Friday, February 20, 2009

Bitachon in the Face of Layoffs

Although I think we all know the answer, some people are wondering how a Jew should respond to all of the economic and job uncertainty that exists right now. For instance, a friend of mine just had almost 70 staff people laid off at his firm yesterday, one of them being his secretary. The future of associates like him at his firm is uncertain. The firm I will be doing a summer associateship at this summer, IY"H, just laid off about 40 attorneys/staff on Wednesday. One hiring partner at a "Biglaw" firm is suggesting that summer associates and incoming first year associates should realistically worry that their "offer" may be withdrawn. The Federal Reserve is predicting that the economy will continue shrinking and that unemployment could go as high at 8.8% this year. So what's a Yid to do?

I think we all already know the answer. Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, in the last chapter of the first section of Vol. 5 defines Emunah and Bitachon. He defines Emunah as being fully conscious of the fact that Hashem directs every detail of every level of creation from human beings down to inanimate objects. But he defines Bitachon as trusting that Hashem is literally and constantly concerned about seeing that every detail of creation is run in the absolute best possible way for me.

He points out that one can only achieve this level of Bitachon (trust) after he has internalized the fact that Hashem has an absolute and unabiding love for him. Because even if I believe and know that Hashem runs the world, that doesn't necessarily mean that I trust Hashem to know what's best. Because sometimes I feel that He needs a little of my help to know what is best for me. (ChV"Sh.)

But I would point out, as Rav Shwartz has said in earlier volumes of Bilvavi, that it is kind of difficult to begin working on trusting G-d to do what's best for me when one is frantically sending out resumes, looking for a job. The best time to work on developing the consciousness of Hashem's love, and the absolute knowledge that He runs everything in the best possible way for me is before times get "bad."

So especially for the 92.5% of us who currently have jobs, the best time to work on acquiring trust in G-d is now. And that is best achieved using the step-by-step methods laid out in the Bilvavi seforim, some of which I tried to summarize here.

One other machshava that I can think of that would be helpful for someone who has lost his or her job would be to contemplate the fact that sometimes Hashem (again, knowing what is ultimately good for us) destroys the "good" things that someone has, so that he will have to build something better in its place, which he would not have done, but for the loss. This is the idea of the Shabbos melacha of "destroying in order to build" and the inyan of "descending in order to rise," which I wrote about here.

Hashem should be mezakeh us with the internal strength to acquire Emunah and Bitachon in Him!

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Akiva Ben Canaan said...

Beautiful words - thanks!

micha berger said...

Machashavah is knowledge about G-d (concepts), emunah is knowledge of G-d (similar to the the way I know my parents), bitachon is the resulting attitude toward life caused by emunah.

Emunah is birkhas ge'ulah (the last berakhah after Shema, about yetzi'as Mitzrayim), bitachon motivates the requests in Shemoneh Esrei. Because one fuels the other, we are not to pause between ge'ulah and tefillah.


Anonymous said...

Very nice post DY. With trials such as these being on a "macro" level, I am wondering what the appropriate response should be on a "micro" (individual) level, assuming bitachon. For example, if one's industry (law, finance, etc.) is contracting and one is displaced, this is an opportunity (mandate?) for cheshbon nefesh! And, in light of the depth, breadth and dynamic nature of the operating factors, does one strive to continue in the same industry or is he to consider this as a redirection to another field of endeavor? What is HKBH is telling us?

Shabbat shalom,

Alice said...

Excellent post. It takes a lot of courage to face these things when you are supporting a family, especially if there is only one bread winner. This advice, and in the links you connect to, is as good as it gets in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Reb Dixie Yid! Well said!