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Bitachon and Hishtadlut

Egged Intercity Bus

An Egged intercity bus getting ready to load passengers.

Beshalach 5773

Earlier this week Lisa and I had the privilege of attending sheva berachot for newly weds David and Tova.

I volunteered to say a davar Torah. I’m sharing the part of it that ties in with Parashat Beshalach.

In the North

When we made aliyah in 1995, we were living in the absorption center in Natzrat Illit.

One day we came to Jerusalem but wanted to be back in the absorption center that night.

Things went well and we completed our business in Jerusalem.

Just to make the rest of the story clear, you need to know this fact: The quickest way for us to get back to Natzrat Illit was to take an Egged bus to Haifa and from there to Natzrat Illit.

That evening as we got close to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, we saw the last direct bus to Haifa pulling out. Bummer.

Once inside the bus station, we were told we could take a bus to Tel Aviv and from there to Haifa.

Done. We got to Tel Aviv and caught the last bus to Haifa that evening.

But this was not a direct bus. Not even close. It went on every possible side trip and stopped at every bus stop. We crawled towards Haifa.

We were wondering if we would get there in time to catch the last bus to Natzrat Illit.

At long last our bus stopped across the street from the main bus station in Haifa.

Almost all the other passengers on the bus were soldiers.

They piled out of the bus and starting running to the bus station.

I turned to Lisa and shouted, “We better run!”

We got to the bus staging area in the station. We were greeted by a long line of buses sitting with their engines running, ready to start their last runs of the night.

We raced to the end of the line where the bus heading to Natzrat Illit had it’s parking space.

We jumped on the bus, the driver closed the door, and off we went.

There are more details to the story, but that’s enough for now.

Bitachon and Hishtadlut

One headline we could put on Parashat Beshalach is bitachon (trust) and hishtadlut (effort).

There is an inherent tension between these two traits.

Many times we are faced with the problem of making the distinction between trusting in God versus striving to achieve our desired outcome.

Here’s one example from the parasha (Judaica Press translation):

Shemot 14
15 The Lord said to Moses, Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel and let them travel.
16 And you raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and split it, and the children of Israel shall come in the midst of the sea on dry land.

In these verses God tells Moshe that this is not the time for prayer. It is a time for action, even though the human action is the small one of raising the staff.

We also have the example of the heavenly bread, the “man.”

Shemot 16:4
So the Lord said to Moses, Behold! I am going to rain down for you bread from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather what is needed for the day, so that I can test them, whether or not they will follow My teaching.

In this instance we have the Divine promise of daily food, but the human requirement to gather it each day.

I think one of our fundamental tasks in life is to learn who we are and how to balance for ourselves this tension between bitachon and hishtadlut.

In other words, in a given situation, how much should be trust in God and how much should be strive?

A Blessing

As is traditional at sheva berachot, I gave a blessing to the new couple.

I now give that same blessing to the readers of this blog:

As you go through life, may you have the wisdom to know when you need to run!

Your Turn

Please share an experience from your life about how you balanced bitachon and hishtadlut.

Picture from Flickr.

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