Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

14 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
A Moment After Despair

by L. Jungerman

Sometimes, the salvation comes at the very last moment, a hairsbreadth away from . . . Whoever is in need of salvation must internalize this knowledge. It will ease his suffering. This is not the pat faith invented by small- minded people to glibly encourage those in distress. These are the words which Rabbenu Ovadia Sforno writes in his commentary on Tehillim, "From Hashem was this; it is wondrous in our eyes -- for it took place in the twinkling after despair set in . . . "

"Said the enemy: I shall pursue, overtake, divide the spoils, my lust shall be satisfied upon them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them." (Shiras Hayam) It is frightening to think which schemes the enemies are hatching in their headquarters: to pursue and overtake. To unleash their devilish desire to engulf us completely, to decimate us with force. Hashem! Foil the nefarious plots of our enemies!

What power must Hashem exert, as it were, to arrest the dangerous, threatening designs of our enemy? The answer: "You blew upon them with Your wind and the sea covered them up." One single puff and finish! They sank like lead into the depths and from all the mighty threatening ones, not a vestige remained. A mere puff of breath, like one who blows a smoke ring into the air. "For a breeze passed over him and he is no longer; and no trace remains of his place." A moment after, and he has vanished into thin air, wiped out, with nothing to show that he had ever occupied space, had ever existed. Zero impression.

Bearing this in mind, it is a mere step further to digest the fact that, "Even if a sharpened sword is thrust at a person's neck, let him not despair of [Heavenly] mercy." A mere gust of air can deflect that dangerous sword poised at the jugular.

These are the marvelous words of the Chazon Ish in his work, Emunah Uvitochon, where he defines the age-old misinterpretation which has squatted in the minds of many regarding the measure of faith in Hashem. People think that the attribute of bitochon requires pollyannic optimism in every situation with the premise that everything will turn out rosy. The Chazon Ish rejects this outlook and replaces it with the proper definition of bitochon: " . . . when a person finds himself in a situation which the world regards as treacherous from natural expectations, and his adamant spirit will hold him back from remembering that we are not subject to happenstance and that there is nothing stopping Hashem from rescuing him and manipulating circumstances to make his fortune turn for the better. He will remind himself that nothing bad comes from Hashem and that whatever happens is His doing. This root of faith will dispel his fear and provide him with the courage to believe that he can be saved and that Hashem has no stronger an inclination for the worst than the best. This is what should be termed the measure of bitochon."

Bitochon is the belief that there is nothing stopping Hashem from arranging a different set of circumstances to replace the threatening ones. What's the fuss? So there is an enemy, a tyrant who schemes to annihilate and destroy all. With respect to Hashem's power and ability, this is nothing. In one twinkling, everything can change to the opposite pole.


In his commentary Ha'amek Dovor, the Netziv points to an additional feeling that is included in the verses of the Shira: On the words, "Said the enemy: I shall pursue, overtake etc.," he explains that it suits Hashem to let the enemy do all the work, as it were, not like a person seeking to save another from a murderer by doing everything in his power to stop him from reducing the distance to his prey. Not so with Hashem. He lets things proceed in the direction they are going and waits for the final moment to deliver. Why need He shoot arrows afar, when He can wait for the enemy to approach very close? Hashem can decapitate him with a sword at close range, for example. And Hashem really did allow Pharaoh to approach Israel to such proximity that were it not for the cloud pillar that separated them, he would have overtaken them before they got to the sea. And then: You blew with Your wind -- a different wind. You did not need great wile to overcome them. One huff and they sank into the depths and were covered over, with a nary a trace of their schemes and plans.

The suspense and tension that prevails until close to the twelfth hour is not incidental. It is intentional, specifically so designed. "It is Hashem's way to let the enemy take all the pains, do all the work. The succor comes at the final moment. So that they will know and see that the right hand of Hashem is valorous. That there is nothing stopping Hashem from delivering His people [from the enemy], be they great or few."

These words relate to every aspect of life. There is the salvation which comes at zero hour, and everyone who is in need of rescue should internalize this knowledge since it will alleviate his suffering up to the point of salvation. This is not the faith invented by puny minds to encourage the downtrodden. This is what Rabbeinu Ovadia Sforno writes in his commentary to Tehillim, "From Hashem was this; it is wondrous in our eyes -- for it took place in the twinkling after despair set in . . . "

It is possible for the salvation to arrive a moment after despair, at the stage where even the most rational have already succumbed to hopelessness, for when it comes, it will become clear that no more than a wink of an eye was necessary and there was no cause for despair, altogether. This message is, after all, the purpose of the lesson.

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