Emunah and Bitachon

I recently guest posted on DovBear on the subject of choosing to be a religious single mother, and another guest poster called one of my sentences into question. Here is the original article , and this link is to the question.  Below also the text that is being debated.

I also wondered, where is this woman’s emunah, faith, in G-d? Does she not trust that He will send her a husband when He decides it’s the right time? That if G-d decides she should have a child, then He will make it happen the right way?

A discussion ensued into what is emunah, how can we call into question someone else’s emunah. Read the comments on both those posts – it makes for extremely interesting reading.

But here is my confusion. What is the difference between emunah and bitachon? Emunah is always translated as faith or belief in G-d and bitachon as trust in Him. What is the difference? And once you understand the difference how to you explain it to a child? To someone just starting out in Judaism? I very much look forward to your answers.

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  1. Mark says:

    Belief in God is fine and, on balance, a very good thing. However, the kind of emunah that you described in your guest post is not such a good thing. The parable (joke) of Moshe who prays to God every day for 30 years to win the lotto (“.. I’ll give so much tzedaka …”, “… I’ll marry off my daughters …”, “… finally I can make a nice shabbos …”, etc) and after those 30 years, a bat kol from the heavens says “… Moshe, Moshe? …”, and Moshe says “Yes, God.”, and God replies “Moshe, you are a good man and I want to reward you, but at least meet me halfway and buy a lottery ticket.”

    This is a good lesson that we all have to take to heart. Sure praying to Hashem to help us is a good thing, maybe even a great thing, but first and foremost, you have to do the best you can do to help yourself. So a woman that wants to have a child has to have relations as often as possible when permitted, and if after a year no pregnancy ensues, she and her husband have to see appropriate doctors, and then they have to take the appropriate steps advised by those doctors, and if after a few more years no pregnancy ensues, they must take further measures. And all along, they can continue praying, because it helps (even if only in their own psyche).

    And a similar principle goes for the man that prays for a good parnassah. Yes, pray to Hashem, but also go get an education, or start a business, deal honestly and be straight, work hard, give it your best, and you might succeed.

  2. Noah Roth says:

    I think the fundamental question is does Jewish law condone the action.

    As I commented on the post @dovbear, I don’t know what the law would say here, and a competent Orthodox rabbi must be consulted.

    In all cases where Jewish law condones an action, it is not only encouraged but mandated to take actions into your hands- Ein Somchin Al Hanes (we do not rely on miracles).

    Where the law prohibits your desired course of action, then violating a prohibition as a means to your desired end, is not only a prohibition, but a demonstration of a lack of faith that God will provide for one’s needs within the framework of Jewish law.

    This is why Jewish law distinguishes between the robber, who steals publicly and is afraid of neither man Nor God, and the theif, who steals surreptitiously, indicating a fear for man but not God. The thief is considered worse, and punished accordingly.

    It is also why we explain that the sin of “Zadnu” listed in the Viduy on Yom Kippur is particularly heinous. Because in intentionally sinning we have substituted out own wants for subjugation to god’s objective law.

    Ultimately, if a competent Orthodox rabbi were to indicate that this behavior was permitted, it would be inappropriate not to act for external concerns. Alternatively, if it were deemed prohibited, then the sentiment above would accurately reflect one aspect of what would be wrong with this transgression.

  3. Sally says:

    The difference is simple: emunah is the belief tht Hashem is the Creator of the World, while Bitachon is living your life in a way that reflects your emunah for Him…
    How do we reach this level of Bitachon successfully? By constantly doing mitzvot- this helps build our bitachon. Hashem knws whats best for us and what we need so just leave it all to Him- thts true bitachon.
    Bitachon has benefits too- it ultimatly gives you peace of mind bec you’re trusting Hashem with your life. It makes life less stressful, just from the thought of knowing He’ll take care of everything. Of course, we have to do our hishtadlut- as in do the utmost we can for ourselves- what we do is only 10% bec Hashem is changing things all over the world 2 benefit US. He’s in charge of the other 90%. Now that’s a BIG load we don’t havta worry abt…
    Hope this helped! Always remember- “the more dependent you are on Hashem, the more independent you truly are!” :)

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