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Bitachon During Crisis – Hope Amid Crisis

As told to Barbara Bensoussan

During these times of crisis, we need to strengthen our emunah and bitachon more than ever. The benefits of doing so extend well beyond the usual sense of feeling secure in the knowledge that Hashem is running the world for our benefit.  

We read in Tehillim (32:10), “Haboteach BaHashem, chesed yesovevenu—One who trusts in Hashem will be surrounded by kindness.” Rabbeinu Bachya interprets this to mean that one of the benefits of bitachon is that a person who possesses it will be surrounded by chesed, because his deep faith naturally attracts it. The Chafetz Chaim, however, sees this pasuk as a directive: If you want to strengthen your bitachon, you have to surround yourself with kindness, meaning that you have to actively look for Hashem’s chasadim around you in this world even when things are hard. While we’re going through difficult times, we have to bear in mind that Hashem has something good in store at the end of the process and that our suffering has a purpose.

The Chafetz Chaim offers the analogy of a sick person who needs medicine or surgery. Surgery is painful, and medicine is often literally a bitter pill to swallow, but we endure it because we know the suffering is in the service of a good outcome. When you focus your mind on Hashem’s chasadim in the midst of pain, the Chafetz Chaim says, it’s as if you take the bitter pill and turn it into a capsule, coating the medication and protecting you from its bitterness.

Some of my students are mothers with sons serving in Gaza and the North, which is emotionally very trying. But they work on being ba’alei bitachon and keeping in mind that Hashem has something good in store at the end. Together we try to look at Hashem’s chasadim, the good things we have in our lives despite the challenges: the amazing stories of hashgachah pratis, the beautiful achdus that has been generated, a breathtaking sunset—anything that brings perspective and balances out the pain.

To stay positive, I’m careful about the sources I look at for news. I try to look only at psychologically clean news, through outlets that have a good perspective. There are apps reviewed by professionals to ensure they aren’t overwhelming or pessimistic and don’t include sensationalism or graphic detail. Many of my students signed up for “good news only” chats.

We all want to be nosei be’ol, to share in the suffering of our fellow Jews. But the way we go about it has to work for each person individually. Some people will look at war pictures because they want to share the pain other Jews are feeling. They’re like Moshe Rabbeinu, who used his eyes to see and his heart to feel the suffering of Klal Yisrael. He would lift bricks with them, and eventually killed an overseer who abused a Jew. 

While we’re going through difficult times, we have to bear in mind that Hashem has something good in store at the end of the process.

For other people, seeing pictures of the war’s brutality is so overwhelming that their emotional health suffers and they feel like they can’t get out of bed. These people may do better sharing the suffering through some type of physical expression or tangible reminder, like not shopping for luxury items; aveilus often manifests by refraining from certain activities, like during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days.

You always have to balance nosei be’ol with emotional resilience. Since this is an ongoing situation, you have to keep taking your psychological temperature to make sure whatever approach you’re taking allows you to remain emotionally intact. 

Nosei be’ol can also be proactive. While some people may stop eating out in restaurants as a sign of solidarity, others will look around at displaced people who need food and will organize a meal train. This is a win-win. It raises spirits, releases endorphins and gives them a way to contribute to the war effort. At the same time, their fellow Jews receive material help and chizuk. This is part of the chesed yesovevenu, the chesed surrounding the ba’al bitachon, that Tehillim 32:10 refers to. When you see material and spiritual help coming to Israel from both inside the country and all over the world, the bitter pill takes on a coating that makes it easier to swallow.

Not everybody is built to be an organizer, an ish tzibbur. But there are also many people doing quiet private acts within the reach of their abilities and talents: the student who learns extra hours in the beis midrash with the protection of a soldier in mind, or the young adult who recites an extra chapter of Tehillim. On the home front, it’s important for all of us to be soldiers by doing our utmost to create and maintain shalom within our families, even when it takes an extra measure of selflessness or courage. According to the Netziv, there’s a difference between being in a difficult situation because of a natural disaster—like an earthquake or hurricane—and being in a difficult situation because of a human tormentor. When the source of the trouble is a human tormentor, he says, we need to invest extra effort in improving our behavior bein adam lachaveiro. 

Our enemy is waging a psychological war as well as a physical war. For every person who is killed, they hope to kill the spirit of his loved ones and his nation. That gives them a second victory. We have to show them we are a strong nation, as we read in Tehillim (20:9), “They dropped to their knees and fell, but we arose and encouraged each other.” Look at the way our chayalim encourage each other, the way they sing and bond. We must stay strong! We must hug our loved ones, create new relationships and remember to keep the atmosphere in our homes positive. I find it helpful to have a mantra that I repeat daily to anchor me. Mine is “Haboteach BaHashem, chesed yesovevenu.” Each person has to find the right path to support his fellow Jews and share their pain, while retaining the awareness that Hashem has a good plan in mind for us. Keep your eye on His chasadim, and pay them forward as best you can.


Rebbetzin Dina Schoonmaker has been teaching in Michlalah Jerusalem College for over thirty years. She founded the women’s vaad workshop for personal development for women in Israel and worldwide.

Barbara Bensoussan is a frequent contributor to Jewish Action.


More in this Section

The Tenacity of Our Nation by Michal Horowitz

How to Build Hope by Rabbi Larry Rothwachs

The Psychology of Hope by Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox

Not for Naught by Rabbi Dov Foxbrunner

Responding to Crisis: A Historical Approach by Dr. Henry Abramson

Celebrating Life in the Face of Pain: One Son Married, One Son Missing by Toby Klein Greenwald

Of Faith and Fortitude: How Devorah Paley Energized a Nation by Yocheved Lavon

A Laughing Matter by Carol Green Unger

This article was featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
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