More on Finance and Bitachon

In an earlier post, I mentioned R’ Elchanan Wasserman’s essay on the Great Depression. ) Despite the past couple of days looking promising, it is still too early to rest comfortably. The markets are still volatile, meaning there is too much uncertainty. A 10% one day jump isn’t meaningful — people’s opinion of what the typical US company is worth didn’t increase by 10% in one day. People are still lost, and looking for what things should be valued. I recommend watching the VIX, a measure of the volatility of the S&P 500 as implies by options on it traded at CBOE. Until it goes back down to usual levels, people still aren’t really operating on their usual levels of trust, and it ain’t over yet.

As Rav Elchanan wrote, it’s all about trust. No actual wealth was lost in the Great Depression, and none now. What was lost was a false belief in wealth that didn’t really exist. The lesson of a depression, he writes is “אַל־תִּבְטְח֥וּ בִנְדִיבִ֑ים בְּבֶן־אָדָ֓ם ׀ שֶׁ֤אֵ֖ין ל֥וֹ תְשׁוּעָֽה׃ … אַשְׁרֵ֗י שֶׁ֤אֵ֣-ל יַֽעֲקֹ֣ב בְּעֶזְר֑וֹ שִׂ֝בְר֗וֹ עַל־ה’ אֱ-לֹהָֽיו׃ — Do not rely on generous people, in humans who have no salvation… Enriched is he whose help is the G-d of Yaakov, whose dependency is on Hashem his G-d.” (Tehillim 146:3, 5) And, “ט֗וֹב לַֽחֲס֥וֹת בַּ֑ה’ מִ֝בְּטֹ֗חַ בָּֽאָדָֽם׃ ט֗וֹב לַֽחֲס֥וֹת בַּ֑ה’ מִ֝בְּטֹ֗חַ בִּנְדִיבִֽים׃ — Better to rely on G-d than to rely on man. Better to rely on G-d than to rely on generous people.” (118:8-9, and said in Hallel, such as on this morning, Roch Chodesh).

Perhaps a key to getting through this is to say the following words of
bentching and think about what one is saying:

וְנָא אַל תַּצְרִיכֵנוּ And Please, do not make us require,
ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ Hashem our G-d,
לֹא לִידֵי מַתְּנַת בָּשָׂר וָדָם not the power of the the gifts of flesh and blood
וְלֹא לִיֵדי הַלְוַאָתָם nor the power of their loans,
כִּי אִם rather only
לְיָדְךָ Your Power (lit: “Hand”)
הַמְּלֵאָה Which is full,
הַפְתוּחָה open,
הַקְּדוֹשָׁה holy,
וְהָרְחָבָה and broad.
שֶׁלֹּא נֵבוֹשׁ וְלֹא נִכָּלֵם So that we will not be shamed, and we will not be extinguished
לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. until the end of time.

Notice we asked to be freed from “the power” or authority — literally, the “hand” — of people’s loans. Not the loans themselves. Having a loan and trusting in Hashem to have the means to repay it is very different than being under the control of the loan.

And in that is all the difference.

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