December 2020 Bulletin Ref1


Dear Friend,

Every day a government agency or a political figure updates us about the pandemic that has spread across the globe and disrupted our personal lives. No hour goes by when we do not read or hear the words ‘virus,’ ‘illness’ or ‘quarantine.’  We continue to live in a state of metaphysical anxiety.

But our tradition offers guidance on to how to feel more secure and we should listen carefully to what it says.  We are advised to have a particular sort of faith in God – not a passive, unintelligent, blind faith but an active, wise and discerning faith.  In Hebrew this faith is called “bitachon.”

Literally, “bitachon” means “security” or “trust,” and it begins with the simple acknowledgement that the final decisions in life are up to God, not us.  Our food, our shelter, our health and illness, our very life and death, are in the hands of God.

There is a popular phrase, “Leave nothing to chance.”  With this statement there is an implicit expression of arrogance, for there is no way we can completely control any event in life when God has the final say.  If our peace of mind were dependent upon our believing that we had complete control over every situation and possibility that might arise, we would be bound for disappointment.  It is incorrect to think we have the ability to foresee every last thing that might go wrong in our lives. It is an impossibility and to demand the impossible is to guarantee frustration.  Those things which are beyond the range of human strength and insight, we should calmly commit to God. (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch on Psalms 127: 1-2) 

On the other hand, having “bitachon” does not mean we should spend all our time praying to God for help when we are in danger.  No, like the Maccabees whose victories we shall soon celebrate, we must take every action we can to protect ourselves from anything that would harm us.  A disposition of reasonable fatalism may be a sign of spiritual maturity, but it should never lead to passiveness.  As our prayer book puts it so eloquently, we should pray as if everything depended upon God and act as if everything depended upon us.

Most important, with “bitachon” we can always be hopeful. Because we do not know God’s plans in advance, we should never think the worst. (Chazon Ish; Emunah uvitachon 2:1) As it is written in Psalms, “Hope in God.  Be strong and let your heart take courage.”

In these challenging times, let us turn from doubt to confidence and from fear to faith.  Let us have “bitachon.”  And let us pray with all our hearts that the day will soon come when our state, our nation and all the world will return to full vigor and health.

Have a Happy and Secure Chanukah,

Rabbi Katz

B'nai Sholom Albany NY