Rabbi Danny Sackstein
Sunny Road Kehilla
The righteous shall live by their faith. (Habakuk 2:4)
וְצַדִּיק בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶה. (חבקוק ב:ד)
We are living through historic times. Celebrating Shavuot in isolation. A big part of the spiritual work for all of us living through the COVID-19 crisis is developing trust in G-d – bitachon, in Hebrew.
A young man returned from visiting his father in hospital. His father was tragically losing his long battle with cancer. The renowned Rabbi Shimon Schwab asked the man about the condition of his father. He answered: “I have trust in G-d that he will recover.” Rabbi Schwab told him that trust in G-d does not mean all will turn out the way we wish; rather, trust in G-d means whatever happens is part of G-d’s masterplan. This is a mistake we often make.
Faith and trust (emunah and bitachon) are the foundation of the Torah. On Shavuot we relive the earth-shattering event that changed the world: The giving of the Torah. Our sages teach1: Six hundred and thirteen mitzvos were given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Habakuk said they rest on one principle, as it says: “The righteous shall live by their faith.”2
Faith (emunah) is loyalty to the knowledge that there is a Creator of the universe. An obvious fact when we look at the intricate design of the world and everything in it. Trust (bitachon) is living with that faith. Faith is the dress rehearsal, trust is the opening night, knowing G-d is behind the curtain whispering our lines.
The Talmud3 relates a conversation with G-d and Job (Iyov). Job had a very difficult life: losing his money, his family and his health. Job turns to G-d, saying: “Maybe you have mixed up my name, I am Iyov – Job, not Oyev – your enemy.”
G-d answers: “Where were you when the world was created?”4
We are here in this world for a very short time. There is no way we can understand the true reasons why things happen. Imagine arriving an hour late to a movie and leaving after just 10 minutes. The plot and the characters are a mystery, because we have missed most of the story. Our lives in this world are the same. Our brief appearance of 70 or 80 years is less than 10 minutes in the journey of our souls. Our previous incarnations and the tikkun, ‘rectification’, needed for our souls, are not apparent to us. Much of what happens and why it happens remains a mystery. Only Hashem sees the full picture and the entire timeline of our souls.
G-d wants us to be cognizant of this process. Sometimes the events of our lives are painful, very often they are perplexing. We are sent to this world to grow spiritually through the Torah and mitzvos and develop our trust in G-d. This entails living with the deep knowledge that nothing is random, everything makes perfect sense in G-d’s masterplan. Certainly COVID-19 is part of that plan. This will only be revealed to us when we leave this finite, single dimensional world and enter the eternal world of souls.
Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a
Talmud, Bava Batra 16a