Turning to G‑d

One1 of the foundations of our faith and of our Torah is the attribute of trust, bitachon. Plainly and simply, without any artful interpretations,2 this means that one should trust in G‑d that things will work out for the good — and in a way that is visibly and manifestly good. This understanding of the term is apparent from numerous passages in the Talmud and in the teachings of the Sages; it is discussed at length in Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar HaBitachon; and likewise in the chassidic discourses3 that are based on the phrase,4 “Trust in G‑d forever and ever.”

Even if one sees that his situation is not as it ought to be, according to the indications that one is given from Above or down here below, “one should not refrain from [pleading for] Divine mercy.”5 Rather, he should gather strength in his complete trust in G‑d, trusting that — particularly by means of his prayer and his good deeds — the undesirable situation will be transformed to the kind of good that is visibly and overtly good, and indeed, to a level of good that is superior to that of his previous state, “like the superiority of light over darkness.”6

Moreover, in addition to trusting that G‑d will certainly grant him good that is recognizably and manifestly good, this must also be requested: “There is a positive commandment to pray...; one must request and plead for the fulfillment of his needs....”7 These requests are made in the way they are detailed in Shemoneh Esreh. The focus there is the plain meaning of the words that address the One Who “heals the sick” and “blesses the years,” and the like. The same is true of other, private requests that every individual can make in the course of the blessing that begins Shema Koleinu (in addition to its standard wording).8 What is common to all these requests is that they relate to visible and overt good.

With Loving Acceptance

On the other hand, when (G‑d forbid) an undesirable incident takes place, then after the event9 “one is obligated to recite a blessing over evil [tidings] just as one recites a blessing over good [tidings]. So it is written,10 ‘You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might....’ [The Sages understood the last term11 to imply that] with whatever measure He metes out [your fortunes]” — and Rashi explains: ‘whether it be a kindly measure or a harsh measure’ — “thank Him.” Not only that, but one is also directed “to accept [a misfortune] with joy”12 — “like the joy in a visible and obvious good, for it, too, is for the good....”13

In this spirit, the Sages taught that “whatever the Merciful One does, He does for the good.”12 Or, to use an expression in the Holy Tongue,14 Gam zu letovah — “This, too, is for the good.” However, the difference between these two teachings is not merely that in one phrase “for the good” is in Aramaic (letav) whereas in the other phrase “for the good” is in the Holy Tongue (letovah). The difference is also one of substance.15 As may be seen from the examples and narratives that the Gemara cites, “letav” is used to indicate merely the prevention of harm, whereas “letovah” is used to indicate that [the seemingly undesirable factor itself becomes a positive influence; for example] the dust that replaced the precious gems [that Nachum Ish Gamzu was bearing] proved to bring a benefit more valuable than the actual gems themselves!

Accordingly, a Jew must place his trust in G‑d and request that He provide all his needs with the kind of good that is plainly and recognizably good. Nevertheless, even if (G‑d forbid) his prayer was not effective, he knows that “this matter has come from G‑d,”16 and, without a doubt, “whatever the Merciful One does, He does for the good.” Moreover, “This, too, is for the good,” even though it is not the kind of good that can be discerned by fleshly eyes.

With Vibrant Joy

To explain the above in a slightly different manner: A Jew must live his everyday life with faith in the Living G‑d, carrying out the directives of the Torah of Life. Moreover, this must be done in a way that is characteristic of life — with energy and happiness.

All the varying events and circumstances that affect him do not change the fundamental gift that G‑d has granted him: life. Therefore, at every moment and in every situation, he must serve G‑d with happiness and a glad heart, accepting everything with joy — even when, at the very same time, he is asking G‑d that his present and future situation should be one of plainly recognizable good.

For All Mankind

These two concepts — accepting everything G‑d grants with happiness and simultaneously, and praying for visible and overt good — both stem from our fundamental faith in G‑d. They apply not only to the Jewish people, but to all humanity, like all the Noachide commandments, which are components of the 613 mitzvos that were given to the Jewish people, though the manner in which they are observed by Jews is more comprehensive. Nevertheless, their fundamental thrust — that they lead to a viable social framework, for17 “He did not create the world for chaos; He formed it for the sake of stability” — applies universally.

To explain: The negation of the existence of other gods and the belief in G‑d is of fundamental importance to all humanity. For all men have been commanded to believe that there is a Creator Who brought the world into being and oversees it. The denial of G‑d is considered as the most severe sin that could be.18 True, not all the particulars of the faith in G‑d incumbent on the Jewish people, as detailed by Rambam at the beginning of his Mishneh Torah,19 are relevant to Noachides. The same applies to its numerous detailed laws, and certainly to the insights afforded by the innermost dimension of the Torah. Nevertheless, the broad concept that there is a Creator who oversees the entire world was revealed and made known to all mankind by our Patriarch Avraham. Later, at the Giving of the Torah, this responsibility was given over to every Jew: “Moshe, on the order of the Al-mighty, gave the command to compel all the inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments given to Noach’s descendants.”20 And these begin with the command to negate the existence of other gods and to believe in G‑d.

Those commandments also include bitachon — the trust that G‑d will relate to His created beings benevolently. For faith in G‑d implies a relationship that has an effect on our everyday conduct in this world. This faith should motivate people to observe G‑d’s commandments, whose fundamental intent is to lead to a stable social framework, because G‑d is the ultimate of good, and “the nature of One Who is good is to do good.”21 Since He desires to grant goodness to His created beings, He ordained modes of conduct — for example, the mitzvah to institute just laws22 — that will lead to a positive social environment.23

Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that the command­ment incumbent on all men to believe in G‑d also includes the recognition that “Whatever the Merciful One does, He does for the good,” and even the recognition that “this, too, is for the good.”

The World at Prayer

It also follows that the commandment incumbent on all mankind to believe in G‑d also includes the concept of prayer, to ask Him to fulfill one’s needs, and the like. This we see in the narrative of Yonah the Prophet, whom G‑d sent to motivate the people of Nineveh, including their king,24 to return to Him in repentance and to pray to Him.25

All of this occurred after a heavenly decree had been issued for the destruction of the city.26 Nevertheless, “punishments foretold by a prophet”27 can be reversed, because “the Holy One, blessed be He, is slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and forgiving of evil,”28 and thus “it is possible that the people will repent and be forgiven, as was the case with the inhabitants of Nineveh.”20

This episode has become part of the Torah’s directives to all mankind, teaching us that the commandment to repent and to pray to G‑d for one’s needs was incumbent on the inhabi­tants of Nineveh — and thus applies to humanity as a whole.29

This enables us to appreciate the scope of the charge to “compel all the inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments given to Noach’s descendants.”20 In addition to spreading the faith that G‑d is the Creator of the world and oversees it (“There is an owner of this mansion”30 ), we must also emphasize that G‑d is the essence of good. Since it is “the nature of One Who is good is to do good,”21 He will certainly prevent all undesirable events.31

Spreading an awareness of these concepts is part of a greater goal, because the true and ultimate Redemption of the Jewish people depends in part on the redemption of the world at large — “to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty”32 — when “sovereignty will be G‑d’s.”33