Thursday, April 6, 2017


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tzav – Shabbos Hagadol
11 Nissan 5777/ April 7, 2017

On one occasion, I was speaking to my Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Schabes, about the challenge of constantly strengthening our emunah and bitachon. When I mentioned a certain popular book about emunah. Rabbi Schabes suggested that instead we learn the Sefer “Mitzvas Habitachon” from Rav Shmuel Hominer zt’l.
There are two components necessary in building one’s faith in Hashem. The first is to believe that Hashem is omnipotent, that there is nothing beyond His purview and capabilities. He created the world, and can manipulate it at will, for the sake of anyone of anything, and it does not require any exertion for Him to do so.
The second level entails believing that although G-d can do anything and everything, He won’t always do so. Undoubtedly G-d can effortlessly and instantly bail any person out of financial hardship, cure the harshest disease, and solve the deepest emotional scars. However, G-d often does not do so, and we MUST believe that His not doing so is for the best, although it may not seem that way to us[1].
In fact, sometimes when one strengthens himself in ingraining within himself complete faith that G-d is “kol yachol” (omnipotent), he has a harder time accepting that G-d doesn’t always fulfils his prayers in the manner he desires. After all, if G-d can, why doesn’t He? It takes a far deeper level of bitachon to accept that there is a reason for everything, beyond what our finite minds can comprehend.
My rebbe’s point was that although popular books about emunah contain many beautiful lessons and stories, they don’t teach about true bitachon, because every story has a beautiful, often incredible, ending. All those heartwarming stories strengthen us in regard to the first component of faith, but they do little in regard to the second, deeper component of faith. It is extremely challenging to see good people suffer, and to hear heartbreaking stories of lives torn apart, especially when it happens to people who daven with incredible devotion.
Rav Shmuel Hominer’s small, yet incredibly profound, sefer on bitachon drives home the message that there is more to life than what we see. It’s all for the best, and it is within our ability to live life with that feeling of security, even when the events of life leave us feeling deeply pained.
In a certain sense, it’s easier to believe in G-d when terrible tragedy strikes c’v, than it is to believe in G-d when dealing with minor commonplace frustrations of life. When terrible tragedies occur, we are so baffled that we have no recourse but to believe that it must be the work of a G-d whose ways are imperceptible to us. But when we deal with life’s minor frustrations, or when we feel that someone less deserving has been blessed with more than us, it becomes harder to believe that it’s not a celestial oversight. At that point, we may like dancing with Tevyeh in the field, looking heavenward and asking, “Would it have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?!” 
After we eat matzah and marror at the Seder, we eat Korech. It is a commemoration of the opinion of the great Hillel, who would wrap the meat of Korbon Pesach with matzah and marror.
I tell my students each year that especially if Hillel used both types of marror – lettuce and real horseradish - it was quite a delectable sandwich, of matzah, lettuce, freshly roasted meat, and some freshly ground horseradish to give it a kick.
On a symbolic level, korech symbolizes the faith of a Jew. We combine the korbon pesach, the ultimate symbol of G-d’s love and miraculous intervention on our behalf, with the matzah, which symbolizes both servitude (‘poor man’s bread’) and redemption, and the marror which symbolizes the time of greatest divine concealment, when we felt despondent and forlorn.  
For one who has real bitachon such as Hillel, all of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly, becomes wrapped together in one delicious meal. Even while consuming the painful marror such a person is able to feel a sense of security with the knowledge that all is in the Hands of Hashem, who loves him, and only seeks his best.
Pesach is the night of emunah – not just for the glorious and good, but even for the more bitter aspects of life. It is a night of divine protection, that traverses all personal pain and sorrow. Every aspect of our lives is ‘wrapped up’ in the Hands of the Divine.
May we all be able to appreciate its sublimity.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
       R’ Dani and Chani Staum           

[1] The morning after writing this essay, as I was saying Vayevorech Dovid (toward the end of Pesukei Dezimrah), it struck me that perhaps both of these levels of emunah are conveyed in this beautiful paragraph:
The first half of the tefillah (a quote from Divrei Hayamim I, chapter 29) describes G-d’s limitless abilities, how He possesses infinite abilities, and can strengthen anyone; there is nothing G-d cannot do. Then we state that for having the ability to feel connected to that Supreme Being, we are thankful.
The second half of the prayer (a quote from Nechemiah, chapter 9) states that G-d is the one and only, who controls the celestial world, the earth, seas, and everything in between. Perhaps that part of the prayer is alluding to the fact that the manner in which G-d runs the world is beyond our comprehension. Despite the fact that G-d can strengthen anyone and provide limitlessly, He does not always do so. Because we are not privy to all the secrets revealed in the upper worlds, of which G-d alone is the lifeforce and sustainer, we cannot understand why G-d acts as He does.
It makes sense that the prayer then continues by describing the uncanny spiritual rise of Avrohom, because “You found his heart to be faithful before You”. Avrohom endured ten grueling tests, during each of which he did not understand why those events were happening. Yet he did not lose his faith or perspective that all G-d does is for the best. That was the reason G-d elevated him from the individual Avrom to Avrohom, “father of the masses of nations”.