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Why So Anxious?

There’s a lot of anxiety in the world, and I believe that the source of all anxiety is lack of trusting in HaShem. In fact, it seems to be a natural curse that HaShem gives those who don’t trust in Him.

But if you will not listen to Me and not perform all these commandments; and if you will consider My statutes revolting, and if your being rejects My ordinances, so as not to perform all My commandments, to annul My covenant — then I, too, will do this to you; I will assign over you panic, and the wasting away…

Parshas Bechukosai, Vayikra 26:14-16

I recently wrote about these pesukim on the warning it gives us on how to avoid going off the derech, as well as the key to growth that is sustainable. As with all of Torah, there are many things to be learned from these verses. I’d like to highlight another part to discuss.

Chovos HaLevavos discusses bitachon at length, and in it he explores how the baal habitachon doesn’t have anxiety because he fully trusts in HaShem, and whatever HaShem does to/for him is the absolute best. Thus, one could reverse the logic and see that the person who lacks bitachon is fully of anxiety and fear (which Chovos HaLevavos confirms later on in his text).

Let’s break it down:

  • Trusting in HaShem = No Anxiety
  • Not Trusting in HaShem = Anxiety

It’s pretty clear that one should trust in HaShem. Balancing one’s own effort, hishtadlus, is another conversation for another time and is unique to every individual. Regardless of this variable, the basic equation is that trust removes fear and anxiety.

The pasuk above confirms this. We have someone who walks away from Torah and walks away from HaShem. As a result, a natural consequence of their actions is clear. Just as 1+1=2, so too we see the equation unfold:

1 + 1 = 2
Not Learning Torah + Not Trusting HaShem = Anxiety

How do we see this? Let’s look at the pasuk again…

But if you will not listen to Me and not perform all these commandments; and if you will consider My statutes revolting, and if your being rejects My ordinances, so as not to perform all My commandments, to annul My covenant — then I, too, will do this to you; I will assign over you panic, and the wasting away…

Parshas Bechukosai, Vayikra 26:14-16

In summary:

not listen to Me + annul My covenant = I will assign over you panic

Rashi explains the text “I will assign over you” means “I will command upon you.” When we fail to follow HaShem by trusting in Him, which is only possible for the one who serves Him and learns His Torah, anxiety is a natural conclusion.

That’s not to say that learning removes anxiety. That’s where we have some work of our own to do (enter hishtadlus here). Rather, it’s to say that if one isn’t committing to mitzvos and regularly Torah study that is appropriate for one’s own situation (as your local Orthodox Rabbi for your own psak), no matter how much the person will try, they truly cannot remove their anxiety and in fact will have anxiety forced upon them.

Every time I struggle with anxiety, the source of it is my lack of emunah and bitachon in the moment, and every moment is its own battlefield. It’s a constant struggle. But by committing to doing mitzvos, learning Torah, and learning about emunah and bitachon, one can truly reach a place where anxiety is a thing of the past. And that’s a great goal.

The world today is plagued by anxiety because of its lack of Torah study and avodas HaShem. Don’t be part of that curse. Anxiety is a caution sign to tell us to better serve HaShem, not to clamp down and try to control something that we simply can’t. Just trust in HaShem. And practice it.