Duties of the Heart, Fourth Treatise on Trust, Introduction

Written by Bachya ibn Pekuda


The author says: Since our previous treatise dealt with the duty to assume the service of G-d, I deemed proper to follow it with what is more necessary than all other things for one who serves G-d – placing one’s trust in Him for all matters, the reason being the great benefits this yields both in religious and in secular matters.

The benefits in religious matters:

Among them, peace of mind, and trusting in G-d as a servant must trust in his master, because if one does not place his trust in G-d, he will place his trust in something else, and whoever trusts in something other than G-d, the Al-mighty will remove His providence from such a person, and leave him in the hands of the one he trusted, and he will be as it was written: “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the spring of living waters, to dig for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water” (Yirmiya 2:13), “They exchanged their Glory for the likeness of an ox eating grass” (Tehilim 106:20),”Blessed is the man who trusts in the L-ord; the L-ord shall be his refuge” (Yirmiya 17:7), “Praiseworthy is the man who made the L-ord his trust, and did not turn to the haughty and those who turn to falsehood.” (Tehilim 40:5), “Cursed is the man who trusts in man, who makes flesh his strength and whose heart turns away from the L-ord” (Yirmiya 17:5).

If he places his trust in his wisdom and tactics, physical strength and industriousness – he will toil for nothing, his strength will weaken, and his tactics will fall short of accomplishing his desire, as written “He traps the wise with their own cunning” (Iyov 5:13) , and “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race does not belong to the swift, nor the war to the mighty; neither do the wise have bread, [nor do the understanding have wealth, nor the knowledgeable, favor for time and chance happens to them all]” (Koheles 9:11), and “Young lions suffer want and are hungry, but those who seek the L-ord lack no good” (Tehilim 34:11).

If he relies on his wealth, it will be removed from him and left to someone else as written “He lies down rich, but there shall be nothing to gather; he opens his eyes, and his wealth is not” (Iyov 27:19), “Do not weary yourself to grow rich; cease from your own understanding.” (Mishlei 23:4), “Should you blink your eyes at it, it is not here; for it will make wings for itself, like the eagle, and it will fly toward the heavens.” (Mishlei 23:5), “so it is he who gathers riches but not by right; he shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end he stands dishonored” (Yirmiya 17:11)

Or, he will be prevented from its benefit as the wise man said “the Al-mighty will not give him the ability to eat from it” (Koheles 6:2), and it will be by him like a deposit that he guards from damages until it reaches someone worthy of it, as written “[For to a man who is good in His sight, He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy,] but to the sinner He has given an occupation to gather and to accumulate, to give to him who is good in G-d’s sight; this too is vanity and frustration.” (Koheles 2:26), and “he will prepare, but a righteous man will wear them; and the pure shall divide the silver” (Iyov 27:17). And it is possible that the money will be the cause of his destruction (in this world) and ultimate downfall (in the afterlife) as written “There is a grievous evil that I saw under the sun; riches kept by their owner for his harm.” (Koheles 5:12).

Another benefit for the one who trusts in the Al-mighty, is that his trust will lead him to the following:

  • to not serve other than G-d
  • to not hope in any man, nor expect from anyone (Micha 5:6).
  • to not work to win their approval.
  • to not flatter them.
  • to not agree with them in what is not the service of G-d (ex. going to their time wasting parties – Pas Lechem)
  • to not be afraid of their matters.
  • to not be afraid of disagreeing with them .
  • to divest himself of the cloak of their favors and free himself from the burden of expressing gratitude to them, and from the obligation of paying back their favors .
  • if he rebukes them, he will not be afraid of slighting them.
  • he will not shy from humiliating them (so that his rebuke is effective – Pas Lechem).
  • he will not embellish their false ways
    As the prophet wrote: “But the L-ord G-d helps me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Yeshaya 50:7), “Do not fear them or their words” (Yechezkel 2:6), “And you, son of man, fear them not, and fear not their words” (Yechezkel 2:6), “fear them not, neither shall you be intimidated by them” (Yechezkel 3:9).
    Another benefit: The trust in G-d will lead one to empty his mind from the distractions of the world, and to focus his heart to matters of service of G-d.
    And he will be similar in his peace of mind, tranquility of heart, and few financial worries to the alchemist, one who knows how to transform silver to gold and copper or tin to silver through skill and procedures.
    And the one who trusts in G-d will have the following 10 advantages over the alchemist:
    (1) The alchemist requires special materials to perform his operation, without which he cannot do anything. These materials are not found at all times and in all places. But for one who trusts in G-d, his sustenance is assured and can come through any means of all the means of the world, as written “[And He fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know]; That He might make known to you that man does not live by bread alone…” (Devarim 8:3). For at no time and in no place are the means of obtaining his livelihood withheld from him, as you know already from the story of Eliyahu and the ravens, or with the widow and the cakes and water (Melachim 17:9), or the story of Ovadia with the prophets, where he said “I hid among the prophets of G-d, 100 men, 50 in each cave, and I fed them bread and water” (Melachim 18:13) , and “Young lions suffer want and are hungry, but those who seek the L-ord lack no good” (Tehilim 34:11), and “Fear the L-ord, His holy ones; for there is no want to those who fear Him” (Tehilim 34:10).
    (2) The alchemist must perform actions and follow procedures without which he cannot successfully complete his goal. It is even possible that the fumes and odors will cause his death, along with the long work and great effort with them day and night. But one who trusts in G-d is secure against mishaps, and his heart is assured against future (potential) bad things. Whatever comes to him from G-d, he will accept with joy and gladness and his livelihood comes to him peacefully, quietly, and happily, as written “He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters” (Tehilim 23:2).
    (3) The alchemist does not trust anyone with his secret due to fear for his life. But one who trusts G-d does not fear any man on account of his trust, just the contrary it is a source of honor, as King David said: “in G-d I trusted, I will not fear, what can a man do to me?” (Tehilim 54:12).
    (4) The alchemist must either prepare one large quantity of gold and silver for long term needs or must prepare small batches for short term needs. If he prepares a large quantity, all his days he will fear for his life that perhaps all the gold and silver will be lost in any number of ways (and he will be left penniless), and his heart will never quiet, nor will his mind be at peace due to fear of the king and of the people (finding his big stash of gold).If he makes small batches for short term use, it is possible that he will not successfully perform the procedure at a time of great need, due to a failure in one of the means. But one who trusts in G-d, has strong peace of mind that G-d will provide for him at any time He wishes and in any place, just like He sustains the fetus in its mother’s womb or the chick inside an egg, which has no opening to enter anything from the outside, and birds in the air, or fish in the sea, and the tiny ant despite its weakness, while the mighty lion some days cannot obtain food, as written “Young lions suffer want and are hungry, but those who seek the L-ord lack no good” (Tehilim 34:11), and “The L-ord will not starve the soul of the righteous” (Mishlei 10:3), and “I have been young, and now am old; yet I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Tehilim 37:25)
    (5) The alchemist is under anxiety and fear of everyone, from the greatest to the lowest of people as a consequence of his work, but one who trusts in G-d will be revered by great men and honorable people, even animals and stones seek to do his will (i.e. do not harm him – TL) as written in the entire Psalm “He who sits…” (tehilim 91), and “In six troubles He will save you, and in the seventh no harm will touch you.” (Iyov 5:19), until the end of the matter.
    (6) The alchemist is not immune from sickness and disease which hinders his joy in being wealthy, and prevents him from benefiting from what he has and enjoying what he has acquired. But one who trusts in G-d, is immune from sickness and disease except as an atonement or to increase his reward, as written “Now youths shall become tired and weary, and young men shall stumble” (Yeshaya 40:30), “those who hope in G-d will renew strength” (Yeshaya 40:31), and “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the L-ord supports the righteous” (Tehilim 37:17).
    (7) It is possible that the alchemist will not be able to buy food with his gold and silver due to no food being available in the city at times, as written: “they shall cast their money in the streets” (Yechezkel 7:19), and “neither silver nor gold will be able to save them” (Tzefania 1:18), but for one who trusts in G-d, his sustenance will not be blocked at any time or in any place, as written “in famine He redeemed you from death” (Iyov 5:20), and “the L-ord is my shepherd, I shall not lack” (Tehilim 23:1), and “They will not be shamed in time of calamity, and in days of famine they shall still be satisfied” (Tehilim 37:19).
    (8) The alchemist does not linger in one place too long due to fear that his secret will be discovered. But one who trusts in G-d feels secure in his land, and has peace of mind in his place, as written “Trust in the L-ord and do good; dwell in the land and be nourished by faith” (Tehilim 37:3), and “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell forever in it” (Tehilim 37:29).
    (9) The alchemist’s skills will not accompany him in the afterlife, they may only provide him, in this world, security from poverty and from needing other people. But for one who trusts in G-d, the reward for his trust will accompany him in this world and in the next, as written “Many are the pains of the wicked ; but one who trusts in G-d will be surrounded by kindness” (Tehilim 32:10), and “how great is Your goodness that you hid away for those who fear You” (Tehilim 31:20.
    (10) If the alchemist’s work is discovered, it will become a cause for his death, because his work runs contrary to the natural order, and the Director of the world will allow someone to kill him when he fails to hide his secret . But for one who trusts in G-d, when his trust becomes known, he will be held in high esteem and honored by the public. They will feel blessed to be near him or to see him, and his presence will bring good fortune to the city and shield the people from troubles, as written “the righteous man is the foundation of the world” (Mishlei 10:25), similar to Lot in Tzoar .
    Among the benefits of trusting in G-d regarding religious matters:
    One who trusts in G-d, if he has wealth, will be quick to fulfill his monetary obligations to G-d and to men with a willing and generous spirit. If he does not have wealth, he will consider that lack of wealth to be among the favors of G-d to him, because he is exempt from the monetary obligations to G-d and men which wealth brings, and he is spared from the mental distraction of protecting and managing it, as one of the pious used to say: “may G-d save me from dispersion of the mind”. They would ask him “what is dispersion of the mind?” He would answer: “to own property at the head of every river and the center of every town.” And this is what our sages referred to in saying: “the more possessions, the more worry” (Avos 2:7), and they said: “who is wealthy? He who is content with what he has” (Avos 4:1).
    One who trusts in G-d will receive the benefits of money, namely, his material needs, but without the mental distraction and constant worry of the wealthy, as the wise man said “The sleep of the laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the satiety of the rich does not allow him to sleep” (Koheles 5:11).
    Another benefit, one who trusts in G-d will not diminish his trust on account of having much wealth because he does not rely on the money. He regards it as a deposit which he is ordered to use in specific ways, for specific matters and for a limited time. And if he stays wealthy for a long time, he will not become arrogant due to his wealth. He will not remind the poor person of his charity gifts since he was commanded to give to him, and he will not seek his gratitude and praises. Rather, he will thank his Creator who appointed him as a means for doing good to the poor person.
    If his wealth is lost, he will not worry nor mourn his loss. Rather, he will thank his Creator for taking back His deposit, just like he thanked G-d when it was given to him. He will be happy with his portion, and will not seek to damage others . He will not covet other people’s wealth as the wise man said “A righteous man eats to sate his appetite, [but the stomach of the wicked shall feel want].” (Mishlei 13:25).
    Benefits of trust in G-d for worldly matters:
  • Peace of mind from the worries of this world.
  • Peace from the frenzy and drive to pursue the lusts of this world.
  • feeling calm, secure, at peace in this world, as written “blessed be the man who trusts in G-d, and G-d shall be his refuge” (Yirmiyahu 17:7), and “For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. [It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves stay green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit]” (Yirmiyahu 17:8).
    Among them, peace of mind from the need to travel to faraway journeys, which weakens the body, and hastens aging, as written “my strength has weakened from the journey, my life shortened” (Tehilim 102:24).
    It is said about a novice ascetic who travelled to a distant land in search of a livelihood. He met one of the idolaters of the city where he arrived and said to him: “how completely blind and ignorant you are to worship idols!”. The idolater asked him: “And what do you worship?”. The ascetic answered “I worship the Creator, the Omnipotent, the Sustainer of all, the One, the Provider of all, which there is none like Him”. The idolater countered “your actions contradict your words!” The ascetic asked “How so?”, the idolater said “if what you say were true, He would have provided a livelihood for you in your own city, just like He provided for you here, and it would not have been necessary for you to trouble yourself to travel to a faraway land like this.” The ascetic, unable to answer, returned to his city and reassumed his asceticism from that time on, and never again left his city.
    Another benefit, peace of mind and body, due to sparing oneself from pursuing grueling jobs, and wearying occupations, avoiding work of kings – mingling in their culture and dealing with their corrupt servants.
    But one who trusts G-d, selects among the different occupations one which is easy on his body, allows him to earn a good reputation, does not consume his mind, and is best suited for fulfilling his torah obligations and the principles of his faith, because the choice of occupation will neither increase nor decrease the income he will earn unless G-d decreed so, as it says “For it is not from the east or from the west, neither from the desert does elevation come. But G-d judges; He lowers this one and elevates that one.” (Tehilim 75:7), and “He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters” (Tehilim 23:2).
    Another benefit, minimal aggravation in one’s business dealings. If one’s merchandise does not sell, or if he is unable to collect his debts, or if he is struck by illness, because he knows that the Creator is in charge of his life and knows best what is good for him, as written “Only to G-d should you hope, my soul, for my hope is from Him” (Tehilim 62:6).
    Another benefit, joy in whatever happens to him, even if it is something difficult and against his nature, because he trusts that G-d will do only what is good for him in all matters, just like a mother has compassion on her baby in washing it, diapering it, and tying or untying it against its will, as David said “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child” (Tehilim 131:2).
    Since I have clarified the benefits of trust in G-d for religious and secular matters, I will now clarify seven topics on the matter of trust:
    (1) What is trust. (2) The criteria for trusting someone. (3) The prerequisites to trusting in G-d. (4) When trust applies and when it does not. (5) The difference between one who trusts in G-d in earning a livelihood and one who does not. (6) Obligation to refute those who promote delaying the service of G-d until reaching sufficient material prosperity. (7) Things that damage one’s trust in G-d, and a summary of the matter of trust.