Trust in Hashem – A Recurring Issue in Sefer Bamidbar

A recurring issue in Sefer Bamidbar is the issue of bitachon – trust in Hashem’s providence. Bitachon involves the understanding that Hashem watches over us and protects us at all times, and orchestrates everything that happens in our lives solely for our benefit. On the one hand, the Jewish People of Moshe’s generation are praised for following Hashem’s instruction to go into the wilderness despite their having no natural means of surviving there. Thus it is written (Yirmiyah 2:2): “I remember on your behalf the devotion of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed after Me in the wilderness, in a land unsown.” On the other hand, several events in Sefer Bamidbar indicate that the Jewish People were lacking to a degree in the area of bitachon. We read, for example, of the various occasions that the Jewish People complained about their circumstances. In addition, we read of the episode of the spies who were sent to Eretz Yisrael and came back saying that it would be impossible to conquer the land. A further example is the episode of Korach that we read about in this week’s parashah, where Korach was dissatisfied with the position Hashem had assigned him, and organized a rebellion against Moshe to gain a higher position. Accordingly, I present here a portion of the Maggid’s discussion of bitachon in Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaBitachon.
After the discussion of serving Hashem, I thought it fitting to place next the discussion of bitachon, for only when a person has bitachon can he fulfill his obligation to serve Hashem to the maximum possible extent. For if a person lacks bitachon, and places his faith in certain other people, he has not given himself over completely – his entire body, soul, and strength – to Hashem, but instead has given over some part of himself to those in whom has placed his faith. He is like those of whom it is written (Tehillim 106:20): “They exchanged their Glory [Hashem] for the likeness of a grass-eating ox.” A person with bitachon does not place his hopes in any man. Of him, Tehillim 40:5 states: “Well-off is the man who places his trust in Hashem, and does not turn to the arrogant and the strayers after falsehood.” Tehillim 32:6 states: “The one who trusts in Hashem, kindness surrounds him.” And in Tehillim 131:2, David HaMelech declares: “Indeed I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a suckling child at his mother’s side, like the suckling child is my soul.” Yirmiyah 17:5-7 teaches: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and has made a being of flesh his strong-arm, and has turned his heart from Hashem. … Blessed is the man who trusts continually in Hashem; Hashem will then be his security.” Our ancestors were praised greatly for their bitachon, as it is written (ibid. 2:2): “I remember on your behalf the devotion of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed after Me in the wilderness, in a land unsown.” Accordingly, it is fitting to discuss the nature and elements of bitachon and describe systematically the factors that lead to a weakening of bitachon.
Chapter 1
One must know that, just as Hashem originally brought each creation into being from nothingness, so, too, its continued existence now is brought about through His direct action. Thus it is written (Nechemiah 9:6): “You are the Sustainer of them all.” If the Creator and Maintainer of the universe would completely cut off His gracious sustaining force for a moment, everything would revert to nothingness, just as a garden withers when its water supply is cut off. Rambam discusses this matter in Moreh Nevuchim, Part 1, Chapter 69. Just as Hashem is absolutely complete, and needs nothing to make Him complete, so, too, conversely, His creations have absolutely nothing of their own, and cannot continue in existence for even a moment without the flow of Hashem’s sustaining force.
In regard to human beings, the support Hashem provides consists of several elements of varying levels of importance. Some elements are so crucial that if Hashem ceased to provide them, the person would immediately die. In this vein, Yeshayah 42:5 describes Hashem as the One Who “gives a soul to the people upon [the earth] and a spirit to those who walk upon it” – the verse says gives, in present tense, indicating the giving is constantly ongoing. (The Zohar, Bereishis 205b, quotes this verse in connection with the creation of man.)  Other elements, such as food and water, are not needed at every moment but are necessary to sustain life: A person can live for some amount of time without food, perhaps even a few days, but eventually his natural bodily mechanisms will force him to eat in order to replenish what has been depleted from him. At the next level are things that are not absolute necessary for life, but without them a person cannot live at a normal level of comfort – for example, clothing. Further down the chain are luxuries such as fine apparel and jewelry. All these things, like the produce of the field and all other commodities, are available to mankind at large, but, aside from those things without which a person would immediately die, some people lack certain things, in accordance with what Hashem has decreed for them. And Hashem, the Creator of all creatures of the world, watches directly over each one, irrespective of whether the creature is aware of Hashem’s supervision or not. Hashem sustains each one, from the great wild ox to the tiniest insect, and provides each its appropriate portion.
Chapter 2 (first three paragraphs)
Every person is a created being, whose coming into existence was not brought about through his own will or even with his awareness, but rather through the kindness of Hashem, who graciously created and sustains everyone. A person who contemplates this fact, bearing in mind that the purpose of all creation is so that people should recognize Hashem’s greatness and unceasing kindness [see Ramban, end of parashas Bo], should have complete faith that Hashem will take care of him. Just as before he came into being he was unaware to matters pertaining to his existence, and did not know that Hashem would create him out of pure nothingness, so, too, now, he should refrain from worrying about how he will maintain his existence, for surely the One Who brought him into being will sustain him.
Now, man is distinguished from all other creations in that he has free will. If he chooses good, Hashem will show grace and kindness toward him. A person must take care that his deeds are good and proper – that his conduct is pleasing to Hashem. If he does so, Hashem will grant him life and blessing, and he will not lack anything good. But if he rebels against Hashem and vexes Him through evil deeds, Hashem’s anger will be aroused against him, and He will withhold blessing from him [so as to prompt him to change his ways]. Thus the Torah says (Devarim 11:26-28): “See, I place before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing – that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God, that I command you today. And the curse – if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God, and you turn aside from the path that I command you today ….”
A person must therefore exert himself with all his strength to serve Hashem and gain His favor, and he should turn his eyes in hope toward Hashem, “like the eyes of servants toward their master and like the eyes of maidservants toward their mistress” (Tehillim 123:2). We should overtly fear Hashem and avoid sin, so that Hashem will not reduce the sustaining forces and resources that He provides us to maintain our existence in this world, thereby placing us into a less favorable life situation. We should recognize with a full heart that we receive no aid except through Hashem. Who else has the power to sustain us? Hashem is the sole master of the world; there is no other. He created us from nothingness, we continue in existence through His decree and will, and He supervises our affairs in wondrous fashion. Anyone that we might think of to rely on is in the same basic position as we are: His existence depends entirely on Hashem’s will and the care Hashem provides him. We should not put our faith in someone who is a created being just as we are; rather, we should put our faith in the One Who graciously brought us into being, and strive to serve Him and find favor with Him, as we explained before. Thus David HaMelech declares (ibid. 37:3): “Trust in Hashem and do good.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.