Turning passive trust around

Which type of trust is more worthy? Active trust, which is self-confidence in the power that G-d has given us? Or passive trust, in which Divine intervention is tangible and absolute?

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh,

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
צילום: Gal Einai

Nissan is the month of miracles. But should we seek them and depend upon them? Or should we trust our own G-d given talents?

There is a very instructive Midrash that depicts four different kings of the House of David, who turned to G-d at the threshold of war and merited salvation. Each king reacted differently to his difficult situation:

“There were four kings. What one demanded, the other did not demand. And they are: David and Assa and Yehoshafat and Hizkiyahu.

David said (in the war with Amalek) ‘I will chase my enemies and I will seize them and I will not return until I have annihilated them.  Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to him, Thus I will do…

Assa stood (in the war of Zerah Hakushi) and said, I do not have strength (like the strength of King David) to kill them. But I will chase them and You will do, He said to him, I will do…

Yehoshafat (the son of Assa, in the war of Amon, Moab and Se’ir) stood and said, I do not have strength to kill or to chase. But I will recite a song (in my place, together with the entire Nation of Israel) and You will do, said the Holy One Blessed Be He to him, I will do.

Hizkiyahu stood (in the war with Sanheriv) and said, I do not have strength to kill or to chase or to recite a song. But I will sleep in my bed (peacefully, with deep trust in G-d) and You will do, said the Holy One Blessed Be He, I will do…”

This Midrash depicts the process of transformation from active trust in G-d (the inner dimension of the faculty of Netzach), in which the king is confident in his ability to defeat his enemies, with G-d’s help, who gives him strength to perform acts of valor – to passive trust (the inner dimension of the faculty of Hod). He does nothing, but goes to sleep with confidence that G-d will save him. There are two intermediary stages between the absolute active confidence of King David and the absolutely passive trust of King Hizkiyahu. In these two stages, the active role of the kings decreases while  their passive trust in G-d and His miracles increases.

Which type of trust is more worthy? Active trust, which is self-confidence in the power that G-d has given us? Or passive trust, in which Divine intervention is tangible and absolute? Is it better for G-d to perform obvious miracles so that we cannot err and think that we accomplished something by virtue of our own strength or cunning? A closer look at the Midrash reveals that the stages depicted here are a process of deterioration, based on the inferior quality of each subsequent generation. Each king and each generation says, “I don’t have strength” relative to the previous generation. (This feeling of powerlessness is very common in our generation). As the generations descend, they feel less and less worthy of Divine power actually manifesting in mere humans, instead praying for G-d to appear and perform a miracle with no human intervention.

The end of the process is painful. Ultimately, the kings of the House of David cannot even sleep peacefully and trust in G-d. Eventually, they did not merit any miracles at all (including King Yoshiyahu, who was a righteous king but was killed due to the sins of his generation) and the Temple was destroyed. When the process of transformation from active trust (Netzach) to passive trust (Hod) persists, the deterioration reaches a point where the person or king is his own worst enemy. At that point, powerlessness reigns and even the tzaddikim lose their trust. All that remains is emunah, faith that “all that G-d does is for the very best”. Fittingly, this Midrash appears as a preface to the Scroll of Eichah, which describes the destruction of the Temple.

Can the process of deterioration be reversed? Our Sages say that G-d wanted to make King Hizkiyahu the Mashiach, but because he did not sing a song of praise to G-d after the miracle that He performed for him, he did not merit. If Hizkiyahu had sung a song of praise, he would have begun the process of reversal. He would have used the ‘shot in the arm’ that he received from the miracle to ascend to the previous stage of singing praise like his predecessor, Yehoshafat.  (This expectation from Hizkiyahu was still on a lower level than the song that Yehoshafat and the Nation of Israel sang. They sang before the miracle took place, with complete trust in G-d that He would save them. In this way, they evoked the miracle from G-d. All that Hizkiyahu had to do was to praise G-d following the miracle).

The process of deterioration to more and more passivity must be stopped and reversed, applying the energy of the miracle that comes on the heels of the passive trust itself for optimism and ascent. Our Sages say that if Hizkiyahu would have sung a song of praise, not only would he have reached the level of Yehoshafat, but he would have become the Mashiach – greater even than King David. Mashiach, on both a general and personal level, feels the experience of powerful Divine Providence throughout the process of deterioration and powerlessness of the world and the individual – and harnesses it to become energized with active confidence in G-d.

The Mashiach is the individual who can extract all the potential from the deterioration process and reverse it to a great ascent. When he does that, G-d makes him Mashiach, and the world reaches its ultimate purpose.

On a personal level, we can use the Messianic power within us to do the same.






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