Yankel, the town gvir, was doing quite well. His business was flourishing, money was pouring in from all sides and he was quite happy. Unfortunately, though, his observance of Torah and mitzvos was quite lacking. He came late to shul, left early, and rarely opened a sefer. One day, though, his fellow congregants were quite surprised to see him praying with much fervor. “He must be going through a difficult time,” they thought to themselves. But when they got close enough to hear his prayers, they were quite shocked. “Hashem,” said Yankel, “today I am about to make a huge business deal, and I can manage all by myself — all I ask of You is not to mess it up for me!”
What a pity! I think it is safe to assume that none of us would ever say or even think such a thing, but to a small extent we may have the same problem of self-trust. Let me explain.
Whom Can I Trust?
The Chovos Halevavos writes (Sha’ar Habitachon, chapter 2) that we only put our trust in someone after certain conditions are met, and all of them are found with Hashem. In a previous article, we discussed the first condition, that Hashem loves us dearly and only wants what’s best for us. The second is that as a result of that love He never stops thinking about us, is constantly taking care of us and is always watching us. The clearer that becomes, the more we will trust Him. How can we build up that awareness?
The pasuk in Mishlei says (3:5), “Bitach el Hashem b’chol libecha, v’el binascha al tishaen – Trust in Hashem with all your heart, and do not rely upon your own understanding.” Rabbeinu Yonah explains that complete faith in Hashem means not attributing any success to our own actions or ideas. We must believe with all our heart that without Hashem, we cannot accomplish anything.
And before you begin to wonder how to reach such a great level, Shlomo HaMelech continues: “B’chol dirachecha da’eihu, vehu yiyasher orchosecha – In all your ways know Him and He will smooth your paths.” Rabbeinu Yonah explains that there are many people who only turn to Hashem for help when they are about to do something really big, such as embarking on a sea voyage or traversing the desert. But when doing something small, they are sure they will be successful on their own. Thus, Shlomo HaMelech tells us: In all your ways you must turn to him – even before performing small actions. By doing so, you will straighten your ways and not rely on your intellect at all.
We see from here that one who only asks Hashem for help in areas where he realizes that he needs help demonstrates that the rest of the time he thinks he is taking care of himself, like Yankel the gvir. But if we make sure to always turn to Hashem, we will avoid this pitfall.
Daven for Everything!
The Chazon Ish once told Rav Elazar Tzadok Torchen (co-author of the sefer Shoneh Halachos): “Sometimes we see a bachur who was very strong in his observance of Torah and mitzvos before he got married, but after his chasuna he suddenly starts getting weaker. I believe the problem began before he got married. Obviously he had not worked enough on his emunah and, therefore, when he found himself out in the big world, he was not able to withstand the temptations that faced him.”
When Rav Torchen asked how one should work on one’s emunah, the Chazon Ish answered that a person should turn to Hashem and ask for each and every thing he needs. And he gave the following example: “Let’s say you need to buy new shoes. You go to the shoe store and tell the owner that you would like comfortable ones that do not cost too much and will last a long time. Instead of only requesting that of the store owner, first turn to Hashem and say the same exact thing: ‘Hashem, I need new shoes. Please help me find ones that are not too expensive, are comfortable, long-lasting etc.’ And then, if Hashem gives you what you requested, immediately thank Him for it, as that will reinforce the reality that all is from Him.”
We have now learned an important way to make ourselves aware that Hashem is involved in every part of our lives: Daven in your own words (English is fine) and in great detail (as above) before everything you do. As a first step, let us take one action each day and ask Hashem to help us succeed with it. For example, Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l would say that many people have been hit by cars as they innocently cross the street. So, before you step off the curb, say a short prayer asking Hashem to protect you as you cross. (But don’t let anyone hear you, lest they make fun!)
A Great Ending
Besides for saying short prayers throughout the day, a person should, as I heard from Rav Elchonon Meir Fishman, mashgiach of Toras Moshe, add his or her own requests at the end of the weekday Shemoneh Esrei, right before we say “yihyu l’ratzon” (after which one takes three steps back). At that point, open your heart and ask Hashem for all your needs in whichever language you feel the most comfortable. If you are not married yet, or if your children are not married yet – even if they are still young – don’t wait! Now is the time to ask Hashem to find you or your children a good shidduch without any of the heartache and delays that many people unfortunately go through. Daven that each one of your children should always be healthy and have yiras Shamayim. The boys should be talmidei chachomim and the girls should be tzniyus, and so on and so forth.
Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l would say that we have treasure houses of presents waiting for us in Heaven – but they won’t come down until we open our mouths and ask! Ask Hashem for your heart’s desire – ask for anything – even the smallest, simplest things, and don’t be embarrassed. Nothing is small in Hashem’s Eyes! On the contrary, when we ask for small things, we make it clear that we are totally and completely dependent on Him. And then, even when we are going about our jobs and daily lives, it will be clear that we are not able to do anything without Hashem’s help.
However, Rav Fishman would add that since there is a rule that if we repeatedly ask Hashem for something He will sometimes give it to us even if it is not really in our best interests, we should conclude “v’hatzlicheini b’hatzlocha amitis – and give me true success.” Meaning, I only want this if it is truly good for me.
We are now in the month of Cheshvan, a perfect time to work on this concept. This is because the full name of the month is “Marcheshvan” and there are those who explain these words to mean “the lips are moving.” (See Ta’anis 22b “sifvassei d’ka mirachashon.”) That is, in this month our lips continue moving in prayer after all the tefillos of the month of Tishrei. If we keep our lips moving in prayer this month through all our personal tefillos to Hashem, hopefully they will continue moving all year long!
Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus