(Hi newbie here :) I hope I'm writing this post correctly.)

What does it mean when people say "I'm not holding on that level of emuna/bitachon"?
I've seen and heard countless times when people say that really whatever is supposed to happen will happen just "I'm not holding on that level" therefore they do more hishtadlus.

How does this make sense? Either you believe or you don't.

If you believe then why do you need more hishtadlus if you don't believe aren't you considered a heretic?

  • how do you know what is the proper amount of hishtadlus?
    – michael
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 19:52
  • 1
    Not sure I've ever heard that said
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 19:57
  • @michael let's take an easy example. Winning a raffle. One ticket is enough hishtadlus. But ask someone if they would rather have 9 tickets in a 10:1 raffle.
    – Chaim
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 19:59
  • @Chaim dont we have to work within the natural order of things?
    – michael
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 21:28
  • 1
    @michael if you're referring to ain somchin al haness then yes we do. But buying one ticket isn't unnatural.
    – Chaim
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 21:32

2 Answers 2


Chaim, welcome to Mi Yodeya.

I am not overly familiar with the changing nuances of "yeshivish", so I can't say that this particular phrase is something that I have heard verbatim. But, in addressing the concept implied by your question, you may want to gain some clarity between two similar terms - bitachon and emunah.

There are numerous articles on this topic, but I think this summary from "The Shmuz" is good:

The Rambam defines emunah as the knowledge that HASHEM created and continues to run all of Creation. Simply put, nothing can exist and no activity can occur without HASHEM.

Bitachon, however, is a quite different. The Chovos Halevovos defines bitachon as trusting in HASHEM. It is a sense of relying on HASHEM to watch over and protect me, as if to say, “I take my heavy burden and place it on HASHEM.” While I am responsible to be proactive, I am not in charge of the outcome, and I am not the determinant of the results. I rely on HASHEM to care for me.

Emunah is a state of understanding; bitachon is a state of trust. Emunah means knowing that HASHEM is involved in every activity on the planet; bitachon means trusting in HASHEM in every situation.

A person can have emunah and not bitachon

So, to clarify the expression that you've probably heard, you are correct in that either you have emunah or not. This is kind of an absolute degree of understanding and appreciation. Either you believe that God is responsible for everything that happens or not. You can't just believe that God is responsible for some things and not for others. The concept of emunah is that God is involved in everything. If you don't believe that, you have a lack of emunah. I think a heretic involved specific stronger action then just a lack of emunah. I.e. this doesn't deny that there is a God, and it doesn't mean that you convince others of the idea. It's that you think that some things, perhaps, happen by God, but not other things. A heretic denies that God is involved in anything at all.

Now bitachon - yes, there are definitely levels to this. We see this every day in numerous people. Many people believe that if they invest in Amazon stocks today, that almost guarantees that they will make a profit in a year. What happens when that fails? They mope, they suffer distress, etc. They didn't trust that the ultimate outcome is up to God. They lacked bitachon. Or, opposite, I'm sure you've seen shidduchim break off because someone found a minor flaw in the other and thought that was major to not make the marriage work. If they had a greater level of bitachon, and trusted that God decides the outcome, they might have continued the shidduch.

In summary, I think people really mean to say "My level of bitachon is not great; I need to work on that." It is, possible that they were referring to "emunah", but, as I explained, above, it seems that emunah doesn't have degrees or partiality.

  • Thanks for the response. I'm not understanding how the word "trust" relates to bitachon. Is there anybody that thinks God has a reason not to do what He usually does? Even after this distinction between emuna and bitachon I still have a hard time understanding how it's possible to have different levels of bitachon. How is it possible for you to believe someone always does something but not "trust" them that they will?
    – Chaim
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 23:38
  • Chaim, I think you may be missing a significant nuance. A comparison may help. A son may believe that his father is the person who is responsible for his welfare. I.e., the son understands the role of his father to do that. However, he may not trust that his father will be there to care for him under all circumstances and every situation.
    – DanF
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 1:14

I'll give you an example: It is very clearly seen here in Jerusalem's HMOs when the residents of all kinds bring their kids to vaccinate. First, come the secular, then Kipah Sruga, then the Litvakes, then the Chassidishers and the last (but not least) the Yerushalmi. And some never come.

And we can rate them clearly according to their level of Bitachon in Hashem. So each previous group can say "I don't have that level of Bitachon of the next group ... to put my kids in danger".

  • Lol I was going to write vaccines as an example but I figured I'll stick away from the controversy
    – Chaim
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 23:23
  • 1
    This stigma is not representative of the reality of the charedi community.
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 20:33
  • 1
    It's also not a controversy. It's just objectively some idiots killing children. @chaim
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 21:56
  • @Double AA of course.
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 22:13
  • I don't like this example. But a better similar case might be the Leviim in the midbar, who performed bris milah on their children even though it seems that it was dangerous.
    – MichoelR
    Commented May 8 at 20:19

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