A Harmony of Opposites

Each one of us1 is expected to rise above his personal self, and not to perceive himself as a self-sufficient entity.2 He must realize that nothing he accomplishes is the result of “[his] strength and the power of [his] hand,” but that it is G‑d “Who gives [him] the power to prosper.”3 At the same time, he is expected to take initiatives and to work with the potentials G‑d has given him.

How can these conflicting expectations be harmoniously resolved? A Jew is bound with G‑d. Hence, just as G‑d can simultaneously comprise two opposite thrusts,4 a Jew is asked to combine opposite thrusts: he can have no sense of self,5 knowing that it is G‑d Who achieves everything — and yet simultaneously he must toil in his avodah, with his own power.

By the Sweat of Your Brow

These two contradictory thrusts come into play in an individual’s efforts to earn a livelihood. On one hand, he must have sim­ple faith that everything is granted him by G‑d. And since G‑d is the ultimate good, the Jew realizes that whatever he receives must be utterly good. If to our fleshly eyes it appears to be (G‑d forbid!) the opposite of good, that indicates only that it comes from the Realm of Hiddenness6 — a level of good so lofty that it can­not be revealed on this earthly plane.7 Simultaneously, a Jew must manifest perfect trust (bitachon), believing without any doubt that he will receive good that can be recognized as good.8

For bitachon does not mean trusting that G‑d will provide circumstances which He alone appreciates are good. Bitachon means trusting that G‑d will provide us with good that we can appreciate as good, even with our limited human understand­ing.

We must have such trust even when, according to the laws of nature, there is no rational prospect for it.9 Even then one should trust that G‑d will surely help, for He is not limited, and He has the potential to change nature.

If a person is confronted by suffering, he should accept it with joy,10 believing with perfect faith that this too is utterly good. However, so long as suffering has not come, even though the circumstances are such that there seems to be no natural prospect of avoiding it, one should have perfect trust that G‑d will bring him overt and observable good.

Both things are expected of a Jew. This is possible because every Jew is connected with G‑d, Who can simultane­ously accommodate two opposite thrusts.4 Therefore this bitachon, this trust, does not contradict our faith [that everything, even that which is not obviously good, comes from G‑d]. On the contrary, it is one of the foundations of faith, [for it emphasizes that natural circumstances cannot limit G‑d’s potential].

Trust and Initiative

Similar concepts apply with regard to our Divine service. A Jew must be aware that “Everything is in the hands of Heaven.”11 Even “the fear of Heaven,” [and our Torah observance that results from it,] which our Sages say is not in the hands of Heaven but rather is given over to man’s initiative, requires G‑d’s help, for we can do nothing alone.

Nevertheless, together with our trust in G‑d, individual effort and initiative are required. And since both trust and initia­tive stem from the G‑dly soul, which is “an actual part of G‑d,”12 Who can embrace opposites, these two thrusts are in fact not contradictory. Rather, one complements the other.