By Rivki Silver
A few years ago, one of my children was really struggling. Every day was an exhausting battle. We were running from appointment to appointment. I was taking any and every parenting class that seemed even remotely relevant. We were working with his teachers, with the administration of the school, and nothing seemed to help. Nothing was going according to plan. I felt such despair about this child’s future.
When faced with a challenge, I find comfort in feeling like I have some control in the matter. I will do my research, read up on the subject, ask around for what other people did in similar situations, and after all that, I’ll choose what I think is the best course of action.
Yes, I know that this control is an illusion and that only Hashem is in control. I also know that I’m not the only person who feels safer when I feel like I’m doing all I can to manage my life in all its intricacies.
There’s nothing wrong with doing a reasonable amount of hishtadlus, but there is definitely a problem with thinking that if I just plan well enough, I can control the outcome.
When we have rigid plans or expectations for our lives, there’s a certain tightness, anxiety, and pressure that comes with it, as well as an underlying feeling of “if it doesn’t go the way I want at the time that I want, it’s a disaster, or I’m a failure.”
In a recent Meaningful Minute clip, Gedale Fenster shared a phenomenon he’s seen with the singles who come to him with questions like ‘Well, how can I get married at 35?” His advice to them is to remove the pressurizing limitations of time and space and to work on cultivating a mindset of abundance. People who shift to a mindset of abundance have completely different results than those struggling with the anxiety that comes with the pressure of time and societal limitations.
This phenomenon is not limited to people waiting for their zivug. It is applicable to any situation in life where we feel a pressure for something to happen now, on our terms. A spouse getting that perfect job, a child getting into a certain yeshiva, finding a house in the right neighborhood (at the right price). Anything.
The first time I heard this concept, the power of shifting our mindset, opening up to abundance, working on our bitachon and seeing results, I was, to put it mildly, extremely skeptical. It felt unrealistic, cruel even, to suggest that my mindset was responsible for limiting my own outcomes.
But this is hardly a new concept. The Chovos HaLevavos teaches that in order to be a true eved Hashem, one must have complete bitachon in Hashem, and nothing or no one else. Not a boss, not money, not oneself (no matter how capable we might be). Rabbeinu Bachya continues that when we place our trust in something other than Hashem, Hashem diminishes His hashgacha in our lives, placing us in the hands of whoever or whatever we’re trusting in.
So yeah, our mindset and bitachon make a difference.
At the same time, especially when we’re faced with a painful challenge, it can be so hard to imagine things changing. It can seem so unlikely, and feel so vulnerable to ask Hashem for what we truly want. We know that Hashem doesn’t always say yes to our requests, and it can feel safer to just not ask and hope so much. We forget that when Hashem says no, it’s because He has something better in mind. We are limited in imagining our best possible outcomes. We don’t dream big enough.
Tu B’Av is a day where throughout Jewish history there were many reversals of fortune. It’s the day that the generation in the desert stopped dying and were finally ready to enter Eretz Yisrael. It’s the day that the roads to Yerushalayim were opened by Hoshea and people were once again able to travel to the Beis HaMikdash. And, perhaps most famously, it’s the day that single women would put on their white dresses to go out and dance in the vineyards and young men would come and look for a spouse.
Coming on the heels of Tisha B’Av, the joy of Tu B’Av can get lost in the shuffle. But its message of holding onto hope, of imagining the impossible and of the simcha of celebrating a change in circumstance, is something we can all take strength from.
And that child that I was so worried about? I can’t say I don’t still worry (what mother doesn’t?), but I’ve seen how parenting from a place of bitachon instead of a place of fear has made all the difference, and I’ve experienced the wonder of seeing a trajectory change.
Rivki Silver is co-host of the Deep Meaningful Conversations podcast, a Meaningful Minute Podcast. She is a regular contributor to Family First Magazine and also plays music for all the local day schools in Cleveland, where she lives with her family.