A person whose opinion I respect told me a few days ago that my articles are becoming too “heavy,” too deep, abstract, abstruse, obscure. (He may be right. Please let me know what you think!) I know that I am greatly influenced by the sefer Chovos Halevavos, who insists that people spend too little time, if any, contemplating their chovos halevavos. While this includes many things, it consists first and foremost of a person’s obligation to try to understand what Hashem means to him, how he understands Hashem’s unity, His involvement in the world and in his own life, what it means to truly believe that Hashem controls and determines all, and what the ramifications are of those beliefs in the real world. So I decided to elaborate somewhat on what emerged from the column three weeks ago (issue 650), the idea of how people might deny Hashem’s “involvement” in their lives through reliance on their own prowess. This article will, bli neder, be the last of this series. Realize, though, that there are few better things to contemplate as we approach Yom Hadin. As the Chovos Halevavos states in his introduction to Sha’ar Habitachon, the more one truly relies on Hashem for everything, realizing that He is the only Power that one could, should, and logically must rely on, the more one comes under Hashem’s protection from the vicissitudes of this life and world.
We left off last week promising to explain the proper use of what we call hishtadlus, keeping in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all, that bitachon is a life-long pursuit to internalize the concept, with many stops and many plateaus (and perhaps dips) along the way. We will cite the words of the Chovos Halevavos in his description of what is, ironically, an obligation!
“The best way to express trust in Hashem is to move along the path that Hashem has decreed for you, and rely on Him within it” (Chapter 4).
Chovos Halevavos consistently insists that a person will only have that which Hashem has decreed for him, and no one and nothing can change what that is. It is all in His hands. And the Chovos Halevavos explains (Sha’ar Habitachon ch. 3) that Hashem has commanded that we humans “go through the motions,” and act to create the channels through which His giving flows. So the trick is to have full reliance upon Hashem while doing everything you are “supposed” to do — but not relying on that. No small feat.
This perception alone will transform your life, if you realize what the ramifications are. You will no longer over-obsess, you will no longer do inappropriate things in order to further your efforts in this world, you will not be resentful or angry if things do not work out the way you would have liked.
Let’s see further what the Chovos Halevavos has to say:
Along with the idea that all is decreed, you must pursue life’s necessities, and not leave them to G-d, saying, “Why should I bother earning a living, taking care of my health, seeking shelter? This would be tantamount to drinking poison, risking your life in any number of other ways, doing anything dangerous. For you will either die or be harmed, and you will be held responsible as if you killed another person (even though technically the death came about as a result of Hashem’s will and decree.) Because we have been enjoined not to murder, and your punishment will be a result of your disobedience of Hashem’s command, so too, a person is forewarned not to perform actions harmful to himself or herself, and will be punished accordingly if he or she disobeys. Or you might be rescued, but you have “used up” merits, as a person’s merits are diminished if the natural processes through which Hashem normally functions are “required” to be superseded.
And just as this applies in matters of life and death, so too does it apply in matters of health, sustenance, clothing, shelter… even as you believe that Hashem’s decree alone affects you, you must be like the farmer who plows his field, removes its thorns, sows, fertilizes, waters, even as he inevitably trusts the Almighty to make the earth fertile, to guard it from disaster, bless its crop, and make it grow. Thus, too, workers, merchants, and laborers go about the normal way of earning a living (or busying oneself with anything that is the norm in health-related issues, both physical and emotional, furthering relationships, raising children, etc.) and relying on Hashem to provide the results.
Enough citations! In the practical, real, world there are three major ramifications: One, a person does whatever is considered normal in that field — whether parnassah, including advertising, keeping up to date, having a clean store and courteous employees (hmm, maybe that last one belongs in the next category of overdoing it), doing one’s job capably and with alacrity, watching one’s diet — all the while realizing that his success lies not in his efforts, but are totally dependent on Hashem.
Two, as a result of the proper attitude, one does not overdo things, whether it be work-related or health related; since it is Hashem, not the person’s efforts, what would be the point? You are able to withstand various nisyonos that arise, with the same reasoning: what would be the point? You say to yourself, “It is Hashem, and He presumably will not reward inappropriate behavior, or worse, by having it succeed!”
And three, you do whatever you do in all these areas because it is Hashem’s will, not because you are the one creating the results. This transforms your everyday life into one of doing HaShem’s will 24/7! Everything becomes a mitzvah! Think about that!
Once you become aware of these truths, Rosh Hashanah can be faced with confidence and optimism.