Duties of the Heart, Fourth Treatise on Trust, Chapter 3

Written by Bachya ibn Pekuda

The introductions which must be clearly understood and the truth of which must be realized in order that a person’s trust in G-d will be complete are five.

To believe and clearly understand that all of the seven factors (in the previous chapter) which when combined make it possible to trust in someone apply to G-d. And I have already mentioned them and commented on them from verses that occurred to me:

One: the Creator is merciful on a man more than any other merciful being, and all mercy and compassion that a man is shown from anyone besides G-d is really derived from G-d’s mercy and compassion, as the verse says “He will give you compassion, and cause others to have compassion on you and multiply you” (Devarim 13:18).

Two: none of the ways which benefit a man are unknown to the Creator. Logic necessitates this, since man is one of His handiworks. No one can know better than man’s Maker the ways to further his making (i.e. biological conception in the womb – PL), and the ways of loss (where no conception will occur and the drop of semen will be lost – PL), and the possible damages which can occur (in the development of the embryo in the womb during the time of pregnancy – PL), and the ways it (the born child during his growth and development – PL) can become sick and healed.

And this is also true for human makers (who know best what damages or benefits their inventions), although they do not really create anything new, but rather merely make a new form from existing raw materials, since to create a new form from nothing is impossible to man.

And all the more so, He who has called into existence from nothing the basic elements of man, his form, his anatomy, and the order of his synthesis (of body and soul – PL). Obviously, He is the wise One who undoubtedly knows which matters benefit or harm man in this world and in the next, as written “I am the L-rd your G-d who teaches you for your benefit, who guides you in the proper path” (Isaiah 48:17), and also “G-d rebukes the ones He loves (to turn them to the proper path – TL), and like a father to a son He desires in” (Mishlei 3:12).

Three: the Creator is the strongest of all the strong. His word reigns supreme and nothing can reverse His decree, as written “Whatever G-d wants, He does” (Tehilim 135:6), and “so shall be My word that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, unless it has done what I desire” (Yeshaya 55:11).

Four: He watches over and directs the lives of all men, He does not abandon any of them (from bestowing good or benefiting them according to their needs – PL) nor neglects any of them (from saving them from damages – PL). None of their matters, small or great are hidden from Him, and no matter can distract Him from remembering another matter, as written: “Why should you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way has been hidden from the L-ord, and my judgment (i.e. my providence – TL) is passed over from my G-d’?” (Yeshaya 40:27), and “Do you not know-if you have not heard-an everlasting G-d is the L-ord, the Creator of the ends of the world; He neither tires nor wearies; there is no fathoming His understanding (i.e. on His providence of all the creations simultaneously – TL)” (Yeshaya 40:28)….)

Five: No created being can benefit or harm either itself or any other creature without the permission of the Creator.

If a slave has more than one master, and each one has the power to help him, it is not possible for him to put his trust in only one of them, since he hopes to benefit from each master. And if one master can benefit him more than the others, he should trust proportionally more in him, even though he also trusts in the others. And if only one of the masters can benefit him or harm him, certainly he should put his trust only on that master, since he does not hope for benefit from the other masters. Similarly, when a human being will realize that no created being can benefit him or harm him without the permission of the Creator, he will stop being afraid of them or of hoping for anything from them, and he will place his trust in the Creator alone, as written “Put not your trust in princes, nor in mortal man who has no help” (Tehilim 146:3).

Six: That one is conscious of G-d’s abundant goodness to man, and how He brought him into existence out of abundant and pure benevolence and kindness, without man being worthy of this, nor because G-d has any need for him, but only out of generosity, benevolence, and goodness, as we explained in the Gate of Examination of this book, and like King David said “Many, O L-ord my G-d, are Your wonderful works which You have done, and Your thoughts which are toward us: they cannot be reckoned up in order to You; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Tehilim 40:5).

Seven: That one clearly realizes that all existing things in this world, whether purposeful or accidental have predetermined limits which cannot be increased or decreased from what the Creator has decreed, whether in amount, quality, time, or place. It cannot be numerous if the Creator decreed it few, nor few if the Creator decreed it numerous, nor come late if decreed to come early, nor come early if decreed to come late. And if something appears to be contrary to this, really, it was already pre-decreed with foresight, only that all decrees [are implemented through] causes and means, which in turn have causes and means.

One who does not understand the matters of this world thinks that an immediate cause will force a change in matters, which in turn cause more changes (that present events constantly reshape the future). But really, a single cause is too weak to force a change by itself, as we see one grain of wheat can cause 300 ears of wheat to grow, which each contain 30 grains, so one grain would have produced around ten thousand grains. Can one hide the fact that one grain by itself is incapable of producing this amount? And likewise for other grains that one plants, and likewise we can say for a man or an animal from a drop of semen, or a huge fish from a tiny egg.
To busy oneself in trying to bring early what the Creator decreed would come later, or to try to delay what was decreed to come early, or to try to make numerous what was decreed to be few or to try to diminish what was decreed to be numerous in worldly possessions, unless it causes strengthening of His service or accepting His torah, – all this is due to (1) weakness in the recognition of G-d’s all-knowing understanding (of us and our needs – PL), and (2) foolishness in failing to understand the benevolent character of G-d’s conducts.

The wise man has already hinted this when he said: “everything has a time and moment under the heaven” (Koheles 3:1), and afterwards he mentions 28 matters (corresponding to the 28 lunar positions which alludes to astrological fate – TL), as he says “a time to be born, and a time to die..”, until “a time for war and a time for peace”, and also: “for time and fate will overtake them all” (Koheles 9:11), and then he said: “[If you see oppression of the poor, and deprivation of justice and righteousness in the province], wonder not about the matter, for the Highest over the high watches over them, and there are higher ones over them” (Koheles 5:7). (that really it is not astrological “fate”, but rather G-d is guiding everything behind the scenes through chains of causes according to His desire and decrees – TL)

The ways of judgments of the Creator are too deep, hidden and lofty for us to understand part of them, and all the more so to understand their general principles. And the verse already says: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts [higher] than your thoughts” (Yeshaya 55:9).

(2) To know and clearly realize that the Creator is watching him, and neither one’s private or public conduct is hidden from Him, nor his innermost being or outer appearance. He also knows whether a man’s trust in Him is with a sincere heart or not, as the verse says “G-d knows the thoughts of the heart, that they are vain” (Tehilim 94:11) and “Does not He that tests the heart understand it?” (Mishlei 24:12), and “You alone know the hearts of all men” (Melachim I 8:39).

When this is clearly realized by the one who trusts, it is not proper for him to claim with his lips that he trusts in G-d (in the daily prayers in many places – ML), without trusting in Him in his heart and thoughts, whereby he would be in the category of he of whom the verse says “with their mouths and their lips they honor Me, but their hearts are far from Me” (Yeshaya 29:13).

(3) That a person trusts in G-d alone for the things he is obligated to trust in (the things that one should not trust in G-d will be explained later), and not to associate Him with anyone else by trusting in Him and one of the created beings because then his trust in G-d will be invalidated in that he associated someone else with G-d. You know what was said about Asa, despite all of his piety, when he relied on the doctors, as written “during his illness, he did not seek help from G-d, but only in the doctors” (Divrei HaYamim II 16:12) (i.e. he did not also pray ), and he was punished for this. And the verse says “Blessed is the man who trusts in the L-ord; the L-ord shall be his refuge” (Yirmiya 17:7).

And it is known that one who entrusts two or more men to do a task, the matter spoils. All the more so, for one who trusts in G-d and man, that his trust in G-d will be ruined (since he equated G-d with a created being, which is a great demeaning of G-d’s greatness – TL).

Furthermore, this will be the strongest factor for denying him the object of his trust, as written “cursed is the man who trusts in men,.. and turns his heart away from G-d” (Yirmiya 17:5).

(4) That one is very careful and makes a great effort to fulfill what the Creator required of him in His service, to do his mitzvot and to guard oneself from what He has forbidden, just like he seeks that the Creator agrees to do with him in that which he trusts Him, as our sages said “make His will your will so that He will make your will His will, nullify your will to His will so that He will nullify the will of others to your will” (Avot 2:4).

And the verse says “Trust in the L-ord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed” (Tehilim 37:3), and “G-d is good to those who hope in Him, to one who seeks Him” (Eicha 3:25).

But, If one trusts in G-d and rebels against Him, how foolish is he, how weak is his intellect and his understanding! For he can see in this world that if an employer appoints a man to do something or refrain from doing something and the man disobeys the instruction, this will be the strongest factor in the employer’s refusing to fulfill his side of the deal. All the more so, for one who disobeys the commandments of G-d, for which G-d Himself testified that one who trusts in Him and disobeys Him will have his hopes foiled and his trust will be considered hypocritical. Rather, he will be like that of who it is written “For what is the hope of the flatterer who deceives, when G-d casts off his soul? Will G-d hear his cry when trouble comes on him?” (Iyov 27:8-9), and “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, offer up to idols, and follow other gods that you know not. And will you come and stand before Me in this house, upon which My name is called, and say, ‘We are saved,’ in order to commit all these abominations? Has this house upon which My name is called, become a den of thieves in your eyes? I, too, behold I have seen it, says the L-ord.” (Yirmiyahu 7:9-11).

(5) A person should realize that every new thing that happens in this world after Genesis is completed in two ways:

First: By G-d’s decree and His will that the matter should come into existence.

Secondly: Through intermediate causes and means – some near, some remote, some apparent, some hidden, all of which rush to bring into existence what was decreed, doing so with G-d’s help.

An illustration of the causes: Consider the act of drawing up water from the depths of the earth using a wheel system to which buckets are attached and which raises the water from the well. The buckets are the near cause. The remote cause is the man who harnessed an animal to the wheel and compels the animal to move in order to raise the water from the bottom of the well to the surface of the earth.

The intermediate means between the man and the buckets are: the animal, the mechanical contraption of interconnected wheels/gears which turn each other in series, and the rope. If a mishap were to occur to any one of the causes mentioned (i.e. the intermediate means or the close cause – TL), the intended purpose for which they were designed would not be accomplished.

And so it is for other things which come to existence. They cannot be produced by a man or anyone else, but rather, through the decree of G-d, and His preparing all the means through which the thing will be produced, as written “And by Him, causes are counted” (Shmuel I 2:3), and “Who is great in counsel and mighty in carrying it out” (Yirmiyahu 32:19), and “it was a cause from G-d” (Melachim I 12:15). And if the means are blocked, none of the actions which normally bring this matter into existence will succeed.

When we examine the need for a man to pursue means and exert himself to complete his needs, we can see with our own eyes that for one who needs food and proper food is served before him, if he does not exert himself to eat it by lifting the food to his mouth, chewing it, etc., he will not break his hunger. Likewise for someone thirsty, who needs water. And all the more so, if he has no food prepared, until he needs to exert himself through milling flour, kneading, baking, etc . And more so, if he needs to buy the food and prepare it. And even more still, if he has no money to buy them and will need even greater exertion to pursue means to earn the money or to sell the amount he needs from the objects he uses or his other possessions, or the like. There are two reasons why the Creator obligated a man to pursue means and exert himself for his livelihood and other needs.

(1) Divine wisdom required the testing of man in the service of G-d or rebellion against Him. Therefore, G-d tests man with what demonstrates his choice in this – needs and lacking for external things such as food, drink, clothing, shelter, and sexual relations. G-d commanded man to pursue and attain them through the available means in specific ways (according to the torah – ML) and at specific times.

What G-d has decreed that man will attain of them, man will attain fully after the completion of the prepared means.

That which has not been decreed that he will attain – he will not attain, and the necessary means will be withheld.

Through this process, his free choice of whether he served G-d or rebelled against Him will be demonstrated through his intention and choice, and the man will then deserve either reward or punishment, regardless whether or not he actually achieved his intentions.

(2) Secondly, if a man were not forced to exert himself in seeking a livelihood, he would kick (become defiant) and chase after sin, and he would ignore his debt of gratitude to G-d for His goodness to him. As written: “And the harp, and the lyre, the timbrel, and flute, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the L-ord, neither consider the work of His hands” (Yeshaya 5:12), and “But Yeshurun grew fat, and kicked: you are grown fat, you are grown thick, you are covered with fatness; then he forsook G-d who made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Devarim 32:15). And the sages said “it is good the study of torah with working for a livelihood because the toil in both removes thoughts of sin, and all torah study without work will in the end be abandoned and bring to sin” (Avot 2:2). And all the more so for one who has no share in either torah or work, nor directs his attention to any of these pursuits.

It was out of compassion for man that G-d has compelled him to be occupied with matters of this world and the next for all of his days, and so that he does not seek that which he does not need and which he cannot understand with his limited intellect, such as matters of what was before the creation and of the final end (since these things do not further his perfection and on the contrary – they damage him – PL), as the wise man said “also the [toil of] the world He has set into their hearts, so that man should not seek the deed which G-d did, from beginning to end.” (Koheles 3:11).

If a man strengthens himself in the service of G-d, resolves to fear Him, trusts in Him for his religious and secular matters, steers away from reprehensible things (such as anger or arrogance – PL), strives for the good midot (character traits), does not rebel in prosperity nor turn towards leisure, is not enticed by the evil inclination, nor seduced by the witchery of this world – the burden of exerting himself in the means to a livelihood will be removed from him, since the two reasons mentioned above no longer apply to him, namely, to test him on his choice and to protect him from rebelling during prosperity. His livelihood will come to him without strain (of the heart – PL) or toil (of the limbs – PL), according to his needs, as written “G-d will not bring hunger to the righteous” (Mishlei 10:3).

If one asks: Behold we see some tzadikim (very righteous people) which do not receive their livelihood except after hard and strenuous toil, while many transgressors are at ease, living a good, pleasant life?
We will say: The prophets and the chasidim (extremely pious) already investigated this matter. One of them said “[Righteous are you, O L-rd, when I plead with You: yet let me talk with You of your judgments:] Why does the way of the wicked prosper? why are all they happy that deal very treacherously?” (Yirmiyahu 12:1), and another “Why do You show me iniquity and look upon mischief; and plunder and violence are before me; and the one who bears quarrel and strife endures.” (Chavakuk 1:3), and “for a wicked man surrounds the righteous; therefore, justice emerges perverted.” (Chavakuk 1:4), and “Why should You be silent when a wicked man swallows up one more righteous than he?” (Chavakuk 1:13), and another one said “Behold these are wicked, yet they are tranquil in the world and have increased wealth.” (Tehilim 73:12), and “But for naught I cleansed my heart and bathed my hands with cleanliness” (Tehilim 73:13), and another said “And now we praise the bold transgressors, those who work wickedness are built up, they tempt G-d, and they have, nevertheless, escaped.” (Malachi 3:15), and many more like this.

But the prophet refrained from giving an answer because each specific case has its own particular reason (there is no general answer which includes everything – TL). Therefore Moshe Rabeinu commented on this in the torah saying (Devarim 29:28) “the hidden things belong to G-d”..and the wise man said in connection to this “If you see the oppression of the poor, and perverting of justice and righteousness in a province, marvel not at the matter” (Koheles 5:7), and the verse says: “the Rock, His deeds are perfect for all His ways are justice” (Devarim 32:4).

Nevertheless, I saw fitting to attempt to clarify this matter that should be to some extent satisfactory (so that it won’t be so difficult – TL).

The possible reasons why a tzadik is prevented from obtaining his livelihood without effort and must instead exert himself for it and be tested by it is as follows.

  1. A previous sin for which it is necessary to pay him for it, as written “the tzadik will pay in the land” (Mishlei 11:31).
  2. In the way of exchanging, to pay him more good in Olam Haba (the afterlife), as written “to benefit you in your end” (Devarim 8:16).
  3. To demonstrate his good bearing and good acceptance of suffering in the service of G-d, so that others will learn from him, as you know from the matter of Iyov.
  4. Due to the wickedness of his generation, G-d tests him with poverty, hardship, or sickness to demonstrate/contrast his piety and service of G-d unlike them, as written “Indeed, he bore our illnesses, and our pains he carried them” (Yeshaya 53:4).
  5. Due to his not being sufficiently zealous in standing up for G-d, and exacting justice (i.e. protesting – TL) from men of his generation, as you know from the story of Eli and his sons, as the verse says “And it will be that everyone who is left in your house, will come to prostrate himself before him for a silver piece and a morsel of bread” (Shmuel 2:36).

Sometimes G-d sends good to the wicked for the following reasons:

  1. A previous good deed he did, to pay him in this world, as written “And He repays those He hates to their face, to destroy them” (Devarim 7:10) which Onkelos renders: “He pays those He hates for their good deeds during their lives to destroy them”.
  2. As a temporary deposit, until G-d gives him a righteous son who is worthy of it, as written “he prepares but the tzadik will wear it” (Iyov 27:17), and “to the sinner He has given a preoccupation to gather and to accumulate, to give to him who is good in G-d’s sight” (Koheles 2:26).
  3. Sometimes the money is the chief cause of his evil (in the next world) or death (in this world), as written “There is a grievous evil that I saw under the sun; riches kept by their owner for his harm.” (Koheles 5:12) (such as Korach or Naval – PL).
  4. Sometimes it is to give him time to repent and become worthy of it, as you know of the story of Menashe.
  5. His father did good and it is fitting to benefit him in the merit of his father, as said to Yehu ben Nimshi “four generations of your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel” (Melachim II 10:30), and “He who walks innocently is righteous; fortunate are his sons after him.” (Mishlei 20:7), and “I was young, and have aged, and I have not seen a righteous man forsaken nor his descendants begging bread.” (Tehilim 37:25).
  6. Sometimes it is to test those who are deceptive or have an evil interior. When they see the wicked prosper, they quickly stray from the service of G-d and hasten to win the favor of the wicked and to learn from their actions. In this way it will be clarified the pure men to G-d and it will be demonstrated who was faithful to G-d in bearing at a time when the wicked rule and persecute him. He will receive reward from the Creator for this, as you know of the story of Eliyahu and Isabel or Yirmiyahu and the kings of his generation.

Since it has been clarified the obligation for a man to pursue the means for a livelihood, now we will clarify that not every man is required to pursue every possible means. The possible means are numerous.

Some occupations are easy, requiring little strain such as shop keeping or light work with the hands such as sewing, writing, contracting businesses, hiring sharecroppers or workers, supervisors.

Some occupations require hard physical labor such as tanning, mining iron or copper, smelting metals, heavy transport, constant travel to faraway places, working and plowing land, or the like,
For one who is physically strong and intellectually weak, it is fitting to choose an occupation among those that require physical exertion according to what he can bear.

He who is physically weak but intellectually strong should not seek among those which tire the body but should instead tend towards those who are light on the body and that he will be able to sustain .

Every man has a preference for a particular work or business over others. G-d has already implanted in his nature a love and fondness for it, as He implanted in a cat’s nature the hunting of mice, or the falcon to hunt smaller birds, the deer to trap snakes. Some birds hunt only fish, and likewise, each animal species has a liking and desire for particular plants or animals, which G-d has implanted to be the means for its sustenance, and the structure of its body and limbs is suited for that thing. The long bill and legs of a fish catching bird, or the strong teeth and claws of the lion, horns of the ox and ram (i.e. for defense – TL), while animals whose sustenance is from plants do not have the tools to hunt and kill.

Similarly you will find among human beings character traits and body structures suited for certain businesses or activity. One who finds his nature and personality attracted to a certain occupation, and his body is suited for it, that he will be able to bear its demands – he should pursue it, and make it his means of earning a livelihood, and he should bear its pleasures and pains, and not be upset when sometimes his income is withheld, rather let him trust in G-d that He will support him all of his days. And he should have intention when his mind and body is occupied with one of the means of earning a living to fulfill the commandment of the Creator to pursue the means of the world, such as working the land, plowing and sowing it, as written “And G-d took the man and placed him in Gan Eden to work it and to guard it” (Bereishis 2:15), and also to use other living creatures for his benefit and sustenance, and for building cities and preparing food, and to marry a woman and have relations to populate the world.

He will be rewarded for his intentions in heart and mind to serve G-d whether or not his desire is accomplished, as written “If you eat from the toil of your hands, you are praiseworthy, and it is good for you” (Tehilim 128:2), and our sages of blessed memory said “Let all your actions be for the sake of Heaven (to serve G-d)” (Avot 2:12).

In this way, his trust in G-d will be intact, undamaged by the toiling in the means to earn a livelihood, as long as his intention in heart and mind is for the sake of Heaven (to do the will of G-d that the world be populated and built up).

One should not think that his livelihood depends on a particular means and that if these means fail, his livelihood will not come from a different means. Rather, trust in the Al-mighty, and know that all means are equal for Him. He can provide using whatever means and at any time and however He so wishes, as written “for with the L-ord there is no limitation to save with many or with few” (Shmuel I 14:6), and “But you must remember the L-ord your G-d, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth, in order to establish His covenant which He swore to your forefathers, as it is this day.” (Devarim 8:18), and “Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit, says the L-ord of Hosts.” (Zecharia 4:6).