This week, we will be’ezras Hashem continue and conclude our study and analysis of the episode of Eliezer’s search for and discovery of a wife for Yitzchak, focusing on the lessons in bitachon that it teaches. So far, we have seen that:

  1. One can set the parameters for one’s own bitachon, provided that these are appropriate.
  2. Bitachon should be naturally embedded in one’s life, into one’s psyche. It should be part of the paradigm of our reality —since it indeed is nothing more than a reflection of objective reality.
  3. One should always leave a corner of one’s mind open to the possibility that Hashem has other plans than what one might think. These may not always match our own hopes and dreams.
  4. One should not do without davening because one’s bitachon is very strong. Au contraire, tefillah is a vital component of bitachon, either as a form of hishtadlus or perhaps as an expression of our bitachon.
  5. One must always remember the real goal, expressing this in his tefillos and thoughts, namely, that one will gain a new and more intense awareness of Hashem and His kindliness when things work out.

Now we are ready to continue.

  1. One must thank Hashem each step of the way, even before things completely work out.

When Eliezer first found out that the girl who had met his criterion was indeed from Avraham Avinu’s family (Bereishis 24:26), he “knelt and prostrated himself to Hashem… and he said, Blessed is Hashem who has not withheld his kindness and truth from my master. I am on the path on which Hashem is taking me, to the house of my master’s kinsman.” Wait a moment! Apparently, Eliezer is not yet convinced that his mission has been successful! Just a few pesukim later he quite sanguinely offers to move elsewhere in his quest (ibid 49), noting with remarkable detachment, “and if not, tell me, and I shall turn to the right or to the left.” Only a few pesukim later (ibid 52) Eliezer thanks Hashem profusely (52), despite the fact that there remain more obstacles to be dealt with (see there).

Every step, every stage, is a reason to thank and appreciate in itself. Thank you Hashem for landing me the interview! Thank you for getting me through it without a disaster, for putting the right words in my mouth! I recognize and realize that it was You, and only You, Whose accomplishment it was. And if I then get the job —wow! Thank Hashem, as Eliezer did, every step of the way.

  1. 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.

Upon hearing Eliezer’s narrative, Lavan and Besuel respond, (ibid 50) “This is clearly from Hashem; we are thus unable to speak (and influence) this matter negatively or positively.” One is struck by the phrase “or positively.” Why shy away from being part of what is happening in a positive way by helping things along, so to speak?

In actuality, the Torah, through the mouthpiece provided by Lavan and Besuel, teaches us here a very profound aspect of bitachon. Sometimes we fall into the following trap. We turn to Hashem, we think of Hashem, we have faith in and trust in Hashem when things are not going so well. We turn to Hashem in our times of need. That is wonderful, but a question that we must ask ourselves is, do we think of Hashem, do we turn to Hashem, do we rely on Hashem when things are going swimmingly well? Do we think of ourselves then as relying on Hashem’s beneficence or do we ‘save’ Hashem for ‘when we need Him,’ as if He were some kind of pinch-hitter or relief pitcher?

The Chovos Halevavos (Sha’ar Habitachon, chapter 2), in enumerating the seven qualities that allow a person to potentially rely on anyone or anything, lists as the sixth, “Your well-being must be in his hands alone, and no one else must be able to harm you or to help you improve your lot or ensure your prosperity. You would certainly fully depend and rely on that person under such circumstances.”

This idea is repeated and expanded upon in the next chapter as well, “You must believe that no one can help you or harm you without the Creator’s consent. For a servant with many masters would presumably not rely on just one of them in a time of need when he expects each to help him… he would only trust and rely on one master alone and would not expect or hope for help from the others if that master alone could help him. So too should you realize that that no one can help you —or harm you— without the Creator’s consent and thus you should stop both being afraid of and placing your hopes in the wrong things, rather, you should trust in the Creator alone.”

Further, the Chovos Halevavos writes there, “You should trust and rely on Hashem alone and not include anyone or anything else in your trust. You only demean your trust in Hashem by doing that. Realize what is said concerning the pious King Assa when he depended on Doctors! (see Divrei Hayamim II 16:12) He was punished for that… As you well know, when you want something done, it is an error to give the responsibility to get it done to two people… So does it not go without saying that if you are relying on G-d and on another being or power, that your trust in Him is betrayed?”

Often, we do not realize the insidious lack of bitachon that we exhibit when we have ‘someone’ helping us, when we perceive that we have the wherewithal to succeed ‘without’ Hashem’s involvement (so to speak). We call upon ourselves to have bitachon when we are in crisis mode. In truth, however, the time to have bitachon is when we have the solution at hand! When the shadchan calls, when the dates went well, when he is about to propose, that is the time to say, Hashem! I am relying on You, and on You only, to work this out!” But then, a seemingly rational voice pipes up, “Why?” it says, is there a potential problem?” In truth, doesn’t that little voice sound so utterly normal? Doesn’t it sound like… us? You must not feel that you need a potential problem to utilize and exhibit bitachon!

Yes, Lavan and Besuel had the right idea. This is from Hashem! We (that is, we as independent powers, not we as agents and channels of Hashem) have nothing to say, nothing to do—neither against nor in favor of that which he has determined!

There is certainly much to learn about bitachon, dear readers. Then there is a lot to internalize and make real. I certainly hope these last few columns will help us all, myself included, move towards the goal of being included in the blessing of “Baruch hagever asher yivtach baHashem, vehayah Hashem mivtacho.”