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Subtle Differences Between a False Sense of Security and True Security
Does trust in Hashem lead to doing His mitzvos, or does doing mitzvos lead to trust in Hashem? And, vice versa, does trusting in some one or something other than Hashem lead to sin, or does sin lead to trusting in others other than Hashem? Both could be true, and the Chovos Halevavos in his introduction to the Gate of Trust observes in terms of trusting in Hashem, “The benefits in religious matters: Among them, peace of mind, and trusting in G-d as a servant must trust in his master. Because if one does not place his trust in G-d, he will place his trust in something else, and whoever trusts in something other than G-d, the Al-mighty will remove His providence from such a person, and leave him in the hands of the one he trusted, and he will be as it was written: ‘For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the spring of living waters, to dig for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water’ (Yirmiyahu 2:13). (Click here for Hebrew text.)
This pasuk in Yirmiyahu is read in this week’s Haftorah, which is read during the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av, discussing the wayward, rebellious state of the Jewish people on the eve of the destruction of the First Beis HaMikdash. The Radak details the parable made of Hashem to a wellspring of flowing water, which is true security, to idolatry and the other nations which are a false sense of security. The Radak observes, “The prophet compares the good that influenced the Jews while they still strongly held onto Torah observance, to the source of a living spring which brings forth water without stop, so to [Hashem says] ‘I am the same way and you left me to serve gods which for them are like broken wells.’ Wells or cisterns are man made to gather in them rainwater and if they are broken all their water will leak out of them just as it came in. Behold those that trust in them are flawed, and behold it is good to rely on Hashem who is compared to an ever flowing live water spring for 2 reasons: (1) For the water doesn’t come to him from any other place rather from its place do they flow, (2) it never stops flowing. Similarly, it is good to rely on Hashem because the good comes to them from Him, Himself and He doesn’t receive the good from any place else and His good never stops. On the flip side, comparatively the good that the Jews receive from gods and from nations who observe them, and they in fact trusted in the king of Assyria and the king of Egypt to help them from the enemy which was harassing them at the time, are like broken wells, for even if they were full to the top with no cracks, they have a stopping point when they run out of the water which was poured into them, not emanating from themselves. So to the power of those that Israel was seeking help from came from elsewhere because the king can’t do anything without his army and servants, of course also without the help of Hashem, as it says ‘the king does not save with most of his valor.’ If they are relying on their gods to help them, behold they are like broken wells that can’t retain water, for even if someone pours water into them, it would leak out through the cracks and no water would be found, similarly one who trusts in other gods even if they are a very big nation with weapons, they are like nothing and their enemies can defeat them. Also, if they were low on food supplies and turn to their allied nations for sustenance then they might turn to them to ask for a lot but they will only have so much to offer.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
After understanding the parable it would seem obvious that it is better to trust in Hashem and observe his mitzvos because the starting point is that Hashem is the Almighty, All Powerful, and ever flowing with good and favor, (one only receives that goodness when he reciprocates with Torah observance and doing Hashem’s will.) Why would anyone reject this especially if the flip side is relying on someone who is finite and imperfect who can’t even take care of himself but must rely on human manpower for strength and control. Also, though they have opportunities to rely on Hashem to fortify their strength why rely on third hand help or sustenance instead of getting help from the source, Hashem Himself, even if it is through His intermediaries it is still better than relying on a human leader which winds up being at least third hand help. Certainly, if these human allies don’t trust in Hashem, but rely on others then you are trusting in something which is imperfect and has faults that relies on nonperfect, faulty material to bring imaginary hope and reliance. To put it in this vane why would anyone ever choose relying and trusting in others and not have full trust in Hashem? Isn’t it an obvious choice?!!
However, the reality is that one’s full trust in Hashem that He will sustain and take care of him is dependent on his level of observance and commitment to Hashem’s Torah and mitzvos. For the more a person does Hashem’s will then Hashem reciprocates with security and reward therefore a person will understand and strengthen his trust in Hashem but because people make mistakes and don’t always serve Hashem properly then there are repercussions which makes life not so easy which in turn makes it harder for one to put full trust in Hashem, (though he should have full trust in Hashem even if one makes mistakes but one should trust that Hashem is doing what is right for you and you should strive to do better so that you will deserve the ultimate good which Hashem wants to bestow upon you,) and that is why people turns to other things to trust in, and once one loosens his connection and trust in Hashem then Hashem allows him to trust in what he begins to rely upon in his imperfect state. This is what the Chovos Halevavos quoted above means.
One might say Hashem never takes care of me directly any way. He always sends his messengers to ensure I get what I need. Hashem usually works through nature so what’s the difference between relying on him and relying on His messengers? But that itself is the difference. It is all in the attitude. If the attitude is I am relying on Hashem, then your reliance is on an infinitely perfect entity that can send anything your way to help you and He never stops giving, you just stop properly receiving if you don’t do what is good for you. But if your attitude is why should I rely on Hashem, he’s not directly in my life in any sort of way and my life is miserable and bumpy any way, so I might as well trust in something that I can see and understand, though it is only human, or finite, so imperfect, then what you get is to be put into the hands of what you choose to rely upon, and even if it may look trustworthy in the beginning, but since nothing in this world is perfect, then you will run into trouble at some point, and by then it will be harder to get out of the mess you have made for yourself.
So in fact we see it is not so easy to choose the obvious choice of trusting in Hashem, but the key is that it is easier and better to trust in Hashem if you try to put all your efforts into serving Him properly and perhaps imbibing this parable into one’s kishkes will make it easier to adhere to doing the right thing which will result in a more fulfilling and enjoyable life style which you can put full faith into.