Rabbi Chaim Levi Goldstein, Beis Moshiach
I would like to begin by quoting a pasuk in Tehillim: “Trust (Betach) in Hashem and do good; dwell in the land and be nourished by faith (emuna)”. While not everyone who has emuna necessarily has bitachon, if you have bitachon, you surely have emuna.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EMUNA AND BITACHON
What’s the difference between the two? Emuna is the belief that Hashem, Who is unlimited, can do it; He could help us. Bitachon, derived from the word “betach” (certain), means that we know for sure that Hashem is going to help us, be with us, and make certain that everything is good. Not just good in Hashem’s eyes, but also “in the sight of Hashem and man”, i.e., that we should be able to see that it is good, even if circumstances make it a big test to have such trust.
In Parshas Shelach, the spies claimed, “For they are stronger than us [Him].” The Rebbe asks in one of his sichos, “Did they really think that the Aibishter doesn’t have control?” In simple terms, they thought that all natural forces should run their course, and since Hashem gave them this strength, He will not mix in. He is stepping back and allowing things to happen this way. He made the rule, and therefore, He doesn’t want to change it. That was their mistake, because they didn’t realize that Jews are higher than nature, and whether there’s one king in Canaan or thirty-one, it’s all the same to Hashem. Thus, Jews have bitachon in Hashem, especially as it says later in the parsha, “If Hashem desires us (chafetz)”, with p’nimiyus ha’ratzon (the Inner Will) – He loves us so much that he will surely do the very best possible for us in a totally revealed sense.
This is also the meaning of what we say is Shemone Esrei, “Speedily cause the scion of David Your servant to flourish, and increase his power by Your salvation, for we hope for Your salvation all day”, i.e., the Aibishter should bring Moshiach because we have hope in Him and His salvation.
What’s the connection? If I hope that someone has a million dollars, does that mean he has to give it to me? The Rebbe brings in the sicha the Chida’s explanation that it’s a reward because we have the bitachon and hope in Hashem, looking forward to His salvation, and therefore, He should bring us the Redemption.
This is the whole idea of what bitachon is. It’s not just that we hope, bitachon means that we’re sure. We know for certain that Hashem controls everything, and if for one second, a person thinks that something in this world is out of control, such as what r”l we’ve been struggling with these past few months, and we believe that there’s some other power beside the Aibishter, that’s called heresy and avoda zara. However, the truth is that “there’s nothing else besides Him”, and everything that Hashem does was perfectly planned already from the Six Days of Creation. Therefore, what happens in 5780 is according to that plan, and we have strong bitachon in Hashem that He will bring about the ultimate revelation of all that is good. As the Rebbe writes in HaYom Yom about bitachon in matters of parnassa, there is the perception that a person’s livelihood is already on the table.
THE CAPTAIN SEES THAT WE’RE REACHING THE DESTINATION
Here, I would like to bring two more things. The first is a story that I heard from my father, and secondly, a personal account of how I’m here today and miraculously got through the whole situation with my health after contracting the corona virus:
My father told me the following story:
One Shabbos afternoon during the early years [during the Frierdiker Rebbe’s nesius], the Rebbe was making a farbrengen upstairs in the small shul, when a sailor walked in. The Rebbe saw the sailor, called him over, and gave him a “l’chaim.” Then, the Rebbe said a whole sicha about a sailor navigating across the ocean. When a ship travels on the seas, it needs a captain on deck. The captain looks and navigates the ship in the right direction. The people on board the ship are the passengers. How does the ship move? There are workers in the belly of the ship, and their job is to throw black coals into the oven, which makes steam to help turn the engine and keep the ship moving. That’s how a ship operated in those days.
The people down below in the ship have blackened faces and blackened clothes from all the dirt and smoke. However, as they continue putting in the coals, they are making the ship go in the right direction towards reaching their destination. Who directs the ship? The captain. One day, the captain came down to take a look, and he saw the workers were moving lazily and slow.
“What’s this?” the captain asked. The workers answered, “We’ve been working for a few weeks already and we’re getting nowhere. We’re not coming to our destination, and therefore, we’re slowing down.”
“Don’t slow down now,” the captain replied. “We’re so close to the destination, if you put in more coals and a little more effort, we’ll get there sooner.”
The Rebbe said that the same thing applies regarding the Jewish People during the time of the exile. We’re pushing in those coals, we’re working and getting our faces dirty, enduring the suffering of the galus, and all this ch”v is influencing us to slow down in our avoda. Yet, there’s a captain on deck. The people working down below can’t see how close we are to the destination. They just see another day of coals, another layer of soot on their faces and their hands. However, the captain says, “The time of your Redemption has arrived! Just a little more and we’ll get there.”
We shouldn’t, G-d forbid, be discouraged that the ship hasn’t reached land yet. It’s so close to its destination that the captain on deck, who sees where the destination is, encourages us. That’s why the Rebbe said to us, “Do everything you can, I’ve already done my part.” And he’s telling us that this is the final time and the final destination…
“LEVI, GET UP!”
I would like to add something about myself: Shortly after Purim, I was brought to the hospital, where I stayed for about two months, missing both Pesach Rishon and Pesach Sheni. When I regained consciousness, I asked when Pesach was, and they told me that it was long gone. That means that I had no matza, no four cups of wine – nothing. Well, that was Hashem’s Will; this was what He wanted. In 5780, Chaim Levi Goldstein will be in a hospital, but for a good reason. What was the reason? Only Hashem knows, and we have emuna and trust in Him that everything is for the good.
Once I woke up, I was very weak. I couldn’t move a single limb. I slowly started to get my strength back, afterwards I had physical therapy, but it wasn’t easy. As I tried to sit up, I became dizzy and could see the whole world spinning. Then, when that finally settled down, they asked me to hold on to a walker and try to stand up. They practiced with me as I made an effort to do things I hadn’t done for two months. Forget about walking; that was absolutely impossible because I hadn’t used my legs for all this time. However, when they told me, “Stand up,” I found it very difficult. I was sitting in this chair, and they said, “Count to three and stand up.” I couldn’t.
Then, an idea came to my mind. I pictured the Rebbe standing in front of me and saying, “Levi, get up!” And believe it or not, I stood up! Then, when they told me, “Take this walker and start walking,” my feet were collapsing. I had no strength to stand. It was like taking a week-old baby and putting her on the floor to walk. Suddenly, I imagined myself walking to 770 to see the Rebbe, and I got a new boost of strength and I started to walk. The therapists were amazed that I was walking so well, and that’s how I started my recovery, knowing that the Rebbe is in front of me. The truth is that it’s not just imagination: the Rebbe is taking everyone by the hand and leading them through these last days of the exile.
ENDURING THE SUFFERING WITH A MENTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
What does this have to do with bitachon? About a year ago, I got this feeling that I have to start learning “Sha’ar HaBitachon” from “Chovos HaLevavos”, and I began to research the Rebbe’s letters. There are countless correspondences where he writes about learning “Sha’ar HaBitachon” – not just once, but two or three times over the course of several weeks until it really gets absorbed. I started learning it, and this led me to want to share it with others. As a result, during the classes that I would teach in yeshiva and in 770, all the things that I learned in “Sha’ar HaBitachon” naturally came out. The whole year was based on trust in Hashem, “tracht gut, vet zein gut”, and as the Rebbe brings in the famous sicha from Parshas Shemos, Vol. 36, that even if a person thinks that he doesn’t deserve it, Hashem will do it anyway. Why? Because he has bitachon.
It’s similar to a case of cause and effect. If you have faith in Hashem, in the merit of your efforts and struggle to ignore the situation and the circumstances and put all your hope in Him, Hashem will make everything work out for the best just for that reason alone.
I remember how the strength and fortitude of R’ Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin in prison was such an inspiration to me. Yet, I had no idea what I would be aiming for. Later, when I ended up in the hospital, I had such a positive attitude. After I woke up, the nurses were all amazed that I was always smiling. I eventually came across a sicha of the Rebbe from Shavuos 5727 discussing the Rebbe Rayatz’s arrest in 5687 and the merciless torture he endured. How did he manage to survive? The Rebbe Rayatz delivered a maamar on the Rosh Hashana before his arrest in which he mentioned about Divine Providence according to the Baal Shem Tov’s shita and how Hashem constantly watches over us, looking at every detail, even the movement of a blade of grass. He later said that he didn’t know why he had added this point in the maamar, which primarily discussed an entirely different subject and in fact doesn’t even appear in the written version of the maamar. Afterwards, when he was imprisoned in Spalerno, the Rebbe Rayatz said that if he had not mentioned the concept of Divine Providence in the Rosh Hashana maamar, he didn’t know if he would have been able to endure the suffering.
This gave me an idea why the Aibishter placed in my mind an interest in learning “Sha’ar HaBitachon” and the Rebbe’s sichos on the subject a year before all this happened. It prepared me that when I would face a situation where I’ll need a big dosage of trust in Hashem, I should be able to get through it successfully. We thank the Rebbe for the special strength he gives to his Chassidim to make it through these last days of galus, as he loves, cares, and davens for every Jew.
THE NASI HA’DOR DEFENDS EVERY JEW
There’s a sicha from Parshas Shelach 5732 (the second sicha in Vol. 13 of Likkutei Sichos), where the Rebbe asks the following question: Moshe Rabbeinu davened for the entire Jewish People after the report of the spies, yet while he was able to prevent the wiping out of Klal Yisrael, stretching out their punishment over a period of forty years, why was his tefilla unable to save the spies from immediate Divine retribution? The Rebbe explained that the spies’ claim was different from those made by the rest of the Jewish People. While the Yidden were complaining to Hashem, rebelling against Him r”l, the spies were rebelling against Moshe Rabbeinu, the leader of the generation. As a result, Moshe couldn’t defend them – “the prosecutor can’t be the defender” – and therefore, his tefilla could not help the spies.
Two years later, when this sicha was brought to the Rebbe for him to edit, the Rebbe crossed out the part where the Rebbe said that the leader of the generation can daven for everyone except for those who fight against him. Believing that this contradicted the whole concept of Chassidishkeit, the Rebbe instructed that this portion of the sicha should be omitted and not be put into print. While the Rebbe surely did say those words two years earlier, nevertheless, the Rebbe “retracted” this, if we can use such a term. This shows the Rebbe’s Ahavas Yisrael, that he will even stick up for those who attack him!
There’s a shul in Crown Heights who’s rav, during the time of the Rebbe Rayatz, was a big opponent of Lubavitch, to the extent that often when he gave his drasha on Shabbos, he spoke most critically of the Rebbe and in very sharp terms.
One Shabbos, he came up to the bima and said, “I must ask forgiveness publicly for speaking against the Rebbe.” It turned that this rav’s brother had been suffering for a long time from a certain ailment. The rav wanted to help him, eventually giving him considerable amounts of money to find a cure. While the brother was cured of his ailment, the rav became penniless. He put an ad in the “Morgen Journal” taking up one line because he couldn’t afford anything more: “A Jew needs money. Here is my address and phone number. Please help.”
“What happened?” the rav said. “I didn’t get even one phone call. Not a penny from anyone. Do you know who sent me money? The Rebbe!” That’s true Ahavas Yisrael. This is what the Tanya teaches us, to act like Yosef towards his brothers, paying back with good even if sometimes ch”v there is a reason for the opposite of Ahavas Yisrael and Achdus Yisrael. We should just go forward and bestow goodness; this will bring back our fellow Jews and create true unity.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone very much for the prayers they said for me. They surely helped. May Hashem help all those who pray for the welfare of their fellow Jews, and may He provide only good health, blessings, success, everything you and your families need – and most importantly, the True and Complete Redemption, immediately, mamash, now!
Transcribed and lightly edited by Michoel Leib Dobry from Rabbi Goldstein’s talk on a special “Emunah, Bitachon, Geulah” edition of “The Moshiach Hour,” broadcast live on 25 Sivan this year
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