By the Grace of G‑d
2 Kislev, 5707 [1946]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greetings and Blessings!

In response to your questions:

A Conduit for Heaven’s Blessings

With1 regard to the concept of bitachon, and the question of whether it is necessary to create a medium2 [for Divine blessings]: [You write that] you have heard it said that righteous men do not require a medium. Accordingly, [you raise] the question why Avraham found it necessary to employ a tactic, [telling Sarah],3 “Please say that you are my sister.”

In resolution: It is obvious that as a rule, apart from having bitachon, one must also create a medium. Indeed, the entire Tanach and the teachings of the Talmudic Sages are filled with [illustrations of] this concept. Endeavors to create a medium within the natural order do not contradict the concept of bitachon, since [every Jew] has been told by G‑d, the L‑rd in Whom he trusts, that He will bless him in all that he does,4 and not when he sits idle.5

From this one can conclude two things:

(a) The vessel and the means must be employed only because we were thus commanded. If, however, one considers [the vessel and the means] to be beneficial or harmful in their own right, he is debasing the attribute of bitachon.

(b) A person is commanded to do only what he is capable of doing, for6 “the Holy One, blessed be He, does not confront His created beings with unfair demands.” Accordingly, if [at some point] one is incapable of making a vessel, that itself is a sign that the Merciful One has exempted him7 from [the responsibility in this instance]. And this [should] not weaken his bitachon that his request will be fulfilled.

A Vessel or a Miracle?

Two questions remain unresolved:

(i) Why were we commanded to create a vessel, when it appears that the vessel in its own right neither helps nor harms?

(ii) What will happen if a person does not create a vessel?

With regard to question (i), the reason [for making a vessel] is given in Chassidus8 as follows: By reason of a profound Divine intent, the benevolent influence from Above that is designated for the World of Asiyah9 must be drawn down by natural means.10 Man,11 therefore, reflecting the Divine paradigm,12 must likewise create a medium and an occupation for his livelihood.13

With regard to question (ii), concerning one who does not create a vessel even though he is able to do so, the Sages teach:14 “[In a dangerous situation] a person should never say that a miracle will be performed for him, for perhaps a miracle will not be performed for him.” In such a case, not only will his trust not have been vindicated, but he will certainly be punished for this, for he is ‘robbing his soul.’15 And “if a miracle is performed for him, his merits are reduced,”16 and he is (so to speak) troubling his Creator.17

Souls from a Higher Plane

[Let us first consider] the case of tzaddikim, even those whose souls are [of the World] of Atzilus18 i.e., the soul that is vested in their physical bodies is actually at the level of Atzilus.19 Notwithstanding [their stature], if they are still distracted by the [mundane] affairs and bothersome troubles of the World of Asiyah — and in the World of Asiyah, as explained above, the downward flow of Divine blessings is elicited by natural conduits20 — such tzaddikim, too,[are obliged to] endeavor to create a worldly medium, for the above reason.

This is not the case with regard to those tzaddikim whose attachment to G‑d21 is not at all disturbed by the world’s troublesome stresses, [and] even while they are strenuously involved in worldly matters they still cleave as truly to G‑d as they do on the Heavenly plane. Since even when they are involved in worldly matters the world counts for nothing, they have no need to make a vessel.

As explained at length in Toras Chayim,22 the Patriarchs were at the former level. This is why they were shepherds, isolated from worldly matters. Hence Avraham, as mentioned above, and likewise Yaakov when confronted by Esav, employed various tactics. Yosef, by contrast, living at the latter level, had no need to create a vessel. Indeed, he was even punished when he did do so.23

At first glance, other sources appear to explain differently. The question is asked:24 Why was Yosef punished for employing tactics to secure his release? After all, Yaakov employed various tactics and was not punished. In those sources, the answer is given that Yosef’s spiritual stature transcended the spiritual cosmos,25 higher than the realms of Tohu and Tikkun. Those sources do not spell out the reason presented above in the present letter. Yet this is not at all problematic, because those sources are also addressing another question: Why was Yosef not anxious “lest sin [incriminate him]”26 — unlike Yaakov, who was afraid? The answer there adds to what was already explained in previous chapters [of Toras Chayim] — that Yosef was not distracted by the bothersome troubles of this world, since he transcended all adversaries.

A point to note:27 “I saw it stated in the name of one of the men of stature that a person who is confronted by a distressful crisis, Heaven forbid,should place his trust in G‑d. This means that he should not pray concerning this matter nor should he do anything, such as immersing in the mikveh.He should only place his trust in G‑d. This is like remaining silent in a way that expresses awesome self-effacement.”28 This is a wondrous statement.

Another point to note: There is sustenance that comes as “bread from the earth” and there is sustenance that comes as “bread from Heaven.”29 However, this distinction is only marginally related to the concept discussed above.30