Bitachon, Not Rallies, Is Our Avodah (Chayei Sarah)

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This parsha contains a lot of foundational concepts to guide us in yiddishkeit, from acceptance to zeal. We see shidduchim, mourning over loss, bitachon, and suffering. 

Given the recent climate of events, it seems most appropriate to focus on bitachon and suffering. 

“It is well known from our holy sources that everyone must experience nisyonos. These trials and tests are necessary components of a moral existence in this physical world.” 

Bobover Ruv, Chayei Sarah

It would seem that suffering is a natural, and in fact, necessary, component of life. Suffering is one of the ways that HaShem punishes the world.

While we know all far too well that there is no single reason for why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper in this world, it is in the nature of HaShem to judge the world fairly. The middah of Din requires a cheshbon of every action and thought. Every merit a rasha may have accumulated must be paid in full, and every shortfall of a tzaddik must also in turn be punished. 

This presents a quandary…

Should the rashayim have merits in Olam Haba while tzaddikim are in turn demerited? Also, if only the righteous succeed in this world and the wicked always fail, how is there any bechira to choose? 

A resolution to this, in the Gemara in Kiddushin (40), is that by rewarding the wicked here and now in full, they have no zechuysim to defend them before the Heavenly Court. By punishing the righteous in this lifetime, they then have nothing marked against them before the Tribunal. Finally, by the wicked prospering and righteous suffering, one has to really find and love HaShem to stick with Him in these turbulent times, making the free choice to cleave to the Creator all the more apparent. 

We are, however, left with a problem.

By nature of the yid, who can develop bitachon, how is there really any punishment? All the more so tzaddikim, whom we know are holding at the highest levels of trust in G-d. 

To resolve this, the Bobover Ruv brings the Toldos Yaakov Yosef on Parshas Mishpatim, citing the Baal Shem HaKadosh. When HaShem needs to punish someone, HaShem first removes their bitachon. With bitachon removed, the pain of the punishment is felt in full measure. If bitachon wasn’t removed, then the person would only view the events within the context of the ultimate good and the punishment would be ineffective.

This is actually terrifying.

We see by Avraham’s ten trials that the hardest part of the trial was that HaShem removed all of Avraham’s growth and deveikus during that trial. The only thing he was left with was the level of growth in emunah v’bitachon. This is how we know for certain that they were trials and not punishments, but it sends a chill to the spine. If, Ch”v, I stumbled and demerit myself, the only way for me to truly suffer is to also lose the one thing that gives me peace of mind. By losing my bitachon during suffering, I don’t have an anchor and truly feel the despair and pain. Oy. 

This helps me better understand the state of things among Klal Yisroel right now. The panic that people feel, especially those who shtieg in bitachon, is a punishment and call for us to do teshuvah. It is also a key to our final redemption. If we cry tears of ruchniyus instead of the same as Esav, tears of gashmius, then our tears can mevatel Esav’s hold on Galus and bring redemption. If, however, we choose the same tears of physicality, we only strengthen Esav’s grip. 

If we look at Chayei Sarah, when Rivka is brought to Yitzchok there is an interesting episode where Rikva stumbles on the camel. There’s no need to mention one of the forebears losing their grip on the saddle, unless there’s a deeper layer to the event. 

The Bobover Ruv reveals to us that the camels were an allusion.

The two camels represented the offspring they would have. Yitzchok was destined to be the father of both tzadikim and rashayim. One would logically understand that Yitzchok should have become depressed from this.

As the Ruv writes, “these wicked descendants were destined to wreak havoc upon Klal Yisroel. They would be responsible for pogroms and horrific decrees, cruelly perpetrated upon Yitzchok’s descendants.”

Nonetheless, the Ruv continues, Yitzchok did not become depressed. Instead of having stock in the the facts in front of him, he placed his value and energy into bitachon. As a result, not only was he not subject to the natural law (as a side note, the Chasam Sofer is noted to have been at a loss as to how Western medicine could work on a Jew as they are a different briah and should find it ineffective, with the only remedy avail to them to be teshuvah and tefillah), but the methods by which the nations measure (the sciences) were programmed to not apply to the yid. This move as an archetypal figure established our ability to transcend and ascend all physical limitations and rely on the Creator to rewrite however needed.

“He lifted up his eyes, as was the way of Tzadikim to look upward to heaven to illustrate their understanding and acceptance that although it appears terrible, everything will be for the good since all of it comes from Above. This was in fact the case, as Hashem utilized these cruel leaders to arouse Klal Yisroel to do Teshuva.”

Bobover Ruv, Chayei Sarah

Bitachon is not a natural remedy for the Jew, however. It is something that requires work and intention. We see this in the blueprint of the Avos and Imahos. 

Rivka Imeinu, not having grown in a house built on these principles, just escaping the wickedness of her father and brother, had not built a high level of bitachon like that of Yitzchok Avinu. Thus, the Ruv illustrates, when she saw Yitzchok she perceived the Gevurah, but lacked the strength and trust in HaShem to see the Chesed under the surface. As a result, when she saw the camels and their representation of the righteous and wicked descendents she was destined to have, she turned to pain, worry, and anxiety.

Just as we are destined and obligated to put all our efforts into bitachon and not into modern alternatives, so too it does not come naturally to us and we need to build this muscle. We are both blessed and challenged with this duality of being the children of Yitzchok Avinu, the master of bitachon, and Rivka Imeinu, one who had to work hard to build her bitachon.  

Rav Michel Twerski, shlit”a, in his commentary on the start of the war with Hamas, poignantly addressed that Klal Yisroel’s focus on weapons, flak vests, and strategies are not the route we are supposed to take. We are supposed to say Tehillim, daven, do mitzvos, and most importantly: do Teshuva. 

Now is a season for us to recognize that we need to hold strong and work on bitachon and abandon the emptiness of trusting in the non-Jewish nations of Esav. We need to turn to HaShem and HaShem alone. Protests, rallies, and the like are not our avodah. We must recognize without doubt that we are not Jewish Americans, or American Jews, but only Jews. The German Jews made this critical error before the War, and it is one we should not easily forget. Our allegiance is to HaShem alone. We all know that as we get closer to the coming of Moshiach, we are supposed to be persecuted and hated by every nation, forced to go nowhere but home. America will become increasingly uncomfortable. 

And if not, perhaps we’re doing it wrong. 

One day every Baruch Dayan Emes will be clearly a Baruch HaShem. Until that day, we may write BDE, but we can’t despair. We can’t be depressed. We can’t stumble into anxiety. Things may hurt, but we need to know without doubt that everything from Above is only good. And if we’re struggling in that arena, then all the more so we need to turn to Tefillah and Teshuvah to strengthen our bitachon and fully rely on no one but the Eibishter.