Thursday, December 01, 2011

Ya'akov: model of bitachon (II)

Last post (link) we discussed the Ksav Sofer's interpretation of Ya'akov's fleeting thought that his situation was hopeless before he reminded himself that "Ezri mei'im Hashem..."  The Ch. haRI"M and Shem m'Shmuel also present an approach to this Chazal and in doing so teach us something fundamental about bitachon.  Yesh lachkor whether bitachon means being so connected to Hashem that one is oblivious to all danger and problems, or whether bitachon means that despite knowing full well that b'derech ha'teva there are dangers, one still trusts in Hashem?  Is a ba'al bitachon "mufka" from "reality", or is a ba'al bitachon aware of reality but trusts it can be overcome?   

By expressing his awareness of his own precarious situation in contrast to that of Eliezer, Ya'akov Avinu models the answer for us.  Ya'akov's thoughts do not reflect a lack of bitachon, explains the Shem m'Shmuel, but to the contrary, reflect the very definition of bitachon -- a recognition of shortcoming, of the hopelessness of relief through derech ha'teva, alongside an equally strong recognition that af al pi kein, there can be yeshu'a.  A ba'al bitachon is a realist; he sees the world as-is and is not oblivious to danger.  However, that does not preclude his trust in a higher plane that exceeds his vision. 

This brings to mind another Sefas Emes: Chazal teach that Chizkiyahu could have been mashiach if only he had not failed to sing shira at Sancherev's downfall.  Why indeed did Chizkiyahu not sing shira?  The S.E. explains that Chizkiyahu saw nes and teva as one and the same.  The miraculous downfall of Sancherev in his mind was just another routine occurance, like the sun rising and setting.  Someone who lacks bitachon sees the world only through the lens of derech ha'teva.  Chizkiyahu went to the opposite extreme -- he did not see teva anywhere, and therefore could not sing shira; there can be nothing outside the norm when you don't recognize the existence of a norm.  Ya'akov managed to see the world in both ways at the same time. 

One final point on the parsha that I'll stick in here: Even with his having all the bitachon in the world, R' Leibele Eiger writes that we cannot imagine the broken heart Ya'akov must have had when he left home.  The spiritual center of the universe was the beis ha'Avos, the residence of Avraham and Yitzchak.  Ya'akov was being forced out of the one and only repository of ruchniyus he knew. 

"Vayifga ba'makom" -- suddenly, Ya'akov found himself in a makom tefilah.  Vayifga is like bumping into someone you never thought you would see.  Suddenly the Beis haMikdash was right there -- the mountain literally came to him (see Rashi, Ramban).  Ya'akov Avinu's journey teaches us that in all our journeys, even when we think we are leaving behind all that is spiritually dear, the truth is that those very feelings of longing will bring the mountain to us.  That's a thought to carry with you to uplift your bitachon. 


  1. very nice, similar to the abarbanel you once wrote about.

  2. WoW! I'm glad someone remembers my posts.

  3. Yeah I loved that post about the Abarbanel because I had (and still have) such trouble understanding bitachon and how it works.