Transform Your Life into A Life of Bitachon – A talk with Rabbi Yitzchak Dwek

Growing up in Aleppo, Syria, Rabbi Yitzchak Dwek would often face harassment from the Arabs in the street. Yet, from a young age, he was inculcated with a strong reliance on Hashem. He describes vividly how his kindergarten rebbe, Chacham Dovid Boukai, would recite together with all the children (Yeshaya 8:10), “Utzu eitzah v’tufar, dabru davar v’lo yakum, ki imanu Keil.” (plan a conspiracy and it will be annulled, speak your piece and it will not stand, for Hashem is with us).

“We sang along joyously, and the words “ki imanu Keil” meant so much to us, for we knew that the Al-mighty was with us always. As we sang, we jumped up and pointed upward to Hashem,” reminisces Rabbi Dwek. “Now, more than 60 years later, the singing – and the faith it aroused in me – conjure up warm memories.

“The truth is, every day of my childhood was a lesson in emunah.”

This message became a life lesson – one that Rabbi Dwek strengthened and incorporated through his years as a child in Syria, while acclimating to America, when serving as the Rav of the Sephardic community in Deal, NJ for close to forty years, and most recently, through his Kollel Ohr HaBitachon and his newly released book, A Life of Bitachon (Artscroll, 2017).

Building a Legacy

Rabbi Yitzchak Dwek was born in Aleppo, Syria and immigrated to the United States at the age of twelve. He went on to learn in Yeshivas Ner Yisrael in Baltimore and then in Ner Yisrael of Toronto. During his yeshivah years, he forged a close connection with Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman and his son-in-law, Harav Yaakov Weinberg.

At a relatively young age, Rabbi Dwek became the community rav in Deal, New Jersey and invested tremendously in its growth; although he faced many challenges along the way, he was a guiding force behind the establishment of its network of educational institutions for boys and girls, a yeshivah and a thriving kollel.

“It was a privilege to be part of such an amazing, growth-oriented community, where tzedakah was so manifest that many gedolei Yisrael, from all walks of life, would visit each summer,” says Rabbi Dwek. In particular, Rabbi Dwek developed a close connection with Chacham Ovadiah Yosef, whom he hosted annually for 19 years.

Hearing of the many transitions in his life, one is quick to realize that the Rabbi’s ability to forge forward has always been rooted in a focus on bitachon. And by extension, members of the Deal community, participants in his lectures, students in his seminary classes have all benefited from this emphasis on bitachon and the encouragement and concrete guidance he offers in this area.

A Life of Bitachon

Since his retirement in 2010, Rabbi Dwek has dedicated himself to disseminating the lessons of true bitachon through his night kollel, Ohr Habitachon, the many shiurim he delivers, and most recently, his extraordinary book, A Life of Bitachon (which shares a Hebrew name with his kollelOhr Habitachon).

Rabbi Dwek’s central goal in putting together A Life of Bitachon is clear.

“Many people are under the mistaken impression that bitachon is a means to an end – a way to ‘get something’ for themselves. Real bitachon, however, is an end unto itself.”

Rabbi Dwek offers the following analogy to better explain this misconception:

“My father used to joke with one of his customers, an Arab man. He’d make friendly remarks to him and even wish him happy birthday. We knew that in their hearts, the two really hated one another. But when in business, one has to conduct himself this way. Some of us talk to Hashem the way my father talked to the Arab. Bitachon is not just, ‘You’re so kind and helpful. Please fill my order.’ It’s all about building and strengthening our connection with Hashem.”

As he explains so beautifully in the book, bitachon means living with Hashem. One cannot say he keeps Shabbos because he wants a day of rest, although it is true that it’s a restful day. Rather, we keep Shabbos because it’s a mitzvah, and by abstaining from work, we are attesting that Hashem created the world.

Imagine a man goes to buy a diamond from Tiffany’s for $100,000. Of course, they give him a beautiful box in which to keep his diamond. Someone sees him carrying the box and asks, “How much did that box cost?”

He replies, “It was $100,000.” But that’s not true. The box didn’t cost $100,000, the diamond did!

The main thing is not what we receive from Hashem – that’s like the box. Rather, the diamond is our bond with Hashem.

“When we tap in to this reality,” explains Rabbi Dwek, “we can start to truly live, as opposed to merely existing. Hence the name of the book, A Life of Bitachon.

Where to Start?

For those who feel that reaching high levels of bitachon might be difficult to achieve, where is a good place to start?

’He’amanti k’adabair,’ Rabbi Dwek advises. “We should always talk about bitachon to strengthen bitachon. The more you talk about it, the more it becomes a part of you, and the more you notice things that start happening.”

“And,” he continues, “We really ask for Hashem’s help in this area every day. When I tell this to people, the response is often, ‘Really? Is that some kind of special Sephardi tefillah?’ But it’s actually part of Shemoneh Esrei! We say: ‘Al Hatzaddikim…v’tein schar l’chol habotchim b’shimcha b’emet, v’sim chelkeinu imaheim’ – we are actually asking Hashem to make us one of those ‘botchim,’ a believer. Help me to become a botei’ach.”

“To be sure,” Rabbi Dwek cautions, “even our gedolim needed to work on bitachon daily. It’s not a quick-fix. It’s the work of a lifetime. But doing the work will transform your life!”

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  1. Great book by a truly inspiring Tzaddik. When yypu consider what led to his retirement, and him staying Shtark in his Emunan is absolutely mind blowing. For Real.

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