David Walk

Whom Do You Trust?

Let’s talk ‘faith’. This is a topic on our mind’s these difficult days, and features prominently in both this week’s Torah reading and Canuka. In our parsha, the Ba’al Shem Tov quotes the famous verse, Fortunate (ASHREI) is the person who has faith in God’s Name  (Tehillim 40:5), and declares that’s Yosef HaZadik! And every day of Chanuka we read the entire Hallel which includes the triple declaration: O Israel (then Cohanim, then those in awe of God), have faith in the LORD! He is their help and shield (Tehillim 115:9-11). So, let’s explore this critical concept.

The Hebrew term we’re discussing is BITACHON. In the modern State of Israel’s attempt to adapt our Biblical Holy Tongue for use in contemporary society, the term BITACHON got a bit misapplied. We use the word for security checks at the airport or malls. The Israeli Ministry of Defense is MISRAD HABITACHON; we also describe social security as BITUACH LE’UMI. The word shows up in insurance and other contexts describing security and safety in modern life. I love adapting our ancient, beloved Mother Tongue for daily life, but this particular usage obscures the real meaning of the word.

In its Biblical use, BITACHON doesn’t mean ‘security’. It’s a theological term closer to ‘faith’ or, perhaps ‘trust’. It would work on the back of US dollars; In God we BOTEACH!’ The Kedushat Levi (Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev) explains the root of this term comes from the Hebrew word TI’ACH, which means ‘mortar’ or ‘pitch’ for attaching building materials. This word was used before the Romans invented cement. In other words, BITACHON attaches entities to each other.  

To better understand the term, let’s go back to that wonderful comment by the Ba’al Shem Tov: There are the BOTEACH, MAVTEACH and MUVTACH. The BOTEACH is the person who has faith. The MAVTEACH is the Being in Whom that person trusts. The MUVTACH is the purpose or action in which the individual displays BITACHON.   

I am the BOTEACH when I show total trust in God, the MAVTEACH. Hopefully, the purpose of my faith, the MUVTACH, is a worthwhile goal. Another Chassidic Master, Reb Dov Ber of Mezeritch (the Magid), declares that BITACHON should be reserved for purely spiritual MUVTACHIM, purposes.

But what is the content of this BITACHON? Does it mean that I have perfect faith that I will receive the outcome I desire? Well, many pious Jews believe just that. Reb Aharon Lichtenstein expressed this position in the following way:

According to the first approach, trust is expressed by the certainty that God stands at your side and will assist you. This is a variation of the words of the mishna (Rosh Ha-shana 3:8, 29a): “As long as the Jewish people looked Heavenwards and humbled their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they prevailed [in their war against Amalek].” This approach is fundamentally optimistic. This approach is expressed in the familiar formula, “With God’s help, everything will be alright.”

However, that’s not the approach of the Chazon Ish (Reb Yeshayahu Karelitz, 1878-1953), who explained:

Trust . . . has come to mean that a person is obligated to believe that whenever he is presented with two possible outcomes, one good and one not, then certainly it will turn out for the good. And if he has doubts and fears the worst, that constitutes a lack of trust. This view of trust is incorrect, for as long as the future outcome has not been clarified through prophecy, that outcome has not been decided, for who can truly know God’s judgments and providence? 

In spite of never assuming that ‘all will turn out fine’, the Chazon Ish demands that we always remain calm. Why? Because true BITACHON means that whatever happens is a result of God’s will, as everything is the result of Divine Providence. This belief gives its holder psychological strength and courage, because of the faith that God does, indeed, know best! 

True SHALVA (a calm sense of well being, peace of mind) doesn’t come from getting what we desire, but emanates from the confident conviction that God’s figurative hand is on the rudder guiding all existence. 

We all have needs and desires, and there is absolutely nothing wrong or perverse about that. On the contrary, there are many instances in Biblical literature about our spiritual forebears having strong aspirations for specific items, like Shlomo for knowledge, Devora for victory over Ammon, Moshe Rabbeinu for the Jews’ spiritual growth, and many more. But ultimately, we must bow to the sure knowledge that God controls the destiny of the Cosmos, and our Prophets (especially Yeshayahu and Zecharia) have assured us that there’s a happy ending to the drama of Jewish Destiny, eventually.

So, here we are intensively involved in a vicious struggle for the safety and security of our beloved Medina, and we pray constantly for YESHUA, victory. Is this effort pointless or, even, absurd? Of course not! Just because the ultimate outcome is beyond us, doesn’t mean that our efforts are without profound significance. Like Moshe, King David, Yirmiyahu, etc, all of whom davened for the Jews’ welfare, so must we!! Whether it’s a factor in the final outcome, I neither know nor care. We know it makes us better people, and brings us closer to God.

God, we entreat You to bring a speedy and successful outcome to the present battle between us and pure evil. But we have supreme BITACHON that You will do what is most necessary to bring us one step closer to the promised GEULA SHLEIMA, Final Redemption, please, please, speedily in our days!! 

About the Author
Born in Malden, MA, 1950. Graduate of YU, taught for Rabbi Riskin in Riverdale, NY, and then for 18 years in Efrat with R. Riskin and R. Brovender at Yeshivat Hamivtar. Spent 16 years as Educational Director, Cong. Agudath Sholom, Stamford, CT. Now teach at OU Center and Yeshivat Orayta.
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