One of the most difficult things about the ephemeral is that it tends to be unquantifiable. Case in point, (pointed out by the Chazon Ish, zt”l, in his book Emunah v’Bitachon) how much emunah do we really have in HaShem?
Go up to a business man who owns, for example, a print-shop, and ask him if he trusts in HaShem. “Of course!” he’ll say to you “How else does one get by day by day?” he’ll say. However, it’s really not possible to actually know what that means or if it is true until it is tested.
Many years ago, I was working for a place and had a pretty decent income (relative to what I was making in Kollel, of course) and, b”H, my paycheck would come like clockwork every month. One day, I was in the middle of writing something for my then-boss, (one of the many topics I was working on connected to emunah and bitachon) when a thought occurred to me “Do I really have emunah,” I asked myself “or is it really that “in my paycheck I trust”?” Well, only a few months later, when there was a tremendous economic slump, the place was forced to cut back on expenses and I found myself without a job. It was then that I realized my shortcoming, my bitachon was truly lacking. B”H, since then I have been working on bitachon and I feel that I have improved (but please, don’t test me HaShem!) however, the realization of the reality was embarrassing.
I was told a story by a good friend of mine, who grew up in Bnei Brak and actually knew the man in the story, that goes as follows. As above, the man owned a print-shop in Bnei Brak, and he, like all of us, claimed emunah v’bitachon in HKB”H until one day someone opened a print shop across the street from him. At first, he was furious. “How could this man so brazenly steal his livelihood?” he thought to himself. But then he remembered the words of our sages, ob”m, in two places in the Talmud. In Tractate Beitzah 16a chazal state that “all that a person is to earn this year is decided on Rosh HaShanna, with the exception of expenses he makes in honor of Shabbos (which also includes Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh) and the amount that one spends for the sake of Talmud Torah for his children (hint, hint…)”. The second place is in Tractate Yuma 38b which states that “a person cannot affect that which has been prepared for his friend by even one hairsbreadth”. He put the two statements together and realized that he has nothing to fear from his competition, as HaShem already decided how much he would make this year and his competitor will not affect that in any way. He then went across the street and introduced himself. After the initial conversation, he then gave his competitor some business advice, where to buy the best (and cheapest! He was Jewish, after all!) paper products, what kinks in the machinery he should be wary of and more. When he was about to leave, his competitor turned to him in exasperation and asked the obvious question “Why are you helping me as your competitor?” and this Jew answered “Look, you can’t change the amount of money I’m supposed to make this year. So, if you take away some of my business, that means that I won’t have to work so hard to make the money that HaShem is going to give me!”
That’s real emunah and bitachon.
But to have that, it has to be clear that HaShem IS, that the Torah, His word, is absolute truth. This, we also say with varying levels of emotion, however the real question is – do we really believe it? Do we live with this as a reality in our day to day lives, or is HaShem just there for when we are down in the dumps and need a metaphysical “shoulder” to cry on?
Adaberah b’edosecha negged malachim v’lo evosh (I shall speak of Your witnessing in front of kings, and I shall not be embarrassed about it) says Dovid hamelech (King David) (Psalms 119), but many of us feel inadequate when speaking of the Torah and it’s laws in front of others, sometimes even our own family, but why would should we feel so about the truth?
Mah ahavti torasecha, kol hayom hee sichasi (Oh, how I love Your Torah (HaShem), the entire day it is what I speak about) he also says there (ibid). Do we also do that?
Havei ohz ka’namer (be hauty as a tiger) says the Mishna in Avos, which our sages, ob”m, explain (see Tur Orach Chaim 1) to mean that we will perform His mitzvos even if there are those present who taunt us, or deride us for doing so. Does my recognition of HaShem’s greatness and the necessity of His Torah drive me to perform (or abstain) His mitzvos even at this expense?
Ask yourself, do I live as I speak? Do I mean what I say and say what I mean? Or am I, in the words of our sages echad b’peh v’echad b’lev (I say one thing with my mouth and another with my heart)?
As we rapidly approach the Days of Awe, the Ten Days of Repentance, during which time we proclaim that HaShem is THE King, let’s work on our understanding of what that truly means, and with some thought and effort make that into more than just a proclamation, but a realization and the reality by which we live.