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Thought for the Day: The Trying Experience of Hishtadlus

My grandmother had a rule about waiting at an intersection where you have a stop sign and the cross traffic has no stop sign; after three cars go by, it's your turn.  She felt that was fair.  I believe she also honored that rule when she was in the direction with no stop sign.  None the less, being a passenger in Grandma's car was a harrowing experience.  Moreover, she was never involved in a traffic accident nor even received a moving violation.  You may draw whatever conclusions you wish.

I was reminded of that when my daughter recently raised an interesting issue regarding hishtadlus.  The general lore is that one's level of hishtadlus needs to be matched to one's level of bitachon/emuna.  Two matters need clarification.  First, and suppose it doesn't?  Suppose you think you are on a much higher level of bitachon than you really are.  Does that mean that your lack of hishtadlus will result in a deficiency in parnassa?  Second, you don't live in a vacuum.  Especially a parent has a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.  Do they need to take into account the level of bitchon of all the family members and then come up with some sort of average before setting a level of hishtadlus?

The first rule of hishtadlus is that there is no direct correlation between hishtadlus and success; none.  There is a chiyuv hishtadlus.  There is also a chiyuv to learn torah.  There is a chiyuv to daven.  You are in this world to perfect yourself and HaShem is stacking the deck to make it almost impossible for you to fail.  The goal, however, really is perfection; not a vacation home in the country.  Anyone who has been around babies or even been a baby himself knows that to encourage a baby to walk, sometimes you give him a cookie, sometimes a hug, sometimes you pull the cookie away, sometimes you take a step back.  The "poor" baby thinks he is trying to get that cookie or hug, and your behaviour is frustrating to him.  So frustrating, in fact, that he forces himself to learn to walk as soon as possible.  Which, of course, was the goal all along.

On the second point... you don't live in a vacuum.  I know a generally well meaning fool (that is, generally well meaning, though nearly always a fool) who announced to his family, "This is so cool!  Da'as Torah says I don't have to go to lunch with my coworkers if I learn Torah instead and it will not affect my ability to get promotions!"  The poor fool was frustrated that his family's level of emuna was not where (he thought) his was.  His frustration sometimes turned to anger.  What the poor fool failed to realize was that dealing with his family's frustrations was also part of his hishtadlus.  Either he needed to accept that and act with the same simcha while facing their wrath as he felt in learning Torah instead of going to lunch, or he needed to go back to the rabbi and own up to the fact that he had not presented the whole case before.

Fortunately, the poor fool was (and is) known to be "book smart, but with nary a lick of common sense" even by his family, so everyone came out with understanding that mistake was not in the Da'as Torah, but in the way it was understood.  In fact, despite the frustration on all sides, everyone came out with more emuna than before.  Hey... wait a minute... wasn't that the goal all along?


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