Bitachon & Hishtadlus

January 20, 2016 by

I write this article fully aware of the risk at stake. Namely - loosing popularity. To be honest, though, I do not publish my articles or videos in a quest to gain fanfare. And this is probably not news to you, just look at my YouTube channel and see how few views I get! My motive is simple: to share true messages of the Torah knowing there’s a slim chance that one person might “stumble” upon them, find them thought provoking and be inspired to grow.

One thing that might surprise you, though, is who my mentor is. He is none other than Rashi. Why? Because in this week’s parsha Rashi makes a comment that I guarantee will not be quoted by your pulpit rabbi, for it would only jeopardize his job. His words are directed to all of us who use hishtadlus – effort & parnassa – livelihood, as an excuse not to learn, and they touch on the very nerve of bitachon – trust in Hashem. It is found in his explanation on the mon, where Hashem commands Moshe to place a piece of mon in a container to be preserved for future generations. Rashi explains: “In the days of Yirmiyahu, when [he] was rebuking [the people saying] why are you not busying yourselves with Torah study? They would respond incredulously: “We should leave our work and learn Torah? How will we make a living?” [At that point Yirmiyahu] brought out the mon [from the days of Moshe] and exclaimed: “This generation! You have seen the word of Hashem!” Rashi notes: He did not say “heard,” but seen. (He was showing them the mon.) It was with this that your forefathers were sustained. Know! Hashem has many messengers to provide nourishment for those who fear Him!” (Rashi, Shemos 16; 32). This is a clear indication that public image was not Rashi’s number one priority, and if anything he wrote could be used as a strike against him, this is probably it.

So what was his priority? In this case it was to teach us, the Jewish people, the vital lesson that in order to ensure the perpetuation of Torah from one generation to the next we must have bitachon. Without it, the necessary commitment cannot be achieved, and to overcome the worldly pressures that challenge diligence in Torah learning would be impossible. I do not mean to dismiss hishtadlus. There is something to it. But let us not fool ourselves thinking there is a cause and effect relationship between hishtadlus and parnassa. As Baurch Lev writes in his book There is No Such Thing as Coincidence..., “Wise is he who knows that there is no connection between hishtadlus and parnassah, and foolish is one who assumes that there is indeed a connection between the two.” Hishtadlus is simply the price we have to pay for that which has already been allotted to us.

Hashem fed our ancestors mon for forty years in the desert. A day didn’t go by without food to eat. All this was to ingrain in the Jewish people that our sustenance is from Hashem, always. So we must ask ourselves the question: do we think our job is paying the bills, or do we believe that Hashem is taking care of us?

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