Bitachon and Divine Providence (Hashgacha Protis)

A Reader asks:

Is there a type of Bitachon, where if you have TOTAL complete faith in G-d then whatever you want you will get? Can one say "I want such and such thing to happen, and therefore it will, because I have utter faith in G-d?"

I once heard a story of a Jewish woman who lived in Egypt many years ago. The story was told to me by her daughter, who herself is an older woman. Her family was celebrating Tisha B'av, when suddenly a fire broke out down the street and began to move towards their house. When the fire got to their door, the mother, said. "Hashem, we are fasting for You, and I know You will not hurt us." The fire then proceeded to jump right over their house, and hit the house next door. Now, this woman never doubted for a split second that Hashem would save her house. She just knew. (This type of bitachon seems different from the concept of knowing that whatever happens is for the best.) Further, if this type of bitachon is real, then does a person even need to pray?

N. M., Queens, New York

You are raising some excellent issues which go to the core of our belief in G-d and how He controls each element of our fate (Hashaga Protis).

As we stated in our other essay about bitachon (trust in G-d), bitachon is a tool for changing our reality. It is a complete, deep, trust in HaShem to the point where we transform ourselves and become worthy of a new reality which G-d already wished in potential to grant us - we only needed to become worthy of this new reality.

However, you can't use bitachon to "get something from G-d". He is the King. He rules. He will decide what is good for us, and even if we object violently - to Whom are we going to complain? Well, to G-d, right? But in the end it will still be His choice.

Bitachon is not a power tool to control G-d. Bitachon is about how we serve HaShem. Bitachon is about working on our mental outlook till we truly realize that He already has blessed us and is giving us all sorts of material and spiritual blessings. Now, given this, do I have the trust in G-d to realize that the reality that I have now is really good, or am I going to remain kvetching my whole life?

Bitachon is hard spiritual work. But basically we have to completely change our mindset and outlook. We are so used to looking at life and the world as an obstacle course that has to be overcome. It's not that way. G-d is taking care of us. We have to put our trust in Him.

I once heard from Rabbi Manis Friedman express this idea with the following example. There are two basic outlooks on life: surviving and serving. You are either subscribe to one outlook or the other.

Survivors look at the events of life as a series of events that must be overcome. That is, if I don't get good grades, I won't get a good job. If I don't have a good job, I won't be able to support a family. If I don't get this mailed today, there will be terrible repercussions. And so life goes. If I am not constantly on top of everything in my life, my world will unravel and so will the world around me. This way of looking at the world is so addictive that we are convinced that it is reality.

However, a person who serves HaShem, realizes that is not oneself who controls the events of the world. G-d is in charge of the world. He will provide everything that one needs both materially and spiritually. From the macroscopic fate of nations to the minor domestic needs of each individual - all is under His control. He owns the "bank" and He controls all the payments and outflow from this "bank".

So, if that is the case, can't we sit back and relax and let G-d handle it all? That's still thinking like a survivor! Thinking like a survivor is saying if G-d controls everything then there is nothing to do. If my survival is not in my hands, I don't have to do anything.

But a person who serves, does not shop, learn, eat, or earn a living in to survive - he/she does it to serve HaShem. He wants a world. He wants us to serve him in this world. He wants a dwelling place in this physical world. For that He needs agents who operate and live within the confines of this world. That is, people who live normal natural lives and have basic human needs and desires. People who need to fulfill these needs, and do this using natural means (work, sleep, etc.) - but these acts are not done to survive. That is taken care of. Rather, we do these things as part of the mitzvah of serving HaShem.

Serving HaShem does not mean one can sit back and relax. It probably means one will work harder. Why? Because we are involved in a great project. Namely, doing something for HaShem that He "can't do". Serving Him by making this world a more holy place. Not by removing oneself from the world, but by being very much a part of it, and yet serving Him by doing our daily life in a Jewish way. In a mitzvah way.

Author: Yechezkal-Shimon Gutfreund