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THE ART OF BALANCING HISHTADLUT
Probably the hardest question in life for the believing Jew is how much Hishtadlut, how much effort, should I invest? If everything is preordained, the future is already known to G-d, הכל צפוי (Avot 3 15) – then what efforts should I put into it all, to achieve the desired outcome?
This is not only when I ask myself the question how hard I should work to make my bread by the sweat of my brow, something that is preordained each Rosh Hashana for the entire year. This is relevant to Shidduchim, how hard one should try to find a spouse for themselves or for their children. This is regarding health, how protective I need to try to make sure that I am healthy. This is even regarding the present Israel-Hamas war, which we just discovered was clearly funded by Iran. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant has just appointed Colonel Eliezer Shkedi this week as Coordinator for Recruiting and Integration of Chareidim, to recruit as many chareidim as possible for the struggle in Gaza. This, again, is a question, for the Jew with Emunah. Of course, Chareidim do not have a free pass not to join IDF, if they are Israeli citizens. But if they are aiming at Yeshiva Students who actually learn and pray, with a full schedule, this comes back to Emunah, and how much Hishtadlut, how much effort does one need when they are fighting a war.
One way to know if you are balancing Faith and Effort properly is if you are praying as hard as you are trying. Another way to know what is considered too much effort when it comes to Emunah regarding Paranassah, is when you work during time that you are supposed to learn. Of course, how much you are supposed to learn daily is dependent on many factors, and only a personal Rabbi, who has no agenda other than your spiritual best, can decide that. He needs to be like an angel, in order for you to ask his counsel. (Hagigah 15b) “An angel” means that he needs to have no agenda or gain other than bringing to you the word of G-d. This Rabbi needs to know more Torah than anyone else you know, know you better than any other Rabbi does, and he needs to care about you and your future, about your Olam Haba. As the spirit of Shmuel the prophet told his student King Saul, וּמָחָ֕ר אַתָּ֥ה וּבָנֶ֖יךָ עִמִּ֑י tomorrow Shaul will join Shmuel in Olam Haba, עמי במחיצתי. (Berachot 12b, Eiruvin 53b)
Every Shabbat, after our day meal, I go to shul to spend a few hours learning just this subject. A coach’s profession is one of Hishtadlut, so this subject should be something every religious coach should master. There is a Sefer written by a fellow Bayit Vegan resident, the size of a phone book, that is just about this subject… How to know how to balance Hishtadlut, effort, for the believing Jew. In every area of life. I was shocked to see that one of the chapters was regarding war effort.
Why is this an extremely pertinent subject for every life coach? Coaching is about helping someone get from his point A, where he is, to his point B, where he wants to be, in every area of life. Different than psychology or social workers, life coaching is not to focus on how you feel, but rather, how you feel will be a result of the productivity achieved by getting from point A to point B. For example, I am a learning coach. I teach people how to become a genius one on one, and in my Effective learning course, by teaching them to read at 1000 words per minute. I teach how to remember, how to focus, how to think creatively, coming up with questions and answers, how to take tests, and how to read any passuk and understand what it means without an Artscroll.
I get challenged, sometimes though: Doesn’t the Talmud teach that it is determined upon a person’s soul, whether he will be wise or dumb; (Niddah 15b) so who does Yosef Farhi think he is? My answer is that it could be that you are a potential genius, it is just that G-d wants you to put in the effort to learn the way that the genius learns, and then you will be the genius you were destined to be… You can’t know until you try, but with educated effort, knowing how all genius learn , which happens to be the same.
The Talmud in Niddah also states that it is decided upon, from before you were born, if you will be rich or poor, and if you will be strong or weak. Nobody thinks that someone can say that a Jew who goes to the gym is a heretic, or if a Jew goes to business, he does not believe in G-d, if it is all preordained. The question is just, am I doing the appropriate effort, to hide the miracle of change?
The purpose of Hishtadlut is to hide the miracle. G-d does not need your help. He does not need you to work, He does not need you to go to the doctor or dentist, He does not need you to fight in the war and He does not need you to call the Shadchan. He is the G-d who feeds, even if you would just open your mouth, He can get food in there for you, without you raising your arms. He is the G-d who cures, even if the doctors can’t. He can bring you the soulmate that is just for you, even if every Shadchan says that what you want does not exist. He can fund your parasha sheets, even if all your donors back out… Do you believe that??? So, why do you work or believe in life-coaching? Why go to the doctor? Why not close down the army, Hatzalah, Zaka, Yedidim, or any Hessed organization, or any Shidduch system?
All Hishtadlut is to minimize the miracle! Extra efforts, though, are as silly and useless as the one who, while standing in a moving train, tries to push the front wall of the train to help it move faster! (Mashal of the Chafetz Chaim) But of course, you need to do the minimal effort of getting on the train! As I write this, I am reminded that so many people say this is all simple stuff for anyone who learns about Emunah. It is not!!!! There is a whole Sefer, the size of a phone book, called השתדלות האמין, that goes into this in great detail!!!! (by Rabbi Zeev Maor)
The amount of Hishtadlut that a person is supposed to do is very individual. It all depends on how much you believe that nature is all miracle. Once you realize that everything, all positive results of your efforts is miracle, you need much less Hishtadlut. As the passuk says, יְהִֽי־חַסְדְּךָ֣ יְקֹוָ֣ק עָלֵ֑ינוּ כַּ֝אֲשֶׁ֗ר יִחַ֥לְנוּ לָֽךְ: Your kindness, YKVK, should be upon us, as we hoped and relied on You! (Tehillim 33 22) The Metzudat David writes, כפי התקוה כן יהיה החסד According to the amount of hope, that is the amount of kindness G-d will give you!
In this week’s parasha, that is exactly what it says. G-d does not need us to fight our wars for us. He can fight them, יְקֹוָ֖ק אִ֣ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֑ה, as He has done at the Splitting of the Sea. He can send His angel Michael,הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י שֹׁלֵ֤חַ מַלְאָךְ֙ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ לִשְׁמָרְךָ֖ בַּדָּ֑רֶךְ וְלַהֲבִ֣יאֲךָ֔ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֲכִנֹֽתִי: He can send the Tzirah wasp, אֶת־אֵֽימָתִי֙ אֲשַׁלַּ֣ח לְפָנֶ֔יךָ וְהַמֹּתִי֙ אֶת־כָּל־הָעָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּבֹ֖א בָּהֶ֑ם וְנָתַתִּ֧י אֶת־כָּל־אֹיְבֶ֛יךָ אֵלֶ֖יךָ עֹֽרֶף: I will send My fear before you, …I will make your enemies flee from you. וְשָׁלַחְתִּ֥י אֶת־הַצִּרְעָ֖ה לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וְגֵרְשָׁ֗ה אֶת־הַחִוִּ֧י אֶת־הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֛י וְאֶת־הַחִתִּ֖י מִלְּפָנֶֽיךָ: I will send the Tzirah wasp before you, and I will drive out the Hivi, the Canaani, and the Hiti, from before you. (Shemot ch. 23)
Why does G-d expect us to do Hishtadlut in line with the amount of how much we believe in Him? If you believe in G-d, that everything is a miracle, even your Hishtadlut, even your efforts; then, G-d will not expect you do to effort to hide the miracle, because there is a miracle, either way!
Some people fake it though. There was once a boy who dated a girl with a rich father. The father asked the girl that if the boy is going to be in Kollel, how will he pay for the wedding? The girl answered, the boy said “G-d will provide!” The father asked, who will pay for the house? The girl said that the boy said, G-d will provide! The father asked his daughter, if the boy is in Kollel, who will pay the bills and for all the food? The daughter answered, that the boy said, G-d will!!!
The rich father smiled and told his wife, I am happy to hear that the boy my daughter wants to marry thinks I am god!
If you believe in G-d, it means you don’t believe in a rich father-in-law, or in your doctor, or in your Shadchan, or in the IDF. G-d may or may not send you your needs through these mediums. But G-d has so, so many ways to take care of you! The same G-d who feeds Musk, Gates, and Bezos, הזן את הכל, is the same G-d who feeds me and you! He does not lack anything, and He can give you what He gives them, with no extra effort, if He feels it is good for you. The same G-d who fought the Six-day War, can fight this war for us, as well.
The only one who can decide the right hishtadlut of how many yeshiva students and which ones should go, is not me, not you, and not Galant. It is the Gedolei Hador, the greatest Rabbis of todays generation. Just like no one Jew, no prime minister, no Knesset, has a right to give away any part of Land of Israel, as the Land belongs to the Nation as a whole… So too, the only one who can tell us which yeshiva students should or could fight, is the Torah itself. We need the Gedolim, the greatest Rabbis to decide this one. It is not up for discussion.