Ki Sisa bitachon
Eradicating Selfishness
Between the חטא העגל in this week’s parsha and the פוסת על שתי הסעיפים in the haftorah, a major hindrance to Bitachon is brought to light.
עבודה זרה is of course one of the harshest עבירות to be עובר. However, we need to understand what might be the drive behind this transgression.
The good news is that a Yid who transgresses the prohibition of idol worship is not doing so because he really believes that this ‘idol’ is a real deity ח”ו, rather the cause is the false belief that through serving the idol, more גשמיות will be granted to him as a result. So it’s selfishness, not a real belief in the actual ‘idol’. Nonetheless, any עבודה to an ‘idol’, however superficial, counts as עבודה זרה. ​
When discussing פותח על שתי הסעיפים, it may appear that since it is not clear cut עבודה זרה, it is therefore not as bad, however, in a sense it is worse than עבודה זרה. פותח על שתי הסעיפים can be expressed in one of two ways, either that the person is in constant doubt as to what is the correct path, Yiddishkeit or otherwise, or that the person believes in both Yiddishkeit and ‘idols’ at the same time. In the days of אלי’ הנביא some Yidden were unsure who they should serve, and others were serving both. Both of these types didn’t exclusively serve idols, but this can have repercussions for the future.
The one who is constantly in doubt about who is the real g-d will never be able to do true תשובה because he never actually served idols, so he doesn’t think that he has what to do תשובה for. The one who believes in both Hashem and idols can also not do complete תשובה, because his selfishness and love of גשמיות has completely taken over. Even when he will do תשובה and proclaim ה’ הוא האלקים, it will only be for selfish reasons, for whatever he will personally gain from it. There are two points here (as to why פותח על שתי הסעיפים is worse than עבודה זרה). Firstly, in regard to תשובה, one who is פותח על שתי הסעיפים is less likely to do תשובה completely (if at all). This is true for both the ambiguous one and the duplicitous one. Secondly, the פותח על שתי הסעיפים who believes in both Hashem and others is supremely self-serving, much more so than the idol-worshipper. The עובד עבודה זרה, although selfish, contains the potential for spirituality, for although his motive for serving idols is for his own gain, he means it for real, with an אמת. He really believes that serving idols (in any form that he accepts upon himself) will bring him material good. There exists therefore some potential for spirituality. Of course it’s the wrong spirituality because he is being מבטל himself to the wrong elements, but he at least contains some potential for רוחניות. The פותח על שתי הסעיפים has no spiritual future because he always jumps in the direction which looks promising for his own gain. If Hashem seems to have what to offer, then he will believe in Hashem; the minute some other perceived power seems more attractive, then he will serve that. He believes in nothing aside from his own material comfort, which is why he jumps around constantly, unfaithful to any single deity.​​​ This explanation on the deficiency of עבודה זרה and פותח על שתי הסעיפים sheds light on Bitachon in Hashem as well. A person who relies on powers other than Hashem is not doing so because he intrinsically believes in that power, rather it is for his own pleasure, so that he should acquire that which pleases him. Nonetheless because the goal of pleasing oneself is contradictory to the aspiration of connecting to Hashem, such behavior is contrary to Bitachon. If this selfishness is exclusive and faithful to one power, then there is potential for תשובה, and realizing that all power belongs to Hashem alone, for the element of ביטול still exists in his life. If a person becomes a פותח על שתי הסעיפים, even if it’s only due to doubt, תשובה will become less likely, because he never made a statement opposing Hashem. The fact that his potential for connecting to Hashem has become greatly reduced is a misfortune. A duplicitous פותח על שתי הסעיפים serving Hashem and another false deity simultaneously, gives a sign that his selfishness is worse than the ‘idol worshipper’, and thus the distance from true reliance in Hashem is amplified. The return to connecting with Hashem is more difficult both because he always believed in Hashem as well, and because his extreme self-servitude has greatly alienated him from Hashem.​ Bitachon in Hashem means completely devoting oneself to Hashem, with no selfish motives attached, because once it becomes a matter of pleasing oneself, then it is a contradiction to reliance on and connection to Hashem, due to the fact that the ‘self’ needs to be addressed as well, and not just Hashem. Although the potential for the פותח על שתי הסעיפים is something to be cautious about, even today, from a Bitachon perspective we want to be cautious not only about the full extent of selfishness which exists by the פותח על שתי הסעיפים, but even the partial selfishness which contains some ביטול needs to be abolished. The devotion to Hashem created by proclaiming הוי’ הוא האלקים twice will certainly reaffirm a wholesome reliance solely on Hashem.

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