The Chazon Ish pointed out a common misconception about
bitachon: Many people think that bitachon means that whatever I trust
in HaShem to do, He will do. If I want it (badly enough); it will be. I wish;
therefore it is. On the contrary, said the Chazon Ish, the true definition of
bitachon is the recognition that whatever is, is the will of Hashem, whether
I would have wished for it or not. And since I know that He is fair and just, I
know that whatever happens, whatever He decrees, is for the best.
The Gemorah Ta’anis speaks of someone who trusted in HaShem:
Nochum Ish Gamzu. He was called that because whatever happened, he would say,
“This too is for the good.”
It is not clear, however, why he should have been singled
out. After all, the Shulchan Aruch rules that a person is obligated to say that
whatever HaShem does is for the good. (The precise formulation, kol d’avid
Rochmana l’tav avid, is essentially the same thought expressed in Aramaic.)
It is normative halacha; as such it is expected of every Jew, not just the
saintly few. What made Ish Gamzu special?
In Pesachim, the Gemorah says that the next world is not like
this world. In this world, we bless ha tov v’hamaitiv on the good,
dayan ha’emes on the bad; in the next world, we will bless ha tov
v’hamaitiv on both good and bad.
And it says in Gemorah Brochos that the same way a person
blesses on good, he should bless on bad. The Gemorah objects that that can’t
mean you make the same brocha. Rather, what it means is that one should accept
the bad with joy. The Rambam seems to say that even though outwardly a person
experiences an event as bad, inwardly he should have bitachon that it’s
for the good.
Let’s try to understand: Chazal say that there’s no artist
like HaShem. Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz compared this to a child who draws a
picture. It’s usually readily apparent whether it’s a picture of a person or a
tree or a bird. But when a great artist draws say, a person’s face, he doesn’t
just draw a circle for the face, lines for the arms and legs. He builds it up
gradually, with carefully applied brush strokes, and the figure represented may
not be identifiable for quite some time. So, too, it’s impossible to comprehend
or even indentify the workings of HaShem as they are going on. Only when the
painting is finished, when the course of events are complete, will the Artist’s
intentions be clear.
Similarly, the Chasam Sofer explains that when Moshe asked
HaShem to explain why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper, HaShem
answered: “You will see Me from behind, but My face you will not see.” This
means that we may comprehend G-d’s actions only in retrospect, but not as they
From the point of view of the Divine, nothing is bad. That is
because He sees the whole picture—what we can only see in retrospect—from
the beginning. In His perspective, all the pieces of the puzzle, all the strokes
of the artist’s brush, are already in place, and it is clear how everything is
ultimately for the good. We, on the other hand, have to be true to our mortal
perspective. We have to bless according to the way things appear to us in this
world. And because we have only the dim, fragmented picture, there is for us bad
as well as good.
Nevertheless, as the Rambam points out, even in this world we
can know that all that happens is really good. What makes this possible is the
neshama, the inner life of the person. For the neshama, which
comes from HaShem, transcends time. Deep inside each one of us is the eternal
perspective, where all the pieces already fit together. There you can have the
bitachon that all is ultimately for the good. On the outside one may be crying;
inside one has bitachon.
That’s why it says Dayan HaEmes, the Judge of Truth,
not Dayan HaAmiti, the true judge. Because there is only one truth, and
only G-d knows how to bring it. Sometimes He brings it in ways that we think is
good, sometimes in ways that we think is bad. But it’s all the same truth.
And that was the attainment of Nochum Ish Gamzu. He perceived
everything as good. He reached such a level of bitachon, was so in touch
with his neshama, that he perceived the good as it occurred. His serene
acceptance of even the most terrible suffering exemplifies an ideal and sets a
standard. The Shulchan Aruch makes it a standard that everyone must strive to