Lehman Brothers and Bitachon

During last night’s commute home, someone asked me how my preparations for Rosh haShanah were going. I had to admit, not well, as I had no thoughts as to which particular issues were calling for my attention this year, which were the battles to choose to fight.

Thank G-d, this morning I saw the following by R’ Chaim Brown on his blog “Divrei Chaim“:

… Sometimes a ma’aseh turns out so badly that it seems only Divine intervention can explain what happened. When you consider a 158 year old company (Lehman Bros.) drive to bankrupcy in the course of weeks, insurance giants (AIG) reduced to nothing, banks one after the other on the verge of failure, one is faced with either assuming the best minds in business simultaneously have all been overtaken by a bout of very contagious stupid disease, or someone up there is pulling the strings in ways that are just out of everyone’s control.

R’ Elchanan in one of his ma’amarim, which if I recall correctly has no date attached but must have been written in the ’30s, writes that the failing of the economy (at the time of his writing) was not caused by a lack of money, as plenty of people still had fortunes and great wealth. The economy failed because of a loss of confidence in the institutions of finance – a loss of faith in the economic system. What was true then is certainly true today, as the credit crunch is primarily a loss of confidence and trust. The key to understanding this phenomenon is the principle of middah k’neged middah. R’ Elchahan writes that a loss of faith in worldly institutions comes about because of the greater loss of faith in our spiritual institutions – a failing of emunah. And only through the strengthening of emunah can we find the tools to emerge from such a crisis.

As I spend much of my waking hours providing software support for traders, the air I’m breathing is thick with this insecurity. And then to note that our self-confidence is being shaken within Elul… I’m not sure how Hashem could have made His point much clearer.

This isn’t an attempt to play prophet, to claim one knows the reasons G-d chooses to do something. Rather than prophecy, this is wisdom, as in “איזהו חכם? הרואה את הנולד — Who is wise? One who sees upcoming consequences.” (Tamid 32a) The conclusion emerges from simply looking at the impact of the events — we are now worried about our own financial stability, about our savings for the future, of the stability of all the support systems we usually rely upon. To not use that emotional shift in our avodas Hashem by leveraging it with a constructive alternative would be foolhardy.

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