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15 Adar 5762 - February 27, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Nisoyon of Parnossoh

by HaRav Moshe Schwab, zt"l

"Fortunate is the man who trusts in Hashem, and Hashem is his Source of Trust, and he does not turn to arrogant powers for assistance" (Tehillim 40:5). The purpose of man's coming to This World is to be tested.

Surroundings where the concealment of Hashem is much more evident than His Shechinoh, tempt man to mistake the laws of nature as having the ability to save him. Nonetheless, one who is strong in his belief will courageously look only towards Hashem as his single source of salvation. Only Hashem can shield him from his troubles.

When man will succeed in conquering the darkness of misguided trusts, he will earn a completely elevated type of wealth: a great treasury of spiritual assets, which he can even pass on to his children. As Reb Chaim Volozhiner zt"l explains on the posuk, "Mis'halech betumo tzaddik, ashrei bonov acharov" (Mishlei 20:7): "The middos which the tzaddik toils to acquire during his lifetime will become second nature to his children." (Ruach Chaim on Avos 5:4)

Therefore the mishna (Ibid.) teaches us that "Avrohom Ovinu was tested with ten nisyonos, and he withstood them all." Avrohom is called our forefather, because we have become his children with regard to those ten nisyonos: We have inherited the ability to conquer situations similar to those which Avrohom Ovinu was faced with, due to his success in overcoming them.

In a similar vein, the Ramban explains the posuk, "And Hashem tested Avrohom." (Bereishis 22:1) as follows: "Hashem, the One Who is testing, calls upon Avrohom to now reveal his hidden capability in the form of achievement. In this way, Avrohom will earn the reward of a tremendous good deed, rather than just a reward for having a good heart."

When the tzaddik utilizes his bitochon to enlighten his pathway in times of trial, he draws upon that koach ho'emunah which he already possesses in his heart, and thus successfully overcomes the nisoyon.

We know that the first beginnings of the hester ponim - - of Hashem's concealment in This World, began when Odom Horishon sinned. He was thereafter cursed with, "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat your bread" (Bereishis 3:19). From then on, it has normally been impossible for man to live upon This Earth without making at least a bit of hishtadlus to earn a livelihood.

That one must rely on his own toil and intelligence to support himself is hester. Why? It can easily bring him to forget that his livelihood is in truth determined by Hashem, not by his own abilities. Consequently, the test of parnossoh is the first and foremost trial for everyone, young and old. Chazal have cautioned us repeatedly to seek ideas and ways not to fall prey to this nisoyon, but rather to emerge from our individual situations into the light of success.

It is brought down in the gemora (Pesochim 118a): "Rabbi Yochonon says, `Man's livelihood is twice as difficult as giving birth. About giving birth, the posuk states: "Be'etzev teildi bonim," whereas with regard to parnossoh, it states, `Be'itzovon tochalenoh.' " (The latter wording denotes a more difficult form of hardship.)

How can we understand this gemora?

The explanation is as follows: Both childbirth pains and the difficulties of parnossoh are results of the curses Odom and Chavoh received. In both these areas lie tests, which can bring a person to swell with pride: Isn't it his own strength that brought about such a wonderful outcome? The woman brings children into this world, the man earns a fine living, and it's all a result of their own doing!

Herein lies the test that man will rely on his intelligence and human capabilities, thereby making his hishtadlus in these areas a primary pursuit in This World.

Therefore, Hashem in His infinite kindness decreed that both these goals be achieved only after much anguish and hardship. As a result, man will not boast of his human accomplishments, but will instead steer his heart towards the Ribono Shel Olom. He will plead that he be spared from trials, and pray that his paths be showered only with success. It is in this light that a woman should also accept her childbirth pains and weaknesses.

Similarly, the Chovos Halevovos writes that sick children, R"l, l"o also serve the purpose of reminding man that his human powers are very limited. He cannot keep himself alive forever, nor can he necessarily cure his children . . . (Sha'ar Habechina, Chapter 5).

Even with all of the above, the hardships of earning a livelihood are twice as great. This teaches us what a tremendous test parnossoh is, and how strongly the yetzer hora attempts to persuade man that it is his own koach which brings about his success. So that we are able to overcome our yetzer hora, Hashem causes the troubles of making ends meet to be twice as difficult as that of childbirth. Maybe, maybe thus, man will come to recognize his human weaknesses, and then look only towards the Hand of Hashem which actually is guiding him at all times.

The abovementioned gemora goes further. "Rabbi Yochonon says: Earning man's livelihood is more difficult to achieve than the Final Redemption."

How is that possible?

The reasoning is this: The purpose of the geuloh is to reveal the Light of Hashem's Shechinoh in This World. It is to teach us that there is no one besides Him. Truthfully, even today, it is apparent to anyone who seriously thinks about things that Hashem runs His World by His messengers. Therefore, Hashem does not consider it so difficult, so-to-speak, to plainly reveal his Ways, showing us His Omnipresence in each and every step. Even when Hashem makes use of an Angel (as it says, "Hamal'och hago'el osi"), it is certain that we will recognize Who sent the Angel.

Similarly, if the Redemption will come about through the hands of the Angel, no one would for a minute doubt that he was sent by Hashem. There is no room for error here.

With parnossoh, however, this is not the case. Bringing in one's livelihood constantly lures a person to be swayed by his evil inclination. If Hashem sends a person his daily bread through an agent, it is almost impossible for that person not to fall prey to reliance on the "laws of Nature" (thus crediting the messenger, and forgetting about the real Source of his success). Therefore, with regard to parnossoh the posuk states: "Elokim horo'eh osi" (Bereishis 48:15)--Hashem is the One Who guides me with His Holy Hand. Yaakov Ovinu said this posuk to his son Yosef, acknowledging that it is Hashem who is the One in charge, not he.

Man must constantly work on himself to recognize Hashem's guidance as the cause of his successful toil.

To test people with such deeply challenging trials, compelling them to work so hard for a living is, so-to- speak, difficult for Hashem. The danger that one will plunge to the depths of physicality by going after his daily bread is very real.

Yet at the same time Hashem holds on to us, making sure that we don't stray too far. He seeks the best for His children, and wants us to emerge honorably from His test. Therefore, with constant Divine intervention, He makes sure to give us room within the framework of earning a living, to recognize His Hand.

This is what the posuk "Elokim horo'eh osi" means. Hashem is guiding us lovingly, like a shepherd guides his sheep in the pasture. With such a hanhogoh man can come to depend not on other human beings, but solely on Hashem Yisborach, al yodo hamelei'oh, hapesuchoh, hakedoshoh, vehorechovoh!

The test of parnossoh arises for everyone. Even tzadikim have been confronted by it, as the Medrash Tanchuma brings (Parshas VaYeitze, 3): "Rabbi Berachya says: Everything that Yaakov Ovinu requested from Hashem, he was granted. He asked, `May Hashem be with me.' Hashem answered, `Behold, I will be with you.' He asked, `And You should watch over me', to which Hashem answered, `And I will watch over you wherever you go.' He asked, `May I return in peace.' And Hashem answered, `And I will return you.'

"Yet, when Yaakov asked, `And You should give me bread,' Hashem did not readily grant that request. Hashem said, `If I guarantee him his daily bread, what else will he need to ask of Me?' Therefore, Hashem did not automatically answer in the positive."

According to the Chachomim, Yaakov was granted this request as well, as it states, `I will not forsake you.'" Yet, according to Rabbi Berachya, even Yaakov, the pride of the Ovos, was not spared the test of parnossoh, and received no promise as to his livelihood.

According to the Chachomim, we must understand why they quote "And I will not forsake you," as an answer to the problem of livelihood. Also, why does Rabbi Berachya not agree that this refers to livelihood?

It would appear from this medrash that the Chachomim allude to two levels of bitochon, which correspond to two differing aspects of Hashem's providing a person's livelihood.

Chazal (in Brochos 35) elaborate on the posuk, "ve'osafto degonecho" -- and you shall gather in your crops. "Act according to the way of the world." (This refers to gathering in your produce, just like everyone else.) Although the Torah introduces this topic with, "And if you will listen, and you will serve Him with all your hearts and your souls," which suggests that the successful growth of our crops depends on a spiritual reason still, Hashem arranges the outcome in the natural way of things. He still gives us the test of parnossoh.

Reb Eliyahu Dessler, zt"l explains as follows: Even on that lofty madreigah, there still is the test of parnossoh. The fact is that they do not yet see the result of Hashem's promise before their eyes. Although there is the promise of "And I will not forsake you," there is no prior knowledge as to how that promise will be fulfilled. Exactly how will he earn his living? As such, he does not have peace of mind, as if his livelihood was already guaranteed. Therefore, a shadow of doubt can arise in one's heart, that maybe because of man's own toil comes the success (not necessarily because of Hashem's promise). This is definitely a test that is brought about as the result of Hashem's concealed Ways. (Michtav MeEliahu, Vol.1, pg. 198)

That is the opinion of Rabbi Berachya. According to the above, the fact that one must gather in his crops bederech ho'olam is not a guarantee of parnossoh to Yaakov Ovinu. Even if Hashem promised him, "And I will not forsake you," there still is room to be tested here.

On the other hand, according to the Chachomim, Yaakov Ovinu's trust was so complete that for him, this was considered a guarantee. It is likened to the madreigah of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa (Taanis 25a). Rabbi Chanina said, "The One Who ordered the oil to burn, will order the vinegar to burn." His faith was so complete that he had no problem using vinegar for Shabbos licht, so confident was he that the vinegar could and would burn beautifully.

Hashem's miraculous Ways are just the same as His natural Ways. He is the One Who created the world, and it is in His power to do everything. Such a person clearly realizes that there is nothing Hashem is incapable of. Every word of His is guaranteed, already before the person sees its fulfillment.

This is the hanhogoh of Hashem, and this is how the Chachomim explain Yaakov's level. As soon as Hashem promised him, "And I will not forsake you," he received his guarantee for his parnossoh for all time. Yaakov was now confident that his livelihood was assured. He would not have to make any further form of hishtadlus. As far as he was concerned, his request was already granted, and he could enjoy complete and total peace of mind.


Look how dear Hashem's children are to him! He wants to bring us closer to Him, not wishing to leave us to "nature" to take care of. As the aforementioned Medrash Tanchuma states: "If I guarantee him his bread, what else will he need to ask of Me?"

Hashem presents us with as many opportunities for zechuyos as possible. This, so that we will not sink ourselves into the physicality of This World, thus distancing ourselves from the Higher Light and embedding ourselves in darkness instead. The Ramchal writes (Derech Hashem 4:5): "According to how much one complicates himself in worldly things, that is how much he distances himself from the Higher Light and entrenches himself in darkness. And behold, Hashem Yisborach prepared the remedy for this. That is that man must come and stand before Hashem, requesting all his needs from Him. Then, even when man continues with other forms of hishtadlus, albeit human, he will not cement himself into physicality, since he has already expressed his dependence on the One Above."

Moreover, the gemora (Yoma 71a) states: Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai's talmidim asked him: "Why didn't the mon rain down for the Bnei Yisroel in the midbar only once a year?" He answered them with a parable; "A king had one son, to whom he would provide his needs once a year, for the entire year. As a result, the son never came to see his father. The king then switched and decided to provide for him on a daily basis, for one day only at a time. He thus gained that he would see his son every day. It is the same with Klal Yisroel. When we were in the midbar, someone who had four or five children would worry, `Perhaps the mon won't rain down tomorrow, and my children will starve!' The hearts of Bnei Yisroel were therefore in constant contact with Hashem, entreating Him to provide for their daily bread."

We know that the mon is the symbol of parnossoh for Klal Yisroel, no matter where we are. Whether we are sitting peacefully "each one under his vines and fig trees" in Eretz Yisroel, or whether it is afterwards in exile, Chazal taught us that the livelihood of Yidden is always from Shomayim. We receive in a manner similar to that king who provides for his child on a daily basis. Constantly seeking out his welfare, he troubles his son to see him every day. While this may not seem to the son like the ideal setup, it is truthfully a display of the unusually strong love which his father has for him.

When we were in the midbar, and everywhere else, we were always compelled to experience the trouble of seeking out our livelihoods. We have never received a guarantee for the future. The wheels of fortune are constantly turning, and wealth and riches are forever changing hands. Although this might not seem like the best for us, in reality Hashem's strong love is conveyed to us with this test. Our hearts are in constant contact with our Father in Heaven. We thus come close to Him, as we stand before Him requesting all our needs.

The Mishna (Ovos 6:6) lists the forty-eight virtues by which the Torah is acquired. Included in that listing is " . . . a minimum of business, a minimal amount of derech Eretz (which implies toiling for a livelihood)." We see that holiness does not go hand-in-hand with one who toils excessively for a living. The Mishna also teaches us, "Establish your Torah learning as something set, and your work, establish to be temporary." By excess working, one is bound to distance himself from his Heavenly Father.

In contrast, if one strengthens himself in times of Hashem's concealment, he will recognize the powerful love within this test and will lift his eyes towards His Heavenly King alone. It is Hashem, after all, Who enriches and Who impoverishes, so what will one gain by exhausting himself to amass fortunes? Riches and power are all His, and He decides who will receive what.

Therefore, one should only busy himself with providing for his household alone, and not to amass a fortune. By conducting ourselves in this manner, our hearts will be free to toil in the sweetness of Torah instead, and in tefillah, which will bring us closer to the Shechinoh, the Source of all Blessings. That brings true wealth, and we will then be "fortunate in This World, and have it good in the Next World."

HaRav Moshe Schwab served as mashgiach of Gateshead Yeshiva for over thirty years. He was niftar in Adar, 5739 (1979). This shmuess was written down by one of his talmidim, and appeared in the first (Elul, 5738) edition of the bi- annually published Kol Hatorah journal. It has been translated with permission.

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