Behar : True vs Fake Emunah

The father of one of my rabbeim at yeshiva was in the Nazi camps with the Klausenberg Rebbe, and maintained a relationship with him after the war.  Once the Rebbe said to him, "We know that when Moshiach comes, each nation will be judged according to how they treated the Jewish people.  However, what about all the nations that have had no connection to us whatsoever?  How will they be judged?  For that, He created the United Nations, where every country has the ability to vote on what should happen to the Jews."

Iran's president, known as the "Butcher of Tehran," the man overseeing terror around the world, died, and the United Nations lowered their flags and had a moment of silence (with US participation) in his honor.  And in the same week, the ICC prosecutor has asked for arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant, charging them with more severe charges than they did with Putin, despite the fact that no other country has had such a low civilian death ratio than Israel has accomplished.

From here, we can see that Micronesia, and probably ONLY Micronesia, will be rewarded.

It's really interesting seeing where He is taking things.

This week's parsha brings up the mitzvah of Shmitta, one of my personal favorites, which requires us to cease and desist from agricultural work for a year.  And the Torah makes a surprising promise: Don't worry!  Hashem will take care of you!

Now, the concept of Emunah and Bitachon (faith and trust) in Hashem is a difficult mitzvah and is very personalized.  It's also widely misunderstood, misapplied, and misused.  Some believe by sticking their heads in the sand, they can have perfect faith.  Some believe that painting a smile on their face and repeating "All is good!" is perfect faith.  Some believe by making up inspirational stories (as unfortunately some English books in the Jewish world have done) can lead to perfect faith.

When I was in Yerushaliyim a few months ago, for example, making matzos, somebody from the group asked how things were "up north."  I told him about the situation and that we are simply waiting for that front to open up and play it from there.  He put up a smile and said in an assuring way, "Don't worry, your Torah will protect you!"  To which I snapped, "Like it did for those bigger than I in the Holocaust?"  His smiled quickly melted and he stood silently with nothing to say.

I was quite upset about that.  Am I waking up every day thinking and worrying about my family and me dying?  With the exception of when loud explosions wake me up in the middle of the night, no, I'm not.  I'm continuing on with life.  However, I DO know that things are expected to get worse and it very much can affect me in a not-so-nice way.  And I have to figure out how to balance that legitimate fear, with the legitimate thought of "what is the normal thing to do," with the legitimate thought of "Hashem knows what's best, even if I might not see or even … enjoy… it."  So, while he lives his life by saying nice mantras, I have to live my life figuring out how to meld different aspects, emotions, and views together.

Rav Yaakov Meir Schecter, probably THE acknowledged leader of the old Breslov community in Yerushaliyim wrote that when a person has hardship in life, and says "all is good," then that is called a lie, not faith.  Before anything, a person must truthfully acknowledge this situation.  It's tough, it's hard, it's scary… and then with that TRUTH, he can move forward with, "… but, ultimately, it's all for the best, whatever that may be."

We see such a proof from the Torah itself, which we recently said on Pesach night, "Hashem heard our cries…"  Why were we crying?  Because "all is good"?  If "all is good," then there is no need to cry!  Clearly, all "wasn't good," and it was through those cries, the redemption from Egypt was made.

Several years ago, a young man (I can't believe I'm using that term) who was single, asked me how I plan to marry off my children, given the today's monetary standards in Israel needed to do that.  I told him that it's something that I think and worry about, and quite frankly, I have no idea how I'm going to do so, so, Hashem will have to help me out on that one, because I don't know how.  And, he asked the same question that I have asked over and over again when I heard such things, "What does that mean, 'Hashem will help'?  Everybody says that, but … how?"

I told him, "I have no idea.  All I know is this.  When I moved to Israel 20 years ago, I had a few thousand dollars to my name and some skills.  I had no plan, financially or socially.  Over this time period, I did whatever I had to do to 'make things meet,' and He took me along, and in some cases in weird ways, and gave me what I have today.   I have no choice but to look at the proof of my own history and see how He's taken care of me so far, to know that He will somehow take care of me in the future.  How or to what level?  I have no idea."

I was happy yesterday, when I heard Rav Reuven Leuchter say something on these lines.  Without going into details, he was discussing why our lives (via Torah) are compared to that of trees.  Regarding roots, people think that they represent our family history.  But he said that that is not true.  The roots of a tree are constantly growing outwards as the tree grows.  The roots represent our personal history and experience.

He explained that while there are plenty of written works on emunah and bitachon, ultimately, the internalization of such concepts is not from the books, but rather our own personal stories.  As we grow, we draw upon our own pasts to see where and how Hashem has taken care of us in our own unique ways.  That is where our spiritual nourishment comes from.  When we look back and see, "Ah, I remember this period.  It was very difficult, but look how things worked out in the end."

A few years ago, I was part of a kollel.  I was there for a good nine years or so, always, ALWAYS one of the first to show up daily.  In the last year of when I was there, the kollel moved to the other end of our town, a two km walk.  Instead of trying to get rides with everybody in the morning, and being late, I would walk the two km and get there before everybody else with cars did.  And despite this, the person in charge of finance would often not only pay me what the kollel was paying, but he also withheld the government part of my stipend.  To make things worse, I agreed that 10% of what he paid me, I would give back as a donation to help the kollel.  So, for many months, I wasn't getting paid at all, and he was continuing to take the 10% of what he was "paying me."  Simply put, I was paying to learn in the kollel.

Needless to say, I wasn't happy with this arrangement.  I spoke to a certain rav here who knows everybody involved and the ins and outs of the community, and he recommended that I leave and learn on my own.  I asked him about the financial aspect and about personal worries on the spiritual end.  He told me not to worry about both things and why.  So, I left the kollel.  And three years later, I learn on my own, I receive only the monthly government stipend (around 650-700 NIS/month), and somehow, we're still financially afloat.  (Don't get me wrong, my wife and I still work very hard.  Our work starts right after Shabbos and continues until Friday morning.  We are doing whatever we need to do to make money.)  However, now, I get to learn what I want to learn, when I want to learn, at the speed I want to learn. I'm only a seven-minute walk from the house, which gives me the ability to run home in times of need, and gives my kids the ability to come and learn with me in the afternoon.  In the end, I gained a freedom that I did not have previously and at zero cost.  Again, I wasn't happy with what went down, but in the end, I see the good that came from it.

That's just one example of what has happened to me.  And when I worry about finances, I remind myself of this story.  This doesn't mean that I live with blinders on.  I live very much in the present, but such experiences help me keep myself from worrying about the future [too much].

However, if I begin to see that things are not working out financially (as in "right now in life"), then I know that perhaps I need to reassess my situation, speak to those bigger than me, and move accordingly.  Because perhaps, Hashem wants something different from me than what I'm doing now.

So, I guess it comes down to this:

We live in the present.  And we must live according to what is going on in the present.  We look around, make calculations and do the best we can.  However, regarding the future (both near and far), we must try our best to look at the past and use that past to not worry about the future.

With that, I wish you all a wonderfully quiet Shabbos.