It’s a matter of Trust!

20 Iyar 5782    

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Our Rabbi Netanel, Ranebi repeated that the Torah is not chronological, it’s not historical although our history is within its pages. He reminded us that when we read it, to look at it as a mosaic. When we get too close to a mosaic, we lose the whole picture. We may think, who are we to read the Torah without looking at it through the years of study of our sages and theologians but remember who our Creator chooses, the simplest people, the humblest.  This beautiful portion speaks of many things such as the Shabbat year of the land, the Yovel or jubilee, the sounding of the shofar, redemption, how to treat our fellow man and how to live securely in the land. What is the common denominator of all this so that we can see it as the beautiful mosaic that it is without getting lost in the details?

Rav Shaul told us in the book of Ephesians that faith (emunah – אמונה) is a gift from God so that no one can boast.  So that means that we all have faith, but it depends upon whom and what we place that faith that leads to life. The difficult part on our journey throughout this life is turning that faith into trust (bitachon – בטחון).  That is exactly what the Shnat Shmita, the Sabbatical year for the land in Parashat Behar is all about. This would be one of the many opportunities for our people to learn to trust our God. We were to allow the land to lie fallow for one full year every seven years. Was it simply to replenish the minerals in the land so that our food would be healthier?  But couldn’t that have been accomplished by simple crop rotation. So, what is God teaching us here?

During that 7th year, we were not to harvest the produce of the land, but we had to let the land have its solemn rest; then in the 8th year, we could plant again but that meant that we would have to wait another year without fresh produce.  What would we eat?  How would we sustain ourselves? Lev. 25:20 tells us the answer: “And if you shall say: ‘What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we may not sow, nor gather in our increase’; 21 then I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth produce for three years.” The Creator promised to sustain us and to provide for us during those three years and all we needed to do was to trust Him. Over the years, the rabbis have come up with their own ways of solving this issue which didn’t include trusting their Creator; rather the Jews could sell the land for that year of Shmittah to a gentile who would then sell it back to them. They do the same thing with the food containing chametz at Pesach. Who do they think they are fooling?

Also in the 7th year, whatever grew naturally would be food for us, for our servants, for our neighbors, the visitors and for the animals living in the area.  This would teach us to share and to consider the welfare of others.

What are the consequences of not trusting the Bore Olam? We all know the story of Nebuchnezzar, King of Babylon who took Israel into captivity for 70 years because we had disobeyed the Shmita for 490 years. His land finally got its rest. It’s important to know that the land does not belong to us; it belongs to God; we are simply its caretakers as Adam was in the garden and we are of this planet. It’s not difficult to see the consequence for our disobedience.

It’s also a picture that nothing truly belongs to us. The word Shmita means “to let go” or “to release”. We don’t own anything; even our children don’t belong to us; they belong to the Creator. Our property is His and He can take it at any time. He is the one who blesses and sustains us. If we think that we own everything that we earn, we are slowly displacing our Creator and enthroning ourselves in His stead.  I remember Ranebi often telling people, including me and Miriam, “let it go”. It’s not easy to let go but it is important because it demonstrates the level at which we trust Him.  

The stories in the Torah show us that when the Bore Olam promises to do something, we can be assured that He will do it.  So why then do we doubt Him?  I think it is simply because we are human. We can’t understand the concept of being eternal, and we think that our Creator is just like us because we have made God to be in our own image. We can’t even trust our own motives, our own heart, so how can we trust Him? There is a saying that every thief thinks that everyone else is a thief. 

But…there is hope. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” The verse continues “I, the LORD search the heart, I test the inward parts to give every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his actions.” Our Creator breathed His Divine spark into us at conception when within our soul, He placed a small mustard seed of faith.  Rabbi Yeshua told us that “if only you have the faith of a mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains.”  He was saying that if you really trust God, then everything is possible. If a small seed can produce so much, imagine what we can accomplish when we really trust Him! 

Our Creator wants more from us than simply saying that we believe, or that we have faith in Him; He wants us to grow by developing bitachon, trust. How do we put faith into action and turn it into trust? What does that look like on a daily basis? First, we study and learn the principles that He gave us in the Torah which help us to choose life. Then we humble ourselves and muster the courage to face life’s daily dilemma’s knowing that we have a great partner with whom we are in relationship, our Father in heaven.  He is not someone who is far off and distant like a super-hero who shows up whenever we need him but then disappears until the next time, we call on him, like a genie in a bottle. That is not having a relationship with our Creator. Through everyday seemingly ordinary situations, our Creator is helping us to develop trust in Him because that is the essence of a good relationship. When one spouse is unfaithful to the other, trust is lost, and the relationship is broken. Trust can only be developed over time by watching what a person does; do they keep their word? do they show up when they said they would? are they with us through good and bad times? Our God does all those things. 

I have had so many conversations this past week where I said, “it’s all a matter of trust.”  That’s our daily challenge. Here’s just one thing that happened: Our Creator told us to love our neighbor as ourselves so if we want the best for ourselves, we also need to want the best for our neighbor. That’s not always easy to do. Someone told me about another person who I know is going through a really rough time both emotionally and it’s causing him physical problems. I’ve heard this over and over, but he had hurt me badly in the past, but I thought that I had dealt with it, that I had “let it go”, but there are many layers to letting go and I was so tired that I just blurted out; “I don’t care. I don’t want to hear about it”. Immediately, my words resounded in my head, and I was convicted… that is not loving my neighbor and not an example of right behavior. The next morning, I took a step of faith and called him. I asked how he was, and I knew that it was genuine because God had touched my heart. We had a long conversation, and I was able to give him some hope. The interesting thing is that he said that he believes in God, and that often after he prays, he sees answers to his prayers, but he hadn’t quite put these two ideas together in a way that he could say, yes, I trust God because he helped me in the past.  How many of us do the same thing?

I love the fact that our first High Priest, our Cohen Hagadol, Aaron failed so dismally and yet he was able to continue in his calling.  That gives you and I permission to fail and shows us that our God is not looking for perfection. He is the God of beginning again, so that when we fail and fail, we will, we can pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and can start again! It takes time to heal and to change our paradigms; and that’s done when we don’t give up, when don’t run away but face each challenge as it comes, when we stop and rejoice over our small victories and especially when we give thanks to God for His faithfulness. We can also thank ourselves because we mustered the courage to take one small steps of faith that lead us to trustProverbs 3: 5-6 says: Trust in the LORD with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will direct your paths.” 

Shabbat Shalom

Peggy Pardo