The Big Trust
Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25-27 )
Striking the balance between effort and trust.
At the end of the book of Leviticus - with all the offerings, Temple vessels, and priestly duties - we have a special group of commandments that may be one of the strangest ideas in the entire Torah: the Sabbatical year (Shmitta), when we abandon the agriculture of our country for an entire year.
And while we're at it, why not command mass suicide for the entire nation? Sure, there are some smart people who wrote books on Bible criticism, suggest that a man or a group of men wrote the Torah. But how could a human being have written about the Sabbatical year? It doesn't make sense. Some say it was to let the land rest and rejuvenate. Of course, if you want to do that, you would rotate the fields, not skip planting an entire country.
No human being in his right mind would make a commandment that would cause such a hardship on the entire nation. Especially when you consider that at that time, agriculture was the main source of the nation's food supply and commerce.
It had to be God who wrote this. And why would God cause us such hardship? He explains in Leviticus 25:21: "I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will be enough produce for three years." Again, this is something only the Infinite One can promise. A blessing in the land for a bumper crop? Who can control of the sun, wind and rain to make such a promise? Only the Almighty can promise that.
To trust the Almighty is a natural consequence of believing in Him. If there is an Infinite Being Who loves you and wants the best for you, then it follows you should trust Him. The more convinced you are of the truth of His existence, His infiniteness, and His love for you, the more trust and faith you'll have.
When we discuss concepts of trust, it usually seems to be an outgrowth of our adherence to Torah; it doesn't feel like a specific command on behalf of the Creator. But here we see in Shmita a commandment to trust that God will take care of us.
Of course, trust in God is a broad topic, and is not limited to the realm of Shmita. But every seven years we express in the grandest way we can as a nation that we believe in the Almighty. It's sort of like millions of people all saying the Shema at the same time.
And what about Shabbat? While for many of us, the ability to leave work for a day each week is not difficult, for many people it is difficult. And for many years throughout history, it has been difficult for the Jews to leave work for a day each week. Shabbat and Shmita parallel each other in this way. Both the day of Shabbat and the Shmita cycle are a sign of our trust in God.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (1892-1953) described trust in God as a constant fluctuating relationship. We have choices all day long that affect our relationship with the Almighty, how much we rely on Him, how much effort we think we need to put into our endeavors, etc. If we do nothing, and wait for Him to fulfill our needs, saying, "God loves me, He'll provide," it may be a cop out. We may not want to do any work and we're just using trust in God as an excuse. If so, when the money doesn't fall through the window, we might conclude that God doesn't run the world.
Many times I have personally put an effort into a particular endeavor, only to find that my effort was not linked to the desired outcome; it came about through a different means. God likes to remind us that He runs the world. But we need to be open to this message.
In Heaven, there is a hidden scorecard, so to speak, that evaluates our trust. The events that happen to us are somewhat based on the types of challenges to our trust that we need in order to get to the next level.
Some sages even suggest that all of life - all of our challenges - are really about trust, as the Prophet Habakuk said; "A righteous person lives by his trust" (Habakuk 2:4).
RAISING THE BAR
How do we put in a proper amount of effort, while at the same time trust the All-powerful, All-loving, Infinite Being running the show? Here's a four-point plan:
1) Don't worry so much. Whatever challenges arise are for your growth.
2) Pray for the outcome you want - no matter how much effort you've put in, or how sure you're going to achieve what you want.
3) Keep track of the times when things worked out the way you wanted "accidentally." (Nothing is an accident.) Once, when my teacher, Rabbi Noah Weinberg o.b.m., asked an extremely wealthy man how he was able to be so successful, the man replied with great honesty, "Sometimes mistakes turn out wonderfully."
4) Keep your mind on what God wants in every situation, and you'll see more of His hand in supplying you with what you want. As it says in the Talmud (Avot 2:4): "Make His will your will, so that He will make your will His will." The more you see His hand in your life, the more you'll come to trust Him.
This week, pray for one small thing you think you don't need God's help for.