Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Previously, we explored the fundamental belief that Hashem controls everything that happens to a person and some ramifications of that. The fact that Hashem determines events in the world and our lives should make Him our address in times of need.



Who We Turn To

This is one of the reasons why tefillah is so important – it expresses our recognition of Hashem’s role in determining our fate. Rabbeinu Yonah saw this as the significance of juxtaposing Shemoneh Esreh to the beracha of geulah (redemption). People who recognize Hashem as their redeemer petition Him for their needs. Reciting Shemoneh Esreh immediately after declaring Hashem to be our savior makes this declaration ring true.

Hashem is not just a redeemer; He is the only redeemer. In Nishmat, we elaborate on this point: “Mi’baladecha ein lanu melech, go’eil, u’moshi’a, podeh, u’matzil, u’mefarneis, u’meracheim b’chol et tzarah v’tzuka, ein lanu melech ozeir v’someich ela atah – Besides You, we have no other king, liberator, savior, redeemer, rescuer, provider, and compassionate one at all times of difficulty and distress.”

Most people naturally assume that other people or forces determine world events. This is why Sefer Tehillim needs to remind us not to “place our trust in princes or in mortal man who cannot save. His breath expires, and he returns to his earth; on that day, his plans end. Happy is the one whose help is the G-d of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his G-d (Tehillim 146:3-4).” Only Hashem determines world events. He is, therefore, the one we should rely upon.

Chazal (Bereishit Rabbah 89:3) explain that this point was not clear (enough) to Yosef HaTzaddik, who relied upon the Sar HaMashkim (butler) to extricate him from prison (Bereishit 40:14). As punishment and to change his perspective, Hashem added two more years to Yosef’s sentence. Yosef left prison only once Hashem’s leading role was clear (through the dreams he caused Pharaoh to have). The Sar HaMashkim ultimately played a role, but only as part of Hashem’s initiative.

The Ramban (Devarim 18:9) explains the Torah mandate to be “tamim with Hashem” (Devarim 18:13) similarly. The Torah prohibits turning to sorcerers and fortune tellers; we should only be turning to Hashem (or his prophets). Though others may be able to predict the future accurately, only Hashem determines it, and (thus) is the (only) one we should be turning to.


Living With Uncertainty

Rashi (Devarim 18:13) explains the mandate differently. Turning to sorcerers is prohibited not because we ought to find out about the future another way. They are forbidden because we should not need to know the future at all. We do not need to have all the answers. Instead, we should rely upon Hashem’s directorship. Doing so expresses our trust in Hashem and reinforces our relationship with Him.

People find this kind of uncertainty frustrating. The first humans faced this issue on their first day of existence when the snake encouraged Chavah to eat from the Eitz HaDa’at to attain a godly level of knowledge and understanding (Bereishit 3:5). After Chavah and Adam found the proposal too tempting to resist, Hashem banished them from Gan Eden (Bereishit 3:22-24). We should realize that we are not G-d and learn to live without complete knowledge.


A Basis For Confidence

Despite this uncertainty, our knowledge of Hashem’s directorship and our relationship with Him should make us confident about the future. Though we occasionally face difficult situations, we should be optimistic about our future.

Sadly, we are familiar with many who lacked this confidence – even after Hashem promised to assist and protect them.

The dor hamidbar (the generation Hashem sustained in the desert) is a famous example. Though Hashem promised to conquer Eretz Yisrael on their behalf, they lost faith after hearing the Meraglim’s intimidating report and cried bitterly out of desperation (Bamidbar 14:1). Their baseless cries and sense of despair sealed their fate to die in the desert (Ibid 21-35); the date of these cries – Tisha B’Av – became a day of perennial suffering (Ta’anit 29a).

Chazal were also critical of Yaakov Avinu for fearing to meet Eisav (and trying to flee from him) upon his return to Eretz Yisrael (Radak, Bereishit 32:26). Hashem had twice promised to protect Yaakov. What reason did he have to fear? The Rishonim explain that this is why the angel dislocated Yaakov’s hip. He was wrong for trying to flee; the angel ensured he could not.

Though we, as opposed to Yaakov and the dor hamidbar, do not have a (specific) divine promise of protection, the Torah commands us to be confident when we face challenges like war (Devarim 7:18). Though we are not guaranteed victory, our relationship with Hashem should make us optimistic and strengthen us.

Sefer Tehillim applies this idea to individuals. Dovid HaMelech famously exclaimed, “Even when I walk in the valley of death, I will fear no evil because You are with me (Tehillim 23:4).”

Mizmor 112 describes similar confidence: “Of evil tidings he will have no fear; his heart is firm, confident in Hashem (Tehillim 112:7).” The Tanna Hillel HaZakein used this pasuk to explain why he assumed a cry he heard was not coming from his home (Berachot 60a). He was confident about his (and his family’s) life.

The Gemara understands this pasuk as teaching an additional point. One confident in Hashem has reason to be – because Hashem rewards those who trust Him. In the words of Sefer Tehillim: “Kindness surrounds the one who trusts in G-d (Tehillim 32:10).” This reward is appropriate because it reinforces the correct perspective.

Based on this idea, Rav Chaim Volozyn encouraged focusing intensively on the pasuk ein od milvado” (Devarim 4:35) as a segulah in times of danger (Nefesh HaChayim 3:12). A person who internalizes that Hashem is the only one behind events in this world is worthy of His assistance.

In addition to divine reward, trust in G-d also (naturally) gives one the strength needed to face life’s challenges. As opposed to those who rely on others or their own ability, trust in G-d gives one a solid basis for confidence.

May our recognition of Hashem’s role in our world inspire us to sincerely turn to Him (with our prayers) and rely entirely upon Him in a way that allows us to live our lives confidently.

*Written by Joshua Pomerantz.


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Rav Reuven Taragin is the Dean of Overseas Students at Yeshivat Hakotel and Educational Director of World Mizrachi - RZA. He lives with his wife Shani and their six children in Alon Shvut, Israel.