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The Chazon Ish wrote in the book Emunah U'Bitachon Chapter 2 that the definition of bitachon is NOT the mistaken belief that when faced with 2 possible outcomes one must believe that the better (or thought to be better) outcome will happen, rather it is to know that nothing happens by chance and that God is controlling and directing everything.

1- Does anyone define bitachon like this prior to the Chazon Ish?

2- Does anyone define bitachon the way the Chazon Ish says not to? (i.e. to believe that God will make everything work out).

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3 Answers 3

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There is a seffer called Bitachon Ish who brings proofs to the Chazzon Ish's opinion from earlier sources. http://www.hebrewbooks.org/51363

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The Chazon Ish himself says that this is the common view among Chassidim. Indeed the Baal Shem Tov is well known to have defined it in the way the Chazon Ish says not to. It should be pointed out that the Chazon Ish's characterization is an oversimplification of the view.

In this article, R. Shlomo Brody discusses various sources brought by R. Daniel Stein. R. Stein argues that the opinion that the Chazon Ish argues with is found in many earlier sources (essentially both views are found in Rishonim). R. Brody argues that it starts with the Maharal (and therefore argues that it comes too late to be legitimate, thus justifying the Chazon Ish's categorical rejection), and all earlier readings of the Rishonim by R. Stein are incorrect.

Both seem to ignore the Chovas Halevavos (which is 11th Century) and the Kad HaKemach (from Rabbeinu Bechaya - early 14th century), brought by the Lubavitcher Rebbe here, which are also sources for the view that the Chazon Ish is rejecting.

The link to R. Stein's article isn't working for me, but my understanding is that he brings the Rishonim that would support the Chazon Ish. It is just that R. Brody doesn't name them, as they already agree with his point.

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  • Hey! You didn't write up such a nice answer when I asked this. Im insulted:) My biggest issue with the Chazzon Ish approach is the fact that we don't find Nachum Ish Gamzu or Rabi Akiva praying for a good outcome. According to one girsa in the gemara, which the Maharal quotes, Nachum actually saw the dirt while still at the inn and went anyways.
    – user6591
    Nov 24, 2014 at 22:59
  • @user6591, I didn't understand it to be the same question, I thought you were more picking on the fine distinction between the two concepts, rather than directly "what is Bittachon?".
    – Yishai
    Nov 24, 2014 at 23:07
  • Ok. Fair enough.
    – user6591
    Nov 24, 2014 at 23:11
  • I had extensive discussion with someone about if the Chovos Halevavos really means what he is quoted as saying, and it doesn't seem so clear that he does. Nov 24, 2014 at 23:37
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    @YEZ there is a seffer i think its called Bitachon Ish who systematically goes through anyone and everyone who ever mentioned Bitachon to prove that they all are of the same opinion as the Chazon Ish. I never checked his sources to see if the proofs add up or not. Think ill throw this out as an answer.
    – user6591
    Nov 25, 2014 at 4:17
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My impression is that Chovos Halevavos is a good source for the Chazon Ish's opinion. (I see that another comment says the opposite, but doesn't explain.) Here is why I think so:
Both of them say that Hashem is in charge of every outcome. Chovos Halevavos (Introduction):

But one who trusts in G-d, is immune from sickness and disease except as an atonement or to increase his reward.
והבוטח באלהים בטחונו חזק באלהים שיטריף אותו כרצונו בעת שירצה ובמקום שירצה
But one who trusts in G-d, has strong peace of mind that G-d will provide for him at any time He wishes and in any place.
והבוטח בה' הוא תובע מסבות הטרף מה שיש בו יותר מנוחה לגופו ושם טוב לו ופנאי ללבו ומה שהוא מפיק יותר לחובות תורתו עם יתר אמונתו כי הסבה לא תוסיף לו בחקו ולא תחסרהו ממנו מאומה אלא בגזרת האלהים יתברך
But one who trusts G-d, selects among the different occupations one which is easy on his body, allows him to earn a good reputation, does not consume his mind, and is best suited for fulfilling his torah obligations and the principles of his faith, because the choice of occupation will neither increase nor decrease the income he will earn unless G-d decreed so...

And many other examples.
[Don't think that he's saying, Everything will be great! You won't get sick, you won't be poor! I can see that someone might read some of them that way, which may be why people think the Chovos Halevavos argues with the Chazon Ish. We'll see soon that he doesn't believe that at all. He is saying what we all do believe: Hashem is in precise charge of all outcomes.]

The Chovos Halevavos' definition of bitachon (section 1):

אַךְ מַהוּת הַבִּטָּחוֹן הִיא מְנוּחַת נֶפֶשׁ הַבּוֹטֵחַ וְשֶׁיִּהְיֶה לִבּוֹ סָמוּךְ עַל מִי שֶׁבָּטַח עָלָיו שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה הַטּוֹב וְהַנָּכוֹן לוֹ בָּעִנְיָן אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח עָלָיו כְּפִי יְכָלְתּוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ בְּמָה שֶׁמֵּפִיק טוֹבָתוֹ.
Trust is peace of mind of the one who trusts. That one relies in his heart that the one he trusts in will do what is good and proper for him on the matter he has trusted him with, according to his ability and his understanding of what will further his good.

The בוטח is certain that Hashem has his good in mind, and he is sure the Hashem will do what is best for him. He explains this in even more detail in section 2.
However, it is clear in many places that the Chovos Halevavos believes that the "best for him" might not be what we naively call "good":

(Introduction) One who trusts in G-d, if he has wealth, will be quick to fulfill his monetary obligations to G-d and to men with a willing and generous spirit. If he does not have wealth, he will consider that lack of wealth to be among the favors of G-d to him, because he is exempt from the monetary obligations to G-d and men which wealth brings, and he is spared from the mental distraction of protecting and managing it...
If his wealth is lost, he will not worry nor mourn his loss. Rather, he will thank his Creator for taking back His deposit, just like he thanked G-d when it was given to him. He will be happy with his portion...
If one's merchandise does not sell, or if he is unable to collect his debts, or if he is struck by illness, because he knows that the Creator is in charge of his life and knows best what is good for him...
(Section 4) A man is necessarily in either one of two situations: Either he is a loner or he is among his family and relatives. If he is a loner, let his companionship be with G-d during his time of loneliness, and trust in Him during his period of being alone... And afterwards, let him consider that as a stranger, he is freed from the heavy burden of maintaining relatives and fulfilling his duties towards them. He should consider this to be one of the kindnesses of the Creator...

According to the Chovos Halevavos, it is perfectly possible for the one who has complete trust in Hashem to be poor, to be ill, and/or to be alone - if that is what Hashem decides is best for him. His bitachon will not save him; indeed, he will trust that Hashem chose that for him, instead of what he would have thought was best.
Is this not exactly what the Chazon Ish is saying?
[The Chazon Ish doesn't talk about how Hashem always chooses the best thing for us, because his topic is how it looks to us, whether it is always what we would choose, or not. But of course the Chazon Ish is going to agree with that part as well; of course he understands that Hashem is all good and loves us.]

The Chovos Halevavos has a lengthy section on the benefits that bitachon brings (start with the Introduction, then also in section 5). The בוטח has peace of mind, it doesn't bother him when things go wrong (again, but they can go wrong!), other people love him because they can trust him, he doesn't go overboard doing difficult or dangerous things to earn his living (see perek 5 in the Chazon Ish on this), along with other benefits.
However! The author never says that one of the benefits is that he'll get whatever he wants, if he believes in it. On the contrary, the role of the בוטח is to understand that whatever he gets is just what he needs.
In summary, I think that if you put the pieces together, you'll see that the Chovos Halevavos is a more lengthy exposition of the Chazon Ish.


Caveat - In his introduction, the Chovos Halevavos does mention a flip side:

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,...
If he places his trust in his wisdom and tactics, physical strength and industriousness...
If he relies on his wealth...

So that is a caveat: A person who lacks trust will definitely end up with worse outcomes, because Hashem's response will be to turn him over כביכול to a much worse steward.
In that case, a person can definitely improve his situation by working on his bitachon, and get back to the stewardship of Hashem.
On the other hand, even that might not look better to us, though it would definitely be better.

And on the other flip side, the Chovos Halevavos kind of rejects the idea of bitachon for someone who doesn't want to serve Hashem (section 3):

But, If one trusts in G-d and rebels against Him, how foolish is he, how weak is his intellect and his understanding! For he can see in this world that if an employer appoints a man to do something or refrain from doing something and the man disobeys the instruction, this will be the strongest factor in the employer's refusing to fulfill his side of the deal...

That too leads to bad outcomes.

The Chazon Ish is much briefer on all of this last part - how בטחון changes outcomes - so I can't guarantee a perfect match. He does talk about it very briefly, though. See what he writes in his last section there:

יש עוד ממדת הבטחון, כי על הבוטח שורה רוח קודש ומתלוה עמו רוח עוז המבשרו כי אמנם יעזרהו ה', כמו שאמר דוד המלך ע"ה אם תחנה עלי מחנה לא יירא לבי, אם בקום עלי מלחמה כו' וזה ענין מתחלף לפי מעלת הבוטח ורב קדשו
There is more to say about bitachon. On one who trusts rests a holy spirit and a spirit of strength, which proclaims that in truth Hashem will help him. As David Hamelech ע"ה said, "If they camp against me, I will not fear; if a war rises against me [in this I will trust]...". But this is a matter that depends on the [spiritual] level of the one who trusts and his level of holiness.

Bitachon is not simply a matter of acceptance (as I think some of the comments here assume). It can tell you things and give you actual confidence of success. You see, though, that he says it depends on the overall spiritual level of the בוטח, not on his degree of trust. If his level is high enough, he can know that Hashem will aid him.

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