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
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
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
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.