Rav Kook Torah

Psalm 33: Our Inner Source of Trust

Appearing on all United States currency is the concise motto, “In God we trust.” What is the source of our trust in God? From where do we draw the powers of faith needed to meet life’s challenges?

The 33rd chapter of Psalms speaks of God’s absolute control of the world:

“From the heavens, God looks [down] and sees all of humanity. From His dwelling-place, He watches over all of the earth’s inhabitants. The One Who formed their hearts together perceives all of their doings.” [Ps. 33: 13-15]

After reflecting on the Divine providence that governs all aspects of the universe, the psalmist concludes with an elated affirmation of trust in God:

“כִּי-בוֹ יִשְׂמַח לִבֵּנוּ; כִּי בְשֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ בָטָחְנוּ.” (תהילים ל"ג:כ"א)

“For in Him our heart will rejoice. For in His holy Name we trust.” (Ps. 33:21)

Simchah and Bitachon

Rav Kook explained that this verse actually describes two different states. There is a higher state — “in Him our heart will rejoice” — when one experiences pure, elevated simchah (joy). And there is a lower state, one of bitachon, when one trusts that all is in God’s hands and all is ultimately for the best.

These two levels correspond to different aspects of the soul. At its highest level, the inner soul is tightly bound with God. In this state, the soul is filled with boundless joy; it is beyond all worldly constraints and concerns. Unburdened by worry and fear, the soul has no need for trust in God. It is content in transcendent happiness, in its eternal joy in God.

However, even the greatest of mystics cannot always remain on this lofty level. There are times when one must contend with the vicissitudes of life, struggle with change and uncertainty. In this lower state, one no longer experiences the pure joy of the inner soul. One no longer enjoys a connection to God so pure and so intimate that the psalmist describes it with the word bo — that the soul rejoices ‘in Him.’ Rather, we can only relate to ‘His holy Name’ — an illumination of the elevated holiness that extends from the pure joy of the inner soul.

Yet even in this lower state, we may draw from the wellspring of holiness flowing from the soul’s higher state. Even in ordinary life, we benefit from this source of trust and faith as we confront the vagaries of life, which appear to us as a threat to the soul’s inner stronghold.

"I will not fear, for You are with me"

The more distant we are from the elevated source, the greater our fears. Still, we do not completely lose our inner joy. Even in our lower state, when we only connect to God indirectly, by name, it is still ‘His holy Name.’ There always remain traces of elevated holiness.

This is the basis of our trust in God, whatever the path we take. “Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are with me” (Ps. 23:4). Even in our worldly state, when we must contend with the challenges and vicissitudes of life, we benefit from the soul’s inner joy and are able to place our trust ‘in Your holy Name.’

(Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 218)

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