I ask for my readers’ indulgence, inasmuch as this week’s column will actually be focused on last week’s parshah. The lessons that are to be learned from the story of Eliezer and Rivkah are ever so precious, and actually timeless.
I am referring specifically to lessons in the middah of bitachon -reliance on Hashem. There is so much to say about this middah; even defining it is no easy task. However, we will go beyond just that, to discuss specific aspects of bitachon, based on lessons that I believe can be learned from a close examination of the pesukim describing Eliezer’s search for a wife for Yitzchak.
[Since this will take more than one column and there is another unrelated point that I would like to make, regarding the open letter that appeared in this space two weeks ago, I will list the seven aspects of bitachon that we will be discussing, elaborate upon one of these, and then insert the unrelated point. Im yirtzeh Hashem, we will continue our discussion of bitachon in the coming weeks.]
The Seven Aspects of Bitachon that we will discuss are:
- Setting parameters. One has the right to do so.
- Bitachon should be embedded in one’s life, into one’s psyche. One should have to refer to it specifically only when and if questions and/or nisyonos arise.
- One should always leave a corner of one’s mind open to the possibility that Hashem has other plans than what one might think.
- One should not do without davening because one’s bitachon is very strong.
- One must make sure that one will gain a new and more intense awareness of Hashem and His kindliness when things work out.
- One must thank Hashem each step of the way, even before things completely work out.
- Bitachon requires the realization that no power can harm a person unless it is Hashem’s will, and neither can any power help a person unless it is Hashem’s specific will that it do so.
1. Setting parameters. One has the right to do so.
One may set parameters for one’s bitachon. However, one must ensure that they are appropriate, rational, and properly motivated. For instance, if a person wants to exercise his or her bitachon in the realm of parnassah, saying, “I will now practice relying on Hashem for my sustenance, while doing my hishtadlus, but working on internalizing that everything is but a channel for Hashem to direct the result of his decision on Rosh Hashanah concerning me.” This raises the question, does one then have the “right” to say, “Well, I don’t want to spend over an hour’s commute each way. So I will rely on Hashem to work things out, so to speak, within that guideline.” (This scenario of course must assume that there is no violation of the hishtadlus principle, i.e., that there are opportunities that require the person’s skills within the framework that he has created) Is this approach correct and appropriate? Does one have the “right” to do that, somewhat arbitrarily setting specifications for what one will “settle” for.
Well, after determining that those parameters and specifications are appropriate, and not at all “arbitrary;” that they make sense and are meant to avoid larger issues, the answer is yes! One may!
Avraham Avinu tells Eliezer, “Do not take a wife for Yitzchak from the Canaanites who inhabit the land I am living in; rather, go to where my extended family lives, and take a wife from there.” Avraham then proceeds to express how he is sure that Hashem will bring success to Eliezer’s mission. This is a statement of bitachon, if ever there was one. Yet how could Avraham Avinu do that? Did Hashem instruct him from where to take a wife for Yitzchak or not to let Yitzchak go back to Avraham’s land of origin? Did Hashem forbid him to take a wife from where he was living now? We find no such instructions from Hashem! Moreover, that really sets up a pretty confining box to work out of! Yet apparently, since Avraham’s intentions were correct, his reasons were rational, in fact spiritual in nature, he had the ‘right” to set it up that way, and then exercise his bitachon. If traveling too far will render your family life or family responsibilities dysfunctional, if it will not allow you regular learning time–then you can turn to Hashem and say, “Due to reasons A,B, And C, I am therefore relying on You to get me the parnassah I need without undue traveling!”