Emunah and Hishtadlus

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By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

In his sefer, Even YisroelReb Yisroel Salanter writes that the Ramban and Chovos Halevavos argue regarding bitachon and hishtadlus. He summarizes that there are two types of bitachon. One type may be categorized as the bitachon of the Ramban and the other may be categorized as the bitachon of the Chovos Halevavos. According to the Chovos Halevavos one must have bitachon only in conjunction with proper hishtadlus; one may not rely on a miracle. Despite the fact that we know Hashem is capable of helping someone in many different ways, including via miracles; one must do whatever he can and not rely on bitachon alone. The Ramban, on the other hand, holds that one must throw everything onto Hashem and believe that only Hashem can help him; no hishtadlus is needed. The fact that the Torah says, Verapo Yerapo (doctors can heal) grants permission to doctors to practice their craft, but an oved Hashen blev shalem won’t go to doctors. The same concept may be applied to parnassa. This is the way Reb Yisroel Salanter explains the argument between the Ramban and Chovos Halevavos.

We find that there are many places in the Ramban on the Torah where it sounds as if he isn’t arguing with the Chovos Halevavos, but rather is agreeing with his position. The Torah teaches us that when Yaakov was getting ready to meet Esav, he prepared for this meeting and did not rely on his tzidkusYaakov was mishtadel with all his capabilities. The Ramban teaches us concerning this topic that we should learn from Yaakov how to deal with our enemies. Additionally, the Ramban explains regarding the story of the meraglim that there was no problem with the Bnei Yisroel asking for spies since it is the norm to prepare for war by scouting the land you wish to conquer. 

Reb Yisroel Salanters source is the Ramban in Parshas Bechukosai regarding refuah and he compares parnassa to refuah. The Rambans logic on refuah is that despite the fact that sickness is a natural phenomenon, since it comes as a result of people sinning, in effect if one would do teshuva, the sickness would leave his body.

We may conclude that the Chovos Halevavos and the Ramban are not arguing concerning emunah and hishtadlus. The Ramban is dealing with a special sort of person like Rabban Shimon and his son who never needed to work for parnassa since their Torah was their sustenance. The regular Jew, on the other hand, must do hishtadlus. Nevertheless, the hishtadlus must be laced with bitachon. We see that a person must budget his money as Chazal say that all the money of a person is budgeted from one Rosh Hashana to the next. Similarly, a person must do everything in his power to stay healthy by eating properly and not doing things that can damage his health.

One still must have that joined by bitachon, which includes four things: Firstly, one must daven and do maasim tovim to help his hishtadlus. Secondly, one may not do any hishtadlus that has even an inkling of an aveirah. Thirdly, one needs bitachon so that one should not worry. A person who worries too much won’t be able to do his avodas Hashem properly. A person who does his hishtadlus can then have bitachon and not worry about the things of which he is not in control. The last part is that the bitachon is there so a person does not overdo it with hishtadlus. Too much hishtadlus shows a lack of faith and also stops a person from having time to do avodas Hashem.

It is essential to have that healthy balance. A great dose of emunah with hishtadlus will give a person a balanced mindset. May Hashem help us all reach clarity and have menuchas hanefesh in our avodah.

Do you have a topic or discussion you want to read about? Please send comments or questions to hymanbsdhevens@gmail.com or berachsteinfeldscorner@gmail.com

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