TRANQUILITY: AN ACCURATE BAROMETER OF BITACHON
Bitachon Bytes, VaYishlach
By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg
One of the fundamental characteristics of Bitachon in Hashem is the absence of fear. If you truly have Bitachon you are completely serene. One who fears what the future of this world holds for him is clearly not relying on Hashem. Bitachon means that he is sure and confident that Hashem will make the situation good for him. And if he is truly certain of that, he will not fear any future occurrences. This message is featured in the beginning of this week’s parsha.
The Torah relates that the messengers Yaakov sent to his brother Eisav returned with an ominous message, “He is acting like an Eisav, without brotherly love, and is approaching with four hundred men of war, (indicating that even though two decades had passed, Eisav was still furious over the brachos Yaakov had taken and wanted revenge.)”
The pasuk continues and tells us that “Yaakov became extremely frightened and he was distressed.” The Midrash quotes these words and comments that there were two people to whom Hashem promised security and nevertheless they harbored fear — the chosen of the forefathers, Yaakov, and the chosen of the prophets, Moshe. The example given to prove Yaakov’s fear is in our pasuk; Yaakov had been guaranteed prosperity, safety and security, and he was nonetheless frightened of the coming encounter with Eisav.
The commentators on the Midrash discuss the intention of the Midrash: was it to praise Yaakov and Moshe for their fear or is it a condemnation? Some say that it was a sign of humility, that despite being promised by Hashem that all would be fine, they still felt unsure of their virtues, and that perhaps Hashem would withdraw His promise. Others dispute this and say that the intention of the Midrash is to censure them, that they feared what the future held despite Hashem’s promise.
In explanation, the Rebbe emphasized that when truly experiencing Bitachon in Hashem, worry and fear are not at all on the radar. True Bitachon means that the person truly relies in the depths of his heart only on Hashem, to the extent that he does not fear at all. Bitachon and fear cannot coexist together. When, however, the person experiences worry, even if it is just a scintilla of unease, this shows that the Bitachon is lacking.
This is the Midrash’s criticism of Yaakov. Worry and Bitachon are mutually exclusive emotions and therefore the correct way to approach hardship and adversity is with complete and total certainty that the dénouement will be positive in a revealed sense.
A Chassid of the Alter Rebbe used to visit Liozna every year and would merit to enter Yechidus with the Alter Rebbe. At the conclusion of every Yechidus, the Alter Rebbe would bentch him that they should see each other again in good spirits. One year the Alter Rebbe ended the yechidus with this Chassid and omitted his usual bracha. The Chassid noticed this right away and pleaded with the Rebbe to give him the bracha. After a few minutes, the Alter Rebbe looked at the Chassid with a smile and gave him the desired blessing. Relieved, the Chassid left the Alter Rebbe’s room. As soon as he left he realized that he had left his handkerchief in the Yechidus room. Hastily, and without thinking too much, he quickly re-entered the room, excused himself, took his handkerchief and left.
Upon exiting, the Chassid gave a loud krechtz, “Oy, what have I done, the bracha was just fulfilled, and I didn’t get another bracha to meet again before I left!” The Chassid sat down in shul, relaxed and pondered the reality. “Instead of becoming worried or sad about the fact that my time is up, let me prepare for the journey to the next world in the proper way.”
We can approach every situation in life in one of two ways: one of worry and anxiety or one of introspection, relaxation, and intelligent decision making. In every situation in life we must remember that worry is anathema to Bitachon and that the avoda of Bitachon demands of us to be totally tranquil, as if the positive outcome has already happened.
Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at http://www.gotbitachon.com.