From Insights and Inspirations
Published by the Ra’anana Community Kollel
Ra’anana Community Kollel
Trust and Endeavor
Rabbi Binyomin Lipson
“A person’s income is set from one Rosh Hashanah to the next.”
(Talmud, Beitzah 16a)
If our financial situation is determined at the beginning of every year, why is it necessary for us to constantly invest so much effort in pursuit of our livelihood? As Hashem created the world and actively provides sustenance for every one of its creatures, it would seem that any attempt that we make in order to increase our financial standing is of no benefit to us whatsoever. In order to receive that which was allotted to us on Rosh Hashanah, no effort should be required, and to achieve a level of physical comfort to which we are not entitled is certainly beyond our capabilities. What is the Torah’s view of our worldly pursuits, and what is the proper attitude that we should adopt towards our financial successes and failures?
Ostensibly, there are two diverse categories into which we can divide all of the events of world history. The vast majority of the time, we live our lives within the perimeters of the laws of nature. If a farmer ploughs and plants his field in the required manner, it is reasonable for him to expect a profitable harvest. The world was created with natural laws of cause and effect which, with sufficient wisdom, every person can utilize to his advantage. According to this understanding, those who are diligent and are willing to invest constant effort in securing their financial security should, for the most part, be successful in doing so, while those who only put forth a minimal amount of effort or are restricted by physical limitations should not. Nevertheless, on occasion Hashem does not confine world events to the consistent laws of nature and brings about miraculous occurrences, which supersede the realm of the natural. In the colloquial, we refer to such events as miracles.
When we consider these two methods with which Hashem governs world events, there is a very basic question which must be asked. The laws of nature are not an independent system in their own right. Like everything which exists in the world, they are a novel entity which came into being at the time of the creation. In addition, even subsequent to their creation, the existence of the world and everything in it are constantly maintained by the will of their creator. What then is the difference between the natural events of our lives and the miraculous ones? Are they not both directly dependent upon Hashem’s will? Why do we refer to the former as natural while the latter is called miraculous?
After much contemplation, the logical conclusion at which we arrive is that there is no essential difference between the natural and the supernatural. Rather, we merely refer to those events which commonly occur as nature, and those which are unusual as miracles. In truth, however, every daily event, no matter how commonplace, is just as much of a miracle as the splitting of the Red Sea before the Jewish people. If we were accustomed to waking up every morning and seeing a delicious pancake breakfast with maple syrup drop down from the heavens just as the Jewish people received the manna in the wilderness, is there any doubt that we would come to view even this as natural as well?
Rav Dessler zt”l explained that Hashem purposely designed the laws of nature to serve as a test for mankind. Will we live our lives based upon the superficial observation that the world is governed by natural law, or will we succeed in living with the understanding that everything that we have is given to us directly from Hashem and is in no way brought about as a result of our efforts. As the purpose of nature is to hide the hand of Hashem in the course of world affairs, one who lives with the reality that the world runs solely on the commands of its creator, and as a result is no longer tested by the illusions of nature, is no longer governed by its natural laws and lives his life solely in the realm of the supernatural. Thus, to whatever extent we as individuals recognize that our personal successes and failures come to us directly from our Father in Heaven, and not merely a product of circumstance, the more we free ourselves from the bonds of nature and begin to witness the hand of Hashem more openly in our day to day lives.
As each person is bound to the laws of the physical world only to the extent that he believes that they really have power, the amount of physical endeavor which is appropriate for each person varies greatly in direct relation to his level of trust in Divine providence. The more one really trusts and honestly believes that Hashem is indeed in constant control of every detail of the world’s affairs, the less necessary it for his life to be governed by any other means. Thus, it is only with a high level of self knowledge that a person can hope to recognize his personal level of trust in Hashem and thereby the amount of financial endeavor which is appropriate. In short, it is necessary for a person to engage in physical pursuits to the extent that, if his endeavors were to fail, it would be clear to him that his failure was a direct result of Divine intervention and not in some way the result of the inferiority of his attempts.
One of the most basic ways that we can work on and gradually increase our level of trust in the Almighty is through the means of heartfelt prayer. In the course of our daily tefillot, we express over and over again the ultimate sovereignty of Hashem in all of our affairs and reaffirm our belief that He is the source of all blessing and success. By concentrating during prayer to say the words not only with our mouths but also with our hearts, we are fortifying within ourselves one of, if not the, most vital traits that we as believing Jews must seek to acquire, and it is only by doing so that we can free ourselves from the shackles of the natural world and rise above our natural limitations.