In every major decision there seems to be a constant struggle between Hishtadlus, doing what is in one’s own power, and Bitachon, leaving it up to Hashem. For example: does one go chase after shadchanim to help find a spouse, or does he put it in Hashem’s hands to help him or her? Does one go to the doctor for medication, or does he daven that Hashem save him?

At what point should one say that he’s done enough, and it’s up to Hashem from there on out? I imagine that this would be very different depending on the person and circumstance, but are there any general guidelines brought down in Chazal, or even Rishonim and Achronim?

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    This is a great question! One thing seems certain - en somchin al hanes - We don't rely on miracles. I.e. one can't do absolutely nothing. I think, in general, this means that one keeps trying until he personally runs out of ideas. However, at the same time, one needs to be open to other ideas which others might offer. This may seem obvious but it's amazing how many people refuse offers of help or advice because of their bitachon and nothing positive occurs. Then, they wonder why.
    – DanF
    Sep 4, 2018 at 14:18
  • Isn't there some adage in the Gemarah that says that even when a knife is pointed at your throat, one must always pray and never lose hope?
    – DanF
    Sep 4, 2018 at 14:20
  • @DanF On the other hand, Yosef was punished for doing his Hishtadlus (Rashi to Bereishis 40:23), so there’s clearly a limit long before one runs out of ideas. On the third hand, you are correct in Chizkiya saying that (Berachos 10a), which could possibly support your assertion that we daven only when we’re out of ideas. In that case, he refused to marry to prevent Menasheh’s birth, then offered to marry Yeshaya’s daughter in the hopes that their combined zechusim would prevent Menasheh’s wickedness. It was only after those were refuted that he davened and was given more time to live.
    – DonielF
    Sep 4, 2018 at 14:28
  • There's that "third hand", again!
    – DanF
    Sep 4, 2018 at 14:30
  • @DanF I may be anthropomorphizing the Torah, but since it’s infinite, it’s not bound by our measly two hands. Would you prefer if I referred to the four handles on the Atzei Chaim instead?
    – DonielF
    Sep 4, 2018 at 14:37

3 Answers 3


One example brought by the Chazon Ish in his monograph Emunah u'Bitachon is that to buy a lottery ticket is hishtadlut, and not buying more than one is bitachon! But in general this is highly contingent on the individual and the circumstances.

In the specific case of going to the doctor, though, it is widely accepted that one can and should. (This is often based on the Talmud [Berachot 60a], itself based on the Torah's command that someone who harms his fellow must pay medical bills [Shemot 21:19].) The Vilna Gaon writes otherwise in Ma'ase Rav, but most interpret this as applying only to someone on a very high spiritual level.

  • But maybe not buying a single one is Bitachon too ?! מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו
    – Al Berko
    Sep 5, 2018 at 10:32
  • @AlBerko The story is told of a man who would daven every day with tears streaming down his face, “Please, Hashem, let me win the lottery.” Every day, three times a day, he would offer this heartfelt tefillah, saying how much tzedakah he would give, how much Torah learning he would support. After months of this, it is said that the Malachim asked Hashem, “Why don’t You fulfill his tefillos?” Hashem responded simply, “If he wants to win the lottery, he needs to buy a ticket first.”
    – DonielF
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:01
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    Where in Maaseh Rav?
    – Double AA
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:15
  • @DoubleAA - good question. I remembered it being there, but couldn't find it. After some googling it appears that there is an oral tradition that the Gaon chastised his brother for going to a doctor when he was sick. See the story here and here in English, and discussed more at length by R' Moshe Shternbuch in his book הלכות הגר"א ומנהגיו (here, behind a paywall). Sep 5, 2018 at 12:28
  • @JoshFriedlander If not for the fact that Rav Shternbuch quotes it I might be hesitant to accept it as actually being from the Gra - 9 times out of 10, someone quotes the Gra, it’s not actually the Gra, they just heard something smart and “who else could possibly have said such ge’onus?”
    – DonielF
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:40

Rb Mordechai Miller said that the limit of bitachon is such that a person must know that when they take the course of action indicated by bitachon that they will not regret the outcome regardless of what transpires.

So that the degree to which you are allowed to be a ba'al bitachon depends on your emunah.


"Beware of what you're asking for! For the answers might be deeper than you might imagine!" ... (someone important said that)

R' Tzvi Dermer once taught me an important lesson: the famous Mishna in Peah (1,1) says:

"אֵלּוּ דְבָרִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם שִׁעוּר. הַפֵּאָה, וְהַבִּכּוּרִים, וְהָרֵאָיוֹן, וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה."

These are the things that have no measure: Peah, Bikurim, the appearance-sacrifice, acts of kindness, and the study of the Torah.

Those are only the Mitzvos that have no measure. But there's something bigger that has no measure and is not even explicitly mentioned in the Torah - the Midos (the basic human traits). This is the realm that the whole Torah is based on (as it says "דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה") but it has no measure.

The two things you've mentioned are Midos and have no Shiur and that's the basis for your confusion. Here's another example - How long do you have to study Torah in one day? Can you add a minute, two, five, an hour at the expense of your sleep or your work? How do you balance between respecting your parents by taking care of them and taking care of your wife and kids? All of those decisions are Midos that precede the practical Mitzvos you perform and have no defined measure.

NB: Interestingly, Rambam wrote a lot of them in Hilchos Deot that practically starts the whole Seder of his Mihsnah Torah, but all the future Poskim, incl. the Mechaber did not see any special importance in Midos and either omitted it completely or mentioned some of them elsewhere in Shu"A.

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    -1 I disagree with that application. The Rambam (De’os 1-2) holds that one should (usually) seek the middle: not too charitable, but not too stingy; not too indulgent, but not too abstinent. I think you are correct in applying Rav Dermer in asking “exactly how much Torah should I learn, measured in milliseconds, before I go to sleep?” You can’t give a precise measure. But you can give generalities - for the average person, one should sleep about eight hours and split the day into fourths, spending 3/4 of it in various types of learning and 1/4 in business (De’os 4, Talmud Torah 1).
    – DonielF
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:38
  • @DonielF The Rambam said "into thirds"; eight hours of sleep, eight hours of learning, and eight hours of working. Sep 5, 2018 at 18:21
  • @chachamNisan Talmud Torah 1:11-12 says one should divide his learning into thirds - 1/3 Mikra, 1/3 Mishnah, 1/3 Gemara. If one is working, then whatever time he’s not working should be split in thirds. My example of splitting the day in fourths follows the Rambam’s example of working three hours and learning nine.
    – DonielF
    Sep 5, 2018 at 18:24
  • Are you sure that any of these are what the Rambam said people should do in Hilchos Deos?
    – MichoelR
    Jan 22 at 21:52
  • All he says in Hilchos Talmud Torah is, "כֵּיצַד. הָיָה בַּעַל אֻמָּנוּת וְהָיָה עוֹסֵק בִּמְלַאכְתּוֹ שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁעוֹת בַּיּוֹם וּבַתּוֹרָה תֵּשַׁע. אוֹתָן הַתֵּשַׁע כו' " - "If a person has work and does his work for three hours in the day, and learns for nine, those nine [should be divided as follows]..." He isn't giving a rule for how much to work.
    – MichoelR
    Jan 22 at 22:41

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