24 May Bitachon? In the Closet!
Know what is higher than you, an Eye sees, an Ear listens, and all your actions are written in a Book -Pirkei Avos
There are six constant mitzvos, everyone knows that. The question is, what does that mean “constant”? Do we have to think about them ALL DAY LONG? Or do we divide them up by our twelve hour day thinking of one mitzva every two hours?
The gemara in Brachos tells a story about Hillel; Coming home one day, he smelled smoke. As he got closer to his town it became more and more apparent that there was a major conflagration going on. Hillel made a remark; he said “I am certain that my house is not burning”. The Gemara comments, this is what the passuk means “mishmua rah lo yira [he shall not fear evil tidings] nachon libo batuach baHashem [his mind is strong and certain with Hashem]”. One who has bitachon is never afraid.
But then the gemara says something interesting. “This passuk can be read both ways “He shall not fear evil tidings, because, his mind is strong and certain with Hashem” but then it can also be read: “His mind is strong and certain with Hashem, therefore, he shall not fear evil tidings”. What does that mean?
Most of us have a closet somewhere, with a big lock on it. Whenever we’re in trouble, we get the key, unlock the closet and gingerly take our bitachonout. “It’s bashert!” “Hashem will help!” But we don’t live with emunah, we don’t live with emunah. The gemara is saying, some people need a shmua rah to bring on their “batuach baHashem”, but Hillel was first “batuch baHashem” and then later when the shmua rah came, he was able to deal with it!
All of us have certain attitudes inspired by values we possess, we all want to be millionaires [billionaires, actually according to the class], we all want menuchas hanefesh, we all want “success”. When do we think about these things?
The answer is, never and always. We never dedicate time to thinking “I want to be a billionaire”, but we’re always thinking it, our actions prove that!
Hillel’s bitachon wasn’t an abstract idea or ideal, it was an attitude, it was part of his psyche. He didn’t have to fish around for the key to his closet in time of need, he had it all along! That’s what the six constant mitzvos are for, so that we build them into our thoughts and attitudes for the entire day!
And now we return to the mishna: A woman, we’ll call her Gitty, was once at a family-simcha-Shabbos held at an upper class hotel. But when I say upper class, I mean upper class. Everything was super elegant, everyone was super fancy, and Gitty wanted to fit in. So at Kiddush, despite the fact that an extremely luscious cake was screaming her name, she was embarrassed to go over and take. None of the fancy ladies were taking… everyone was at the salad bar, so Gitty was there too. Throughout the meal Gitty was itching to get back to the Kiddush hall and Her Cake. The entire Shabbos found Gitty dreaming about her cake. Finally Motzoei Shabbos she could hold back no longer, she silently crept downstairs to a deserted Kiddush Hall.
There it was! The cake was still there, waiting for her patiently. Gitty approached and prepared to take a piece. Slight problem, no knives, plates, forks. This wasn’t an issue; Gitty looked around, coast clear, stuck her hand into the cake box and scooped out a piece. Face burning with embarrassment [despite the empty hall] she quickly gulped it down and went back upstairs.
The next morning as Gitty and her husband were preparing to leave the hotel she suddenly noticed, her rings were missing! A massive search was undertaken starting at the netilas yadayim sink, progressing through all of the waiters [nobody see nothing…]. Of course by this time everyone was involved, the hotel manager, the mechutonim etc., everyone crowded into the manager’s office together looking at a tiny screen to see the security footage.
Everyone’s eyes were on the screen [including some of the fancy ladies from yesterday’s Kiddush]. They saw an abandoned empty hall; suddenly the door opened and Gitty entered. Everybody watched as first her eyes darted around furtively, and then she walked quickly up to the cake, stuck her hand in and scooped out a piece… “Oy l’oisah busha, oy l’oisah klimah“…
So what are we saying?
If Gitty would have internalized the principle of “I don’t fress no matter what”, if it would have been an unalterable part of her psyche, she would have been spared much embarrassment.
We have work to do; we need to break down the doors of our bitachon closet and swallow the entire bitachon [as if it were that infamous piece of cake]. We need to make bitachon an integral part of our attitude, and then we’ll be zoche to mishmuah rah lo yira! Amen.
-Adapted from a Pirkei Avos Shiur by Hagaon Harav Yitzchok Zalman Gips Shlita