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Hishtadlut - how much is right & the Purim Story

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Rabbi Ari Shvat

Adar II 12, 5782
Question
Hi. I wonder if you can answer this question: Hishtadlut is: 1. Trying (making an effort) 2. Trying hard (making a reasonable effort 3. Trying hardest (best I can). If the answer is 2, then my f/u question will be: do I get to decide what "reasonable" is? If the answer is 3, then my f/u question will be: How do I know what my best is? Thank you!
Answer
Free-will is our responsibility and we clearly don't believe in Fatalism or Pre-Determinism. Nevertheless, historically, there are several different legitimate (!) approaches regarding the proper balance between human efforts expressing man’s free-will (Hishtadlut), as opposed to one’s faith (Bitachon) in Hashem that everything He sends us, is “for the best”. Chassidei Breslav lean more in the direction of Bitachon, while Rambamists lean more in the direction of Hishtadlut. The third choice you mentioned, to try the hardest you can, is the most rationale approach, and is the most accepted today, surely among western Jews and rabbis, that God helps those who help themselves and that we cannot and should not rely on miracles. The Sassover Rebbe said "we must plan and invest effort as if there were (chalila) no God!". God stopped doing super-natural miracles already 2,500 years ago in Megillat Esther, which we will read tomorrow, as Mordechai guides Esther (4, 14), "For if you remain silent (and don't intervene with Acheshverosh) at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father's household will perish; and who knows whether if for a time like this you attained the kingdom?". They did not know whether Esther will succeed ("who knows?"), and even if we are always sure that the Jewish People will survive and God will save us in the end, we see that we must try our hardest regardless of the cost and effort (even if it meant there Esther's paying the price of being forbidden to return to her husband forever!), for we don't know who will be God's messenger here. Accordingly, "trying my best" is my absolute best (on any particular issue, sit down and discuss with a rabbi, for there are no limits we must make to avoid a negative Torah mitzva, but there are sometimes limits regarding a positive mitzva, e.g. sometimes 10% of your possessions or the equivalent in time-investment, but sometimes more...; this is different for a rabbinical mitzva, etc.). On the other hand, for the sake of saving Am Yisrael, we must even give our lives, if necessary, as all IDF soldiers accept upon themselves upon their induction.
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