Rav Kook Torah

Psalm 33: Our Inner Source of Trust


On all United States currency you can find the short motto, “In God we trust.” What is the source of our trust in God? From where do we draw the resources of faith needed to meet life’s challenges?

In chapter 33, the psalmist reflects on God’s supervision and 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; He Who fashioned the hearts of all, Who perceives everything they do.” (Psalms 33: 13-15)

After reflecting on the Divine providence governing all aspects of the universe, the psalm 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 hearts rejoice; we trust in His holy Name.” (Psalms 33:21)

Simchah and Bitachon

Rav Kook explained that this verse is actually describing two different psychological states. There is a lofty state when the “heart rejoices in God,” and we experience pure, elevated simchah and joy. And there is a lower state, one of bitachon, when we trust 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 we must contend with the vicissitudes of life, when we must struggle with change and uncertainty. In this lower state, we no longer experience the pure joy of the inner soul. We no longer enjoy a connection to God so pure and so intimate that the psalmist describes it with the word 'bo' — as the soul rejoices, as it were, “in Him,” in the Divine Essence. Rather, we can only relate to “shem kodsho", “His holy Name” — only a glimmering, a reflection, of the lofty holiness emanating from the inner soul and its pure state of joy.

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 bitachon and faith as we confront life’s challenges, 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 path we take. “Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are with me” (Psalms 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)