chazon Ish's position with Kierkegaard's knight of infinite resignation in his Fear and Trembling.)

The story does not end there... more to come bl"n.


  1. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Too narrow a focus. Of course all will be well. Kol mah d'ovid rachmana l'tav avid. Never did I suggest it would be well in THIS world, but it will be well.

  2. The idea of "Kol mah d'ovid rachmana l'tav avid" in context (Brachos 60) refers to an olam hazeh tanglible good, not a future accounting. R' Akiva was forced to camp in the woods because no one would provide him with a bed; he had his rooster eaten, had his donkey eaten and the wind blew out his candle. In the end, everything worked out to his benefit. The punchline suggests that the ba'al bitachon will not suffer, but will instead see the fruits of faith even in this world. See Maharal in Nesiv haBitachon - will bl"n neder discuss in part II or later.