"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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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.