Dealing With Adversity-Parashas Beshalach -Building Bitachon

In our last column, we discussed the benefits of humility. Harav Henoch Leibowitz, zt”l, once noted that all problems can be traced to a lack of humility or of bitachon, and, he said, a lack of humility is essentially a lack of bitachon. By determining how a person’s problem derives from these shortcomings, one can resolve the issues of which they are an outgrowth. This week we examine the topic of emunah and bitachon.

In Parashas Beshalach, when the Egyptians were pursuing Bnei Yisrael, Hashem told Moshe, “Why do you cry out to me? Speak to Bnei Yisrael and let them travel.” He then instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to stretch his arm over the Yam Suf and split it, after which  the Yidden proceeded through it and escaped the Mitzriyim.

The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh cites the Zohar, saying that the people were standing trial at the Yam Suf, for the middas hadin argued to Hashem that the Yidden had served avodah zarah just as the Egyptians had and therefore were not any more worthy of salvation. The middas harachamim needed to be bolstered — tefillah was not sufficient — and a special zechus was needed to warrant their salvation. They needed to strengthen their emunah full-heartedly, trusting that Hashem would create a miracle for them. This positive action of emunah and bitachon, says the Ohr Hachaim, would tip the scales in Bnei Yisrael’s favor and enable their salvation. Indeed, the righteous Nachshon ben Aminadav mustered his emunah, and entered the sea; once the water reached his throat and he was in mortal danger, the miracle of Krias Yam Suf took place.

In this parashah, we see with utmost clarity the crucial role of emunah and bitachon in confronting adversity. Emunah means we believe implicitly that the Ribbono shel Olam orchestrates all the aspects of our lives. Bitachon implies applying emunah in our daily lives, which will affect how we handle life’s vicissitudes.

The Shaar Habitachon in Sefer Chovos Halevavos has served as a classic guide on acquiring emunah and bitachon for many generations and has become particularly popular in our times as people turn to Hashem for succor in confronting their challenges. One who wishes to grow in these areas is advised to undertake its study and review regularly. For now, we’ll mention a few pivotal points that illustrate the implications of the Ohr Hachaim’s words.

In the pesichah, the mechaber, Rabbeinu Bachyei, states that trust in Hashem in all one’s matters is the most essential quality for a servant of Hashem to possess. This is so because it will furnish great benefits both in matters of Torah (i.e. ruchniyus) and in worldly matters. He then proceeds to enumerate five benefits in both categories.

The spiritual benefits include menuchas hanefesh and reliance on Hashem, not feeling a need to strive to gain people’s favor and conversely, leads to other people fearing the one who has bitachon and seeking his favor; the ability to not count on other people to help him; and the attitude that wealth that comes one’s way is not a means that unmistakably secures one’s future but a deposit from a Hashem to utilize in a particular way according to Torah guidelines.

Among the worldly benefits are tranquility of the mind from mundane worries; calmness of mind that frees him from the desire to travel, which wears out the body; less distress from business setbacks, inability to collect a debt or illness, since he knows Hashem orders his affairs better than he can; and simchah in any circumstance in which Hashem places him.

A key caveat mentioned by the mechaber is that if one does not place his trust in Hashem, he invariably will place it in someone else or something else. As a result, Hashem removes His Hashgachah from upon him and places him in the hands of the one in whom he placed his trust.

Harav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l, the Mashgiach of Mir and Ponevez yeshivos, was a pillar of emunah of the last generation. Especially during the war, when talmidim would approach him with questions of emunah, he would show them his hand and tell them that with such clarity, he saw Hashem’s Presence continuously. It was said about Rav Yechezkel that he was “the last Yid to leave Mitzrayim,” to underscore his palpable perception of the nissim of Yetzias Mitzrayim and hashgachah pratis, a level few people in our times have attained. He would say the words “Yetzias Mitzrayim” to gain control if he felt his emotions being swayed by someone’s words or life occurrences.

The Mashgiach faced many challenges throughout his life such as war, poverty and loss of family. These did not affect his avodas Hashem, said Harav Don Segal, shlita, who learned under him in Ponevez. “Rav Yechezkel was above any matzavim,” he said. 

Such sublime levels are perhaps unattainable for most of us, but the rewards are many for those who can acquire bitachon to whatever extent possible.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on diverse topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!