Shaar Habitachon – The Gate of Trust **

with select classic commentaries
Gate #4 of Chovos Halevavos/Duties of the Heart
by Rabeinu Bahya ibn Paquda zt’l

english translation by:
Rabbi Yosef Sebag
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  • Translator’s Foreword
  • Introduction – benefits of trust
  • Chapter 1 – What is trust
  • Chapter 2 – The criteria for trusting someone
  • Chapter 3 – The prerequisites to trusting in G-d
  • Chapter 4 – When trust applies and when it does not
  • Chapter 5 – The difference between one who trusts in G-d in earning a livelihood and one who does not.
  • Chapter 6 – Obligation to refute those who promote delaying the service of G-d until reaching sufficient material prosperity.
  • Chapter 7 – Things that damage one’s trust in G-d, and a summary of the matter of trust.

Translator’s Foreword :
The following is a translation of the fourth gate of one of the earliest of the classic mussar works, Chovos Halevavos by Rabeinu Bahya. The book has inspired many great men to walk in its ways and review it throughout their lives. The fourth gate deals with what Rabeinu Bechaye regards as “the most necessary of all things for the service of G-d.”

I have found that the gate must be read in its entirety otherwise one will not have understood anything properly. In this second revision, I added select commentaries and also checked/compared every sentence against the brilliant translation by Rabbi Moses Hyamson O.B.M., the former chief Rabbi and head Dayan of England between 1911 and 1913. The translator studied in various yeshivas under great Torah scholars such as Rabbi Dov Shwartzman zt’l (~2 years), Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt’l, Rabbi Nissan Kaplan (~5 years). He also completed a degree in physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and was a research associate in nuclear physics for some time before heading off to yeshiva.

– Yosef Sebag, Jerusalem Tamuz 5775/ June 2015

Abbreviations used in this translation:
MH – Manoach HeLevavos commentary by Rabbi Manoach Hendel (1540-1611)
TL – Tov HaLevanon commentary by Rabbi Yisrael Halevi (1700-1777)
PL – Pas Lechem commentary by Rabbi Chaim Avraham Hacohen (1740-1815)
ML – Marpe Lenefesh commentary by Rabbi Refael Mendel (1825-1895)
LT – Lev Tov commentary by Rabbi Pinchas Lieberman (1929-2005)
MC – Matanas Chelko* commentary by Rabbi Mattisyahu Solomon (with permission)
    * MC commentary available from Israel Bookshop Publications

Classic Commentaries: ShowHide

*** Shaar Habitachon – The Gate of Trust *** with select classic commentaries
Gate #4 of Chovos Halevavos – Duties of the Heart
by Rabeinu Bachye Ibn Paquda zt’l
*** Introduction ***
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).

(Matanas Chelko: “if one does not place his trust in G-d, he will place his trust in something else…they have forsaken Me” – this is a great fundamental principle, namely, that every person trusts his life in something or someone. One who claims he does not trust in anything [unless he is 100% sure] is fooling himself. Since this is the way of the world. A man who purchases a loaf of bread from the baker trusts that no poison was placed there. If he takes his automobile to the mechanic for repair and afterwards drives it on the highway, he trusts that it was repaired properly. Likewise for trusting his life with the doctors and other similar matters. Hence, one who trusts in these things cannot say “I cannot trust in G-d until I fully understand everything and fully see everything”. This is false! For behold, he trusts his life on many things and many human beings without fully knowing all that happened.

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) (that their tactics result in bad instead of good – TL), and “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race does not belong to the swift, nor the battle 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).

(Matanas Chelko: “whoever trusts in something other than G-d…the Almighty will leave him” – i.e. that he places his trust (peace of mind) on the country or on the alarm system in his home, or the like of the various cause and effect calculations. There are grounds for a claim against him for he does trust on things, just not on the Master of the world. His punishment is that G-d leaves him to “nature” and to the framework to which he placed his trust. Therefore, he is ruled over by that system of nature, with its many statistics of causes and effects. Hence, he who thinks his own strength and ingenuity earned for him all of his success, and he relies on this, G-d will leave him under that system of causes and effects. Through this, certainly he will eventually stumble and be lost. [because: “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong….”]

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) (since if he placed all of his trust on his riches, certainly, he will not be clean from various forms of theft and dishonesty – PL)
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).

(Matanas Chelko: A person thinks that if he attains great wealth, he will be free of worries. The truth is that it is not so. For example, a very wealthy man may be in constant worry and fear that his children will be kidnapped for ransom. Hence, his wealth has become the cause of his worry. For due to it, he is in fear of bad people. If he attains great wealth, he will see that he cannot trust in it and worries about potential mishaps. His days are squandered in worry and vexation. But he who trusts in G-d and prays to him at every step, and thanks Him for whatever he attains, then even if G-d bestows great wealth to him, he still stays with his trust and does not worry on account of his wealth. For, he never relied on himself, not before he became rich nor afterwards. While he who relies on his strength and ingenuity, and thinks the world works solely through causes and effects. Over time, he will be filled with worries and fears of many things. This itself is a punishment. It is possible also that he will be punished more severely than this, namely, that G-d will take away his wealth and he will not benefit from all his labor. Or even worse, that the wealth will be the cause of his evil as before (that his children are kidnapped for ransom or the like.)