Thursday, July 06, 2006

I dont beleive it!!

People love throwing around terms like emunah, bitachon, faith, trust…or giving generic advice like “you just need to have bitachon!”
(JUST?!) and for the longest time this kind of thing would drive me crazy. I thought I understood those terms but whenever someone would tell me to just have bitachon I’d cringe.. what a cop out piece of advice. It seemed so abstract, so empty, I just couldn’t internalize it.

Today, I try not to be one of those people who throws around terms like that.. but sometimes it really is JUST the right expression to use, the right feeling to have.

I once heard it explained to me this way :

Emunah is the belief that whatever happens comes from G-d. It’s being able to see the hidden hand of the “Craftsman” (אומן - oman) through His work.

Bitachon is the behavior that accompanies that belief, it implies acting in a way that demonstrates that you are 100% sure that whatever is going on is divinely guided. We accept that as long as we put in the effort do the right thing, then the outcome is in the hands of G-d.

The other day, I was talking to a friend and she started telling me how she is so stressed out about her children’s schools, the community, her husband , his job, their new house.. and all I could think was “Why is she freaking out?? Doesn’t she realize she cant control what school her kids will be accepted to, where her husband will work, how the community will treat them? Doesn’t she realize that she is only responsible for her efforts, the outcome is ultimately in G-d’s hands??” She then concluded by telling me that all she really wants is for things to go smoothly so she can do her avodat hashem in peace. At that point I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I asked her if she didn’t think that maybe her avodat hashem was to not freak out, to accept her challenges, to accept G-d’s decisions and to deal with them with love and be’simcha .... and that maybe she was missing the point?

The way I understand it, reading tehilim, praying, keeping the mitzvot are not an end in themselves, they're simply tools. The goal is to connect to Hashem, to get to know Him, to develop a relationship and to emulate Him. Keeping the mitsvot are tools we were given to help us connect. Reading tehilim helps me develop emunah and bitachon. Not being jealous helps me accept my lot. Keeping Shabbat reminds me that I am not the Creator, despite how much I feel like I spend my entire week creating. What’s the point of nitpicking on the details and the technicalities if I miss the whole point and panic whenever things don’t turn out the way I want them to!?

Having bitachon means that I behave in a way that shows that I accept what G-d decides for me, I welcome G-d's authority. I don’t freak out, I don’t panic, I don’t go crazy trying to control things.. I do my best, and I accept the outcome.

Now of course.. this is all

So here is my little bitachon story ..
A few weeks ago, when I was still job searching, I was called in to pass an exam for a potential employer. I was only alerted a few days before and the amount of material to study was massive. I procrastinated and panicked until I finally broke down and accepted that there was no way I’d have enough time to study and would inevitably fail the exam. I quickly skimmed over the material and figured it was pointless to bother studying since there was no way I'd learn it all.

Throughout the night I had this debate raging in my head that went something like this :

"It really is pointless to study - you know there is no way you can get through the material adequately enough to realistically pass this exam or ever get this job!"

"well sure, but passing an exam or getting a job isnt really in my hands, it's in G-d’s hands. As long as I do my part, I study, I show up at the exam, I write the exam, the results really are not under my control."

"oh puleeeeeez.. you actually beleive that?? what do you think is going to happen?! The answers wont just fall from the sky!! There’s no way you can pass this exam even if you study ALL night”

“So G-d can create the universe and sustain it, but He cant make me pass an exam if He wants to?!”

I finally just went to bed (me and all my voices) and figured I'd just deal with my upcoming failure in the morning.

In the morning the friend I drove to the exam with showed me a list of questions she had received from another friend who had taken the exam a few weeks earlier and we reviewed the questions to get an idea of what to expect. Of course I didn’t know any of the answers, but then again, I had assumed I wouldn’t, and didn’t bother too much with the reviewing.

Well, I’m sure that by now you must have figured out what happened. I went to take the exam and to my complete shock, as I turned over the sheet and read through the questions, I realized that this exam was IDENTICAL to the one my friend had shown me in the car. I had assumed I would fail and had barely paid attention to the answers, but now I realized I could have easily had a 100% on this exam if I hadnt been so convnced there was no way I could pass. If only I had had some emunah and acted with bitachon, I would have done my part, studied, and trusted that the rest would fall into place if it was meant to be. I answered those questions I recalled and hoped for the best with the rest. I have to say though that the amazing thing was the realization I had. It hit me as soon as I saw the exam - G-d had found a way to create the universe AND make me pass this exam. What a shock! I had lacked bitachon, pure and simple. I had assumed that there was something that G-d could NOT do and had acted accordingly. What an amazing lesson this was. I sat through the exam with a huge smile on my face, I didn’t care anymore if I passed or failed this exam, the lesson was worth so much more than any exam or job!

At this point in my life, I think I have finally internalized the meaning of these terms... the goal now is "just" to keep it at the forefront of my mind.


At Thursday, July 06, 2006 1:58:00 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

it's true... once you understand the terms, figure out how you take this on, then the challenge is as you said, to constantly keep it in the forefront of your mind.

great post

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 6:38:00 AM, Blogger chaverah said...

wow, nice story, i love when i hear these stories. It defiantly shows you that nothing is in our control. WHat ever happens is for a reason. I try to eternalyze this thought but sometimes its hard. Looking back however there is so many choices i tool b/c I had to and worked out for the best. so what happen with your job?

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 8:48:00 AM, Blogger kasamba said...

Great post!
It reminds me of the famous joke-

There's a flood, and a guy is offered a ride in a truck because the waters are a foot deep. He turns down the ride saying, "I'll be okay, G-d will help me".

The waters keep rising until they reach the mans neck, then a boat passes by and offers the man a lift in the boat, but the man turns it down saying,"I'll be okay, G-d will help me"

Then the waters rise so high that the guy has to climb up to his roof. A helicopter flies by and throws out a rope for the man to climb to safety. The man shoos the helicopter away saying, "I'll be okay, G-d will help me" and then the waters swallow him up and he dies.

When he gets up to Heaven he asks G-d, "I believed in you, why didn't you save me?"

G-d replies, "I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter!
What more did you want me to do?"

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 9:37:00 AM, Blogger Scraps said...

Easier said than done is right. But it's an important lesson, and one I would do well to internalize.

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 9:47:00 AM, Blogger A Frum Idealist said...

great post. it's really eye opening when you see the hashgacha pratis in the world. We have all had those experiences, the question is, do we open our eyes and see them, and recognize them for what they are and then learn from them? that's the trick.

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 11:48:00 AM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

What a valuable lesson...There are times that I feel it soo intensely..especially at work.
Bitachon goes hand in hand with Hishtadlus...

It reminds me of the famous serenity prayer..which goes something like this...

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 12:10:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

So true thanks for pointing it out, happens too often I throw terms out.

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Limey2001 said...

There was a famous argument between R' Yisroel Salanter and The Rashash of Vilna whether you can have bitochon that Hashem will give you whatever YOU want ie. a Gold Watch.
To Make a long story short someone walked in 2 minutes later and gave R' Salanter a Gold Watch........

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 8:00:00 PM, Blogger Also A Chussid said...

I don’t want to be the party pooper here, but I have to voice my opinion.

The most rational way of going about Emuneh and Betuchoin is the way it is described in Choves Halvoves. Now about your story, I highly doubt that god was trying to show you anything. On the contrary it’s best that you didn’t study for the particular answers, because had you done that and passed the exam it would’ve been cheating…

I hope I didn’t come across as being rude, and I truly hope that you will get an even better job than the one you were going to take the exam for. Then you will be able to see how GOD really wanted you to fail so you get that better job…

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 9:38:00 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Great lesson.

Sometimes we get the outcome we want and sometimes we don't. But it's always for the best.
Plus, if we trust that things will work out one way or another, then our life will be a lot less stressful.

I think the reason why it's so challenging to do this is because our worry brings us down and we just don't know how we'll get through it. The two voices was a great example of discouragement vs. encouragement.

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 9:50:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Now I am posting again for hakaras hatov for taking away the word verification. Thank you! You rock!:)

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 11:43:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

Understanding those words on a deeper level is the first step and I really feel like so many people just use them without ever really thinking about what they mean. Im proud that ive made a clear decision to be conscious about it... applying it is a whole other battle :)

Its amazing when you can look back and see how things turned out for the best. I still haven’t heard back from that job – or how I did on the exam, but I got another job – a great one, so who cares about that stupid test :)

yup, great if only we stop standing on the roof screaming like raving lunatics and realize how much guidance and help we’ve been given..

We all would.. but that’s the real challenge in life.. and with the challenge comes the rewards when we finally get it..

a frum idealist:
the key is not only to open our eyes and see them after they happened, but to anticipate them and behave in a way that shows that we expect them to happen!

If not serenity, then at least sobriety.. :)

socialworker/frustrated mom:
we all do, so important to use words we mean.. and if we’ve already used them – we better start meaning them!

nice.. but those people live with such trust in hashem taking care of them that I bet they weren’t even surprised!

I think that’s the great lesson that if we stop worrying about the outcome, then we can start living a much less stressful existence – and who doesn’t want that??

socialworker/frustrated mom:
thanks :)

At Friday, July 07, 2006 12:06:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

also a chussid:

you get your own comment cuz that’s how much I appreciate what you wrote :)

I don’t know how emunah and bitachon are explained in chovos halevavos, but id love to , if you feel like sharing.

regarding my story, my point was not that g-d was trying to make me pass or fail the test. The lesson was that He wanted me to know that *IF* he wanted to help me pass or fail he could, if he wanted me to have the job or not he could do that too.. maybe I sound arrogant saying this, but I think g-d wanted me to learn the lesson that there was no need to be hysterical panicking about my entire future just because I couldn’t envision how G-d could help me if I did my hishtadlus. When I got to the exam and I realized that I had the answers in my hands just a few minutes earlier, to me it seemed like a clear sign that I should realize that anything is possible, if that’s what g-d wills. this may seem obvious, and in theory it is, but when you’re faced with a challenge, its SO easy to think that only YOU are in control of your fate and your abilities or weaknesses will decide what happens to you.

Im glad I didn’t remember the answers tho, that way I didn’t cheat (which hadn’t even occurred to me) but in the end it makes no difference as I got another great job!

again, I want to say that I really appreciate your comment and it was not rude at all, I enjoy being challenged and questioned, it’s really the only way to develop thinking – and that’s the whole point of wanting comments and feedback!

At Friday, July 07, 2006 2:46:00 AM, Blogger the sabra said...

i like your answer and your attitude, anonwhatevericanneverremembertheendingofurblogname,

also a chussid-every single thing that you see and hear is G-d telling you something. you should never "..highly doubt that god was trying to show you anything"

awesome hashgacha pratis.

another thing-its important to realize that although yes, sometimes people offer empty words of comfort ("if you have emunah all will be ok"), many times the same words come from a kind heart and a knowledgable mind-they really do mean it!

wishin you luck with your new job...and in your avodas hashem :)

At Friday, July 07, 2006 11:47:00 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Incredible story,what a shame the Hashgach Pratis incident didn't leave you with a Job, but the lesson you learned is so much more valuble.
Great post

At Friday, July 07, 2006 2:46:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

the sabra:
youre right, i was thinking that while i was writing it, whos to say who means it and who dosnt, who has internalized it and who hasnt - the words come out to the same and we cant possibly know what someone really means.. i guess im just projecting because i feel like i was one of those poele who took a really long time to understand those concepts and i assume there are plenty of others who still dont, but still use them..

pragmatician :
the truth is im glad i didnt get the job - i got a better job! that whole test drama just came my way to teach me a lesson..the good job came its own time!

At Saturday, July 08, 2006 9:51:00 PM, Blogger pint-sized said...

What I understand from that story is this:
G-d creates everything, he looks after the needy, the helpless, the unloved.
Quite often, one starts to feel silly davening for aspects of our lives which seem pathetic in comparison to the world, but this story tells me that there is no aspect in life too small for G-d to be interested in, and that is so comforting. ( sorry, I know that wasn't the original moral)

At Sunday, July 09, 2006 2:30:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

pint-sized, i completely agree. thanks for that additional insight.

At Sunday, July 09, 2006 7:16:00 AM, Blogger the only way i know said...

Mookie -

the whole post was beautiful - in fact i gained so much by reading it - and that was BEFORE i came up to the story part!!
after that - i must say - i wanted to cry - it was so special -
THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for sharing your story and insight - a story like this can be life changing.


At Sunday, July 09, 2006 7:21:00 AM, Blogger the only way i know said...

just had another thought i'd like to share - somewhat related...

i once heard that when a person hears, reads, sees, something..
the experience -
however small
was meant specifically for them.

many times i overhear bits and pieces of a conversation...
or someone tells me something..
and i immediately think -
'this was for me to hear' and, Mookie, i cannot tell you how many times - those moments became real, meaningful and inspiring additons to my life.
nothing happens without reason...
if i heard something - i was meant to hear it..
it is my emunah - the belief
and the bitachon
my actions in accordance to the belief...

NOTHING is too petty for Hashem..
and if it isn't too petty for him
I try to remember - not to let it be petty for me...


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