Effort and Trust: Reaching the Right Balance
Taste of Parasha
Yaakov Avinu blazes a path for us to follow while living amongst the descendants of Eisav in exile. His actions and reactions are the protocol for our ability to withstand the tests of the “Eisavs” we encounter in our exiles. In order to handle today’s society, we must be well represented in forums of diplomacy, much as Yaakov prepared gifts for Eisav. We must be prepared to stand our ground to defend what is near and dear to our hearts, much as Yaakov prepared to fight. Finally, and most importantly, we must pray, much as Yaakov prayed to G-d and said, “Save me from my brother from Eisav”. The full implications of that prayer being: Save me from the kind overtures of Eisav my brother which could cause my children to assimilate into his culture, and, save me from the sword of Eisav who although he is my brother is not acting like a brother in his desire to kill me. These are our marching orders for exile, says the Ramban. We must spare no effort in furthering the cause of good and truth. We must make every effort possible to achieve our goals. After all that is said and done, we must realize and appreciate that any success that is achieved is not from our deeds; but, rather from the blessings of G-d Himself. In Hebrew literature this dynamic is known as Hishtadlus U’bitachon (effort and trust).
Taste of Hashkafa
The thousand dollar question is: How does one achieve this Hashkafa (outlook)? How is it possible that after I put in so much effort I am supposed to believe that it was not my effort that brought about the results? Rabbi Mordechai Katz Zt”l provides for us a window of understanding into this topic. In this week’s Parasha, the verse says, “Yaakov arrived, ‘complete,’ in the city of Shechem” (Genesis 33:18). Rashi explains that he was complete in three areas: In his body, his money and his Torah. The Maharsha (Shabbos 33a) explains that it was a miracle that made it possible for him to be ‘complete’ in his body: even though he had been hit by the angel of Eisav. It was a miracle that allowed for him to be ‘complete’ in his money as he had given a large gift to Eisav. G-d enabled him to make the money back again in a good business deal at his next stop: Succos. The Malbim adds that it was miraculous as well that he was complete in his Torah; namely, that he was not affected negatively by the angel of Eisav who had tried to sway him to sin. Sometimes we realize it and sometimes we do not, but ultimately it is the hand of G-d that is the deciding factor as to how, when, and where success will come.
A good litmus test as to whether we are marching to the beat of Yaakov Avinu’s drum or not, is: Are we within the friendly confines of Halacha? One who knows that all his efforts will be in vain if G-d does not bless them will not be tempted to cut corners in following the directives of the Torah. He will not take short cuts in his Torah observance in order to achieve his objectives, for he knows that in the long run it will all be futile if G-d is not pleased with him. Rabbi Katz Zt”l explains that this is true not only in the physical realm but in the spiritual realm as well. We are required to expend as much effort as possible in the understanding of the word of G-d. This is the only way in which to grow in all areas of service to G-d- be it Middos improvement, prayer, faith, or Mitzvah observance. How can one expect to grow in his connection to G-d if he is not willing to listen to G-d? When one studies Torah in depth, it is the antidote against the yetzer hora and the fuel for our Neshama. May G-d bless our efforts with success in all areas.