9 POINTS ON REBBE NACHMAN’S “A TALE OF TRUST”
AS EXPLAINED BY HARAV ELAZAR MORDECHAI KENIG, ZT”L
1. WEALTH IS NOT THE SOURCE OF PEACE OF MIND
In the “Tale of Trust,” Rebbe Nachman tells us about a king who reasons that no one has fewer worries than he, since after all, he is a king and ruler who has everything in the world. To his surprise, when he goes out to investigate the truth of the matter, he finds the opposite is true. He sees a man sitting in a rickety house sunk into the ground, ready to collapse. The man sitting there is calm and relaxed, quietly playing a violin to himself. He has what to eat and drink, with no worries whatsoever.
Through telling this story, Rebbe Nachman wants to save us from a common mistake people make in the world where they think that wealth is the only way to a happy and secure life. In the tale, we see a king who has everything, but finds out that happiness and a worry-free life does not depend on having it all. He sees someone who not only has nothing in his house, but even the most basic living conditions he attained only through great difficulty. Despite his dilapidated house, he was nonetheless happy and satisfied.
Sometimes, even though he possesses tremendous wealth, a king and ruler can have greater worries than a simple person. For example, despite the king’s riches, if a war breaks out in his land, he could lose his mind from worry and fear.
Thus, we see that even when a person has everything in the world, they can still be filled with worry. The proof of this is the fellow in the story. He is happy and good-hearted even though he has no real house to his name. In other words, physical shefa is not the source of one’s security and peace of mind.
2. THE MAIN THING IS TRUST, EVEN WHEN WORKING FOR A LIVING
Rebbe Nachman teaches: “The essence of complete trust is through the intellect, as it is written: ‘All eyes look to You…’ (Psa. 145:15). The term ‘eyes’ refers to the mind, as the Torah writes: ‘And the eyes of both of them were opened…’ (Gen. 3:7). Rashi comments that this phrase refers to understanding, not to actual vision. Trust is developed according to the mind, since trust has many levels and gradations that ascend to the unlimited God, Ein Sof. This corresponds to the verse: ‘Trust in HaShem forever and ever’ (Isa. 26:4). Everything goes according to the mind.” (See Likutei Moharan 225)
Rebbe Nachman clarifies that a person’s level of trust is not dictated by financial means, but by knowledge. One has trust according to his level of wisdom and daat—higher awareness. Trust is multi-leveled without end, and grows proportionally to the measure of one’s mind.
The essence of trust is when a person relies upon God, trusting Him to provide him with his livelihood. There are countless degrees to this: There is such an exalted level of trust where a person does not actively occupy himself with any cause to bring his livelihood. He uses his trust to depend upon God alone to bring him what he needs. Yet, in this story, Rebbe Nachman wants us to know that a life with complete trust in God is not just relevant to one divested of material concerns, and who makes no effort at all for his needs. Rather, it is also relevant to someone who must exert himself to provide for his household. Here, too, he trusts in God according to his spiritual level.
Certainly the level of trust of the tzaddikim is that they do not need to be involved in any endeavor. They completely trust in God to support them. Although this is the exalted level of the tzaddikim, every single Jew must nonetheless also trust in God, according to his level, even if he must work and make an effort for his livelihood. This is reflected in the verse: “Trust in HaShem, and do good…” (Psa. 37). A person trusts God also in his “doing.” Rebbe Nachman says in Yiddish, Nor bitachon! (Chayei Moharan 501). In other words, only trust! Even when we labor for our livelihood, the main thing is trust in God.
3. TRUST HASHEM ANEW EACH DAY
Rebbe Nachman describes the satisfaction of a simple person. All his work and effort for a livelihood are done simply and wholeheartedly, while trusting completely in God. The story highlights a number of points that express the attribute of trust in God within the realm of “doing,” where each person functions according to their spiritual level.
When the king asked him where he got everything, the fellow answered, “I go out in the morning and fix things. When I gather a sum of five or six gulden, I buy food and drink for myself.”
He had absolutely no worry about tomorrow, since he worked only for today. Even after attaining his five or six gulden, he was satisfied and happy despite having nothing left over for the next day.
Usually, a person wants to accumulate a lot of money to ensure long-term security. Without this cushion, he worries and wonders how he will survive. Attaining these funds is his security crutch—he can only be calm if he has enough money.
This is not the way of the simple person who does not achieve security through money. Instead he places his trust in God to arrange work for him to make the five or six gulden he needs to buy his food and drink for that day.
By placing his trust in God to provide his livelihood on a day-to-day basis, the fellow in the story was satisfied and happy. He didn’t worry about what tomorrow would bring. This concept is expressed through the verse: “Baruch HaShem, day to day…” (Psa. 68:20). When his needs are met for today, his heart is calm and confident.
This sense of security comes from faith in the fact that God, in His goodness, renews every day of creation. The same God who renews each day also provides the entire creation with everything it needs.
4. PERFECTION IS IMPOSSIBLE IN THIS WORLD
Our fellow in the story tells the king about what he does for a living. “I can fix anything that is broken. I am unable to make anything from scratch, I can only fix something that is broken. So, I go out every morning to fix things.”
Rebbe Nachman is teaching us that although the demand for perfection is natural, along with the constant desire for the means to produce perfect things, it is very different for the simple person. Simplicity allows a person to recognize that he or she is imperfect and lacks the ability to create perfection. This is why the fellow in the story says, “Indeed, I cannot do anything perfectly and completely. I am only able to fix something that is broken, so this is what I do.”
This outlook also depends on faith that God renews the entire creation every day from anew. When you know and believe that God is the One who renews all of creation, you can recognize your own limitations, since it will be obvious that everything you do depends upon God.
This is alluded to in the fellow’s statement that he is unable to produce something whole and complete. Only God can do this, since He created everything in creation and renews it on a daily basis. Thus, the fellow in the story can only repair things that are broken.
Many believe that all of their livelihood and existence depend solely on themselves and their own efforts. Their entire lives revolve around making long-term financial profits. According to them, it will only be possible to relax when they have “everything.” Their security and trust rely on the accumulation of money. The truth is, what kind of security is money? It can disappear in an instant, along with the feeling of security.
The fellow in the story understood the need to place his trust only in the One Who renews and oversees the entire creation. Therefore, he occupied himself only with fixing things that were broken so he could be paid the same day. He was very happy through his strong trust in God.
5. THE TYPE OF WORK IS NOT THE MAIN THING
At the beginning of the story, the fellow fixed things that were broken for a living. When the king issued a decree preventing this type of work, the fellow went out and found a job cutting wood. Thus it went from day to day as the king continued to decree against his work efforts.
From this, we see that the type of work itself was not the reason for the fellow’s success. Every time he saw that he was unable to do his regular work—for a brief moment—he thought it was bad. Nonetheless, he trusted in God. He went out to look for different work and God brought him new opportunities each time, such as chopping wood, etc.
His work to fix broken things was only to make enough money for what he needed that day. This purpose did not change after he started chopping wood. Previously he had done one thing, now he was doing something else. Each time, he earned six gulden to buy his meal for the day, and he was very happy. It made no difference how he acquired what he needed, since the type of work was not the main thing.
6. ONLY TRUST BRINGS TRUE HAPPINESS
Moreover, even the nature of his work was not particularly easy or simple. He didn’t make the five or six gulden he needed for the day all at once. For example, he received one gulden after he finished chopping wood for the first wealthy man. From there, he still needed to search for additional work until he was able to collect the sum he needed for that day. The same thing happened the following day, after it became apparent that cutting wood was not an option because of the king’s decree. God arranged other work for him to clean stables. Here again, he went from one stable to another until he earned the money he needed for that day.
In other words, although he lacked steady work and a reliable long-term salary, he still made an effort to find work every day, completely trusting in God in order to collect the entire sum he needed. He was then happy and satisfied with his portion.
Today, for example, we see those who have invested many years in attaining a medical degree, thinking that this particular degree would guarantee their livelihood for life. However, when they are unable to find a job later, their lives are turned upside down. They suffer even more when they believe that their situation is a great injustice.
This is different for the person who is not defined by their profession, but rather focuses his or her efforts for livelihood on a day-to-day basis. This person lives with happiness, satisfaction and inner tranquility.
7. TRUST BRINGS INNER QUIET & TRANQUILITY
The king saw a dilapidated house, with someone sitting inside happily playing violin. The fellow was playing so softly that the king had to listen carefully in order to hear him.
Again, we see the strong trust possessed by this fellow. He would sit and play quietly without making a big noise. When a person lacks inner calm and meaning in life, sometimes they need to make a lot of commotion. The noise makes it seem like the person is invincible, but in reality, it is due to his unrest and lack of inner peace.
Our fellow however, would sit and play his instrument quietly with confidence, even though one needed to listen carefully in order to hear him. This again highlights his inner calm, which gave his life a true sense of security.
8. ABILITY TO TRUST DOES NOT DEPEND UPON PERSONALITY
Some would argue that worry is a result of inborn personality traits. Certain people have a fearful nature, while others have a tranquil and calm personality. Although natural traits do exert a powerful influence on the personality, it is only through actively working on one’s own character that trust in God can be developed. Through this, a person can be saved from worry and achieve genuine happiness. Everyone desires security, but it only comes from trusting in God and nothing else. Only He created the entire world, and provides for the needs of all.
9. HEAVEN TREATS US ACCORDING TO OUR ACTIONS BELOW
At the end of the tale, the king forbids the minister to pay any wage on that day. In response, the fellow broke off the blade of his sword in order to pawn it, giving him the funds to purchase his daily meal.
The truth is, the king could have put the fellow on trial and sentenced him to death for breaking and pawning a sword that was state property.
However, the king saw the wholehearted behavior of this fellow, and how he continued to trust in God with humility and grace, no matter what happened to him. The king thus reciprocated in kind, and discharged him in peace at the end of the story.
Heaven treats a person according to how they act in this world. When you are not exacting and resentful against God, but live instead with trust, knowing that God is good to all, you will have no worries, since God satisfies every living creature. If the essence of your life is built upon faith and trust in God, He will be lenient with things that could have demanded strict justice.
This is what our sages teach on the verse, “Many are the woes of the wicked; and lovingkindness surrounds the one who trusts in God” (Psa. 32:10). Even a wicked person, who is liable for his evil deeds, is surrounded by lovingkindness when he trusts in God. ♦