A generation ago, bingo games were serious fundraisers for Torah institutions. Most Yeshivas ran them, and as the staff at the game could only be volunteers, many a yeshiva bachur found himself “volunteering” to work the game.
Every game had its version of Sadie—an older woman in her housecoat, sitting at the end of the third row. On the table were her good luck charms—her lucky rabbit foot keychain, her lucky pennies, her winning card from last month—all laid out in exact “lucky” order. And, she sat there, waiting for her special number to be called.
“I-19.” And she would say, “I-19, that’s my number!” as she held her rabbit foot even closer for better luck.
To many people, when they tell you to have bitachon, they mean something like this. A sort of good luck charm, a kind of wishful thinking, as in, “Have faith. Keep good cheer. Things will work out in the end.” But, like Sadie, they don’t really believe in this stuff, they surely don’t know it to be so—they just sort of, kind of, hope that, things will work out.
And while many people “frum speak,” and use the vernacular, they aren’t any more sophisticated than Sadie—they just use different terms. “It’s all mazel.” “He has a good mazel.” “Of course he does well in business; he has mazel.” “To succeed in life, you need mazel.”
And it could well be that when they say, “It’s bashert,” they don’t know the difference between bitachon, or mazel, or Karma, or voodoo—or whatever. But it doesn’t matter—because it’s all the same. Just some sort of, hazy, confused, wishful thinking.
This has nothing to do with bitachon. Bitachon is based on knowing that Hashem is active in the running of the world. Bitachon is founded on the knowledge that Hashem is with me throughout my day, observing, protecting and helping me. Bitachon rests on the understanding that Hashem controls every outcome. It isn’t mazel, it isn’t lucky rabbit feet—it’s Hashem.
And before a person can reach any real level of bitachon, he has to have a firm grasp of the fourth level of emunah. He has to understand that Hashem is here—right here. Active. Involved. Present and accounted for, in the running of my
But there’s one more point that requires understanding. Many times when people use the word bitachon, they mean “faith,” as in, “We can’t really know—but we have faith.”
But faith and bitachon have very little to do with one another.
Faith is something that we have in people. Imagine that you offer to buy my car. You name a price, I agree, and then you ask, “Is it okay if I pay you by check?”
Hmmmm… Do I take your check or not? Well, it depends. If the amount is small, and I know you well, I probably have faith that you’re good for the money. But if I’m selling my car for fifteen thousand dollars, and I don’t know you that well, do I have faith that your check won’t bounce?
Bitachon isn’t supposed to be some sort of wistful, foggy “I hope it’s true,” sort of sense. It is knowledge. Knowing that Hashem is present. Knowing that Hashem is involved in my life. Knowing that Hashem will come through for me.
Once upon a time there were people who had rock solid powerful trust. The Avos were on that level. Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov walked with Hashem. Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah spoke to Hashem. Of course they trusted. Of course they weren’t afraid—how could they be? Hashem was right there with them.
For us, our work lies in making our beliefs tangible. We have to come to see Hashem. We need to train ourselves to find Him—hiding, yet controlling all. We start with the big picture issues. Looking at the world and seeing that it has a Creator. Studying the astonishing system of nature and getting a sense of awe of the One who formed it. Then we study life on this planet. We review history—the history of the world and the history of our lives. And we discover Hashem. We see the Orchestrator behind the scenes, coordinating, choreographing all of the events of mankind’s tumultuous existence. And eventually we reach that goal of seeing Hashem. Not sort of hoping, or praying, or wishing—but knowing that Hashem is with us.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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