By Rabbi Yitzchak Breiter
“Trust in God and do good, dwell in the land and feed off faith” ( Psalms 37:3 ).
- God controls everything
Everything in the entire universe is under God’s control. This includes everything that happens to you personally, both spiritually and materially, including what you yourself do, whether deliberately or unwittingly, wilfully or under compulsion: everything is from God. Even when appearances suggest otherwise, the believer pays attention not to the external appearance of this world but to the underlying truth.
Everything we do is ultimately controlled by God, though this is concealed from us by our egos, which make us think we are separate from and independent of God. We were created like this to give us free will. This way we are able to turn to God of our own volition and discover for ourselves that God controls all things, including our own thoughts, feelings and actions.
Even though all things in the spiritual and material realms are in God’s hands, we are not supposed to wait for God to do everything. The universe is so arranged that we have freedom of action in many areas. When we act, whether it be to make a living or to attend to any of our other needs, we must understand that, while it is up to us to take the initiative and act as if everything is in our hands, in fact all things ultimately depend upon God. No matter what we feel we ought to do, whether in our spiritual or material lives, our first step should always be to ask God to guide us and bless our efforts with success.
When things appear to turn out badly for us, we have to accept that this is God’s will and that whatever happens is for the best. Even when things go wrong because of something we ourselves may have thought, said or done, we must accept that this too is from God. Other people are also free agents, yet everything they do is ultimately controlled by God. If someone insults you or in some way harms you, know that this has been sent by God as a way to cleanse your soul. If things go against you, be patient. When you accept everything as God’s will, this causes the veil of concealment to be removed, thus manifesting God’s control over all creation.
Your spiritual growth is also under God’s control. Even if you feel a desire to grow in a specific area, as long as you are not ready to achieve what you want, things will be arranged in such a way as to hold you back – either by external obstacles or through some idea that becomes implanted in your own mind to prevent you from reaching your goal. This does not mean that God is rejecting you. He knows that in the long run this will be the best way to bring you to the ultimate good. The purpose of holding you back is to prompt you to cry out and pray to God to help you rise from your current level and bring you nearer your true goal.
- Revelation and guidance
Since God is everywhere and in all things, everything we experience is actually a communication from God. This includes our inner thoughts and feelings. Even negative thoughts and feelings – heaviness, lack of enthusiasm, depression and the like – are from God. Everything you hear, see, or experience in life, whether from people you know or from complete strangers, is a call to you from God. Even unclear or contradictory messages are sent with a purpose: to give us choice and free will in order to test us. The way to sort out which messages we should follow and which we should ignore is by evaluating everything in the light of Torah teaching.
- The Wise Man-Tzaddik
Faith in God includes faith in the Tzaddikim whom God sends into this world to teach us how to transcend our lowly state and fulfil l our spiritual destiny. Not only must we accept that God gave the Torah to Moses on Sinai; we must also acknowledge that God sends wise men in every age to lift us out of our exile and teach us the true path in life.
Maimonides defines eight levels in giving charity (tzedakah), each one higher than the preceding one.
On an ascending level, they are as follows:
8. When donations are given grudgingly.
7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.
6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.
5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.
4. Donations when the recipient is aware of the donor’s identity, but the donor still doesn’t know the specific identity of the recipient.
3. Donations when the donor is aware to whom the charity is being given, but the recipient is unaware of the source.
2. Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. Communal funds, administered by responsible people are also in this category.
1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.
Ani Maamin – I Believe
Based on the Thirteen Principles of Faith formulated by the Rambam in his Commentary on the Mishnah (tractate Sanhedrin 10:1).
- I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Creator and Guide of all the created beings, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
- I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is One and Alone; that there is no oneness in any way like Him; and that He alone is our G-d – was, is and will be.
- I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is incorporeal; that He is free from all anthropomorphic properties; and that He has no likeness at all.
- I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the first and the last.
- I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the only one to whom it is proper to pray, and that it is inappropriate to pray to anyone else.
- I believe with complete faith that all the words of the Prophets are true.
- I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace unto him, was true; and that he was the father of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him.
- I believe with complete faith that the whole Torah which we now possess was given to Moses, our teacher, peace unto him.
- I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will be no other Torah given by the Creator, blessed be His name.
- I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, knows all the deeds and thoughts of human beings, as it is said, “It is He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who perceives all their actions.” (Psalms 33:15).
- I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, rewards those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who transgress His commandments.
- I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and although he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.
- I believe with complete faith that there will be resurrection of the dead at the time when it will be the will of the Creator, blessed be His name and exalted be His remembrance forever and ever.
The foundation of all foundations [and basic principles of the Torah] and the pillar of all wisdom is to know that there is a First Being Who brings every existing thing into being. All existing things – in heaven, on earth and what is between them – come into being only from His true existence.
If it should enter one’s mind that He does not exist – no other thing could have any existence.
Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah, 1:1-2
The hospital where I work needed a training guide for IT technicians responding to potential ransomware infections. I wrote this as a quick quide for us.
This is a PDF document – available here.