Monday, April 4, 2011

Separating Work From the Results of Working - Shevet Sofer & Rebbe Nosson

At Shalosh Sheudos on parshas Vayakhel, Rav Moshe Weinberger spoke on a fundamental point that especially working people have to internalize. I will (freely) translate the piece he quoted from the sefer Shevet Sofer by rav Simcha Bunim Sofer, the grandson of the Chasam Sofer, on Vayakhel, and then I will (freely) translate a piece from Likutei Halachos that my friend Dov Perkal pointed out to me which makes the same point.

"Six days work shall be done and the seventh shall be holy to you, Shabbos Shabboson..." (Shmos 35:2) (emphasis added)

The pasuk earlier said "remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it... and you shall call Shabbos a delight." (Shmos 20:8). However, there are those who does not believe with perfect faith in Hashem that everything comes from Him, and that a person's livelihood is fixed and that it is Hashem who gives a person strength and success. Such a person will be somewhat sad on Shabbos, and he will not rejoice in Shabbos, because his heart will be filled with worry, thinking that he is losing out by desisting from his efforts. Therefore, one must believe that everything comes from Hashem, and that "bread is not for the wise and neither is wealth for the discerning" (Koheles 9:11). Rather, [a person must work, as it is written,] "in order that Hashem your G-d will bless you in all the work of your hands that you do" (Devarim 14:29).

Hashem wants a person to do what he is able to do and not to rely on miracles. But nevertheless, one must know in his heart that everything comes from Hashem, and that without the blessings of Hashem, nothing he does would have any effect and all would be for naught. If a person has belief in this fact, then he will certainly rejoice in Hashem and Hashem will give him everything he needs during the six days of the week, just as it was with the manna, which Hashem gave as a double portion before Shabbos.

Similarly, with regard to the Menorah, we also find that Hashem said to Moshe, "As one piece it shall be made..." (Shmos 25:31) (emphasis added) The Medrash explains why the verse says "it shall be made," rather than "you shall make." It says that that it is because Moshe had difficulty making the Menorah, and toiled greately until finally, he could not make the Menorah. Once Moshe had difficulty, Hashem said, 'Take a meausure of gold and throw it into the fire, and then it will be made by itself.' This is the meaning of the phrase 'it shall be made.'"

A person's work life must be the same way. A person must work and toil, but nevertheless, he should not say that "my might and the power of my hand has made all of this success for me." Rather, he should view it as if everything happens without any effort of his own through the blessings of Hashem, and as if he did not do anything."
Reb Nosson in Likutei Halachos Orach Chaim Hilchos Shabbos 3:4, 7 (quoted above), commenting on Shmos 25:31 (quoted in the Likutei Halachos Chumash):
A person who does business and work, must subjugate all of his thoughts, actions, and words to Hashem ... and to believe with perfect faith that man alone accomplishes nothing whatsoever. Rather, we are obligated to do some business and work because it is Hashem's will that we do so, since there are deep secrets and great intentions in every aspect of business and work. This is because through work, one can accomplish great clarifications and draw holy sparks through his work and toil, as is known. For this reason alone, we must at least do some amount of work or business because it is Hashem's will. It is for this reason that the sages said, "Torah is good if it is with the ways of the world."
In truth, though, a person does nothing at all. His livelihood does not comes from his physical activities at all. On the contrary, his main livelihood comes from abstaining from the 39 forms of labor on Shabbos. This means that the illumination of Hashem's will, which is the aspect of the holiness of Shabbos, is the source of the blessings of the six days of the week...
When we merit to do business and work in this way [of remembering that all the results and income that we receive come from Hashem and not as a result of our efforts], even though we do work, it is not considered "doing" anything at all. Instead, it is an aspect of our work being done automatically, on its own, as the pasuk says with regard to the Mishkan, "the Mishkan was erected," and the Menorah shall "be made."
It is amazing to see the confluence of the same teaching from the non-Chassidish world of the Shevet Sofer and the Chassidus of Rebbe Nachman/Rebbe Nosson when they both come to teach us the same lesson. If we are zoche to mentally separate our efforts from the income we receive, then we will truly have oneg, happiness, and really be able to keep Shabbos without worrying about the work that we still need to do.

IY"H, may we all be zoche to repeat this truth to ourselves, internalize it, and live with it throughout the six days of the week and Shabbos kodesh!

Picture of the Shevet Sofer courtesy of Greenfield Judaica. Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.


Marc said...

Thank you Dixie Yid. Great Torah. What I am wondering is how to we get to this place? What are the practical steps we need to take to begin to get closer to this level?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

What do you personally picture being the most effective method to get you to that awareness?

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Just try doing what you have to do and when the day is done or when Shabbos comes let work be. We make the vessel and Hashem fills it up.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Thank you for that insight. Resonates beautifully with the Shaar HaBitachon of the Chovos Helevavos. I highly recommend learning it with Rav Avigdor Miller zt"l's audio commentary. May we all be zoche to live it! Thanks for sharing :-)

Rav Moshe said...

You write, "In truth, though, a person does nothing at all. His livelihood does not comes from his physical activities at all."

This is inaccurate. As we witness God's creation of a natural order. Those who plant fields, eat of its produce. Those who do not, die of hunger. Furthermore, man may not rely on miracles. Thus, God's will is that man study nature, and work with it. To suggest the above quote, is to deny God's will, and to deny nature, which God created.

This is not a game, where we straddle both positions: a mystical view that there are unwitnessed "forces" operating despite our efforts, and to simultaneously say "man must also work". This is a clear contradiction, and is unreasonable.

Our sechel, granted by God, was given in order that we engage it. And our sechel tells us that without labor, we die of hunger. We cannot deny our sechel and also say plants will grow, despite our lack of labor.
Honesty is at the core of truth. we should not accept sayings, no matter the author, if those words violate God's laws.

The Torah's approach is to follow reason, and God's laws. He made "Creation" such, that these laws continue. So we must work within natural order, and not assume the same results occur if we lounge instead. We must pray that God assists our labors. And we must not accept notions that contain contradictory suppositions. Eliyahu told the Jews on Mt. Carmel, "Accept God or Baal". Meaning, Eliyahu the prophet taught that the acceptance of opposing principles is even worse than idolatry, than Baal.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Thank you very much for commenting.

Actually, it is not correct to say "You write." That quote was from Rebbe Nosson, whose teachings come from Rebbe Nachman. So it was not me that you are arguing with. Rather, it you were "disagreeing" with Rebbe Nosson.

And actually, this was not Rebbe Nosson's chiddush. Rebbe Meir said, in Kiddushin 82b, "שאין עניות מן האומנות ואין עשירות מן האומנות אלא למי שהעושר שלו," that neither poverty nor wealth are due to one's work. Instead, they come from the One to whom wealth belongs.

If you feel that such a concept cannot be reconciled with your sechel, then this illustrates the foolishness of the thought that the way the Infinite One conducts thw world can be understood by a finite mind.

If you or I feel that certain concepts cannot be understood because they are illogical or paradoxical, this is a testament to the limited nature of our ability to understand, of our sechel.

While it is a mitzva to use our sechel when learning and in other areas of life, it is foolish to think that one can undestadnd everything about Hashem's world with sechel. This is why Chazal have the mitzva of "ad d'lo yada" on Purim. We cannot connect to everything with the sechel, but we can connect to it by attaching ourselves to the Infinite One who transcends the finite human mind.

I do understand how such a concept can be difficult for one who is accustomed to thinking that the human intellect is the be-all-end-all of the world.

IY"H, may you and I both be zoche to connect to the world of "ad d'lo yada"!

Rav Moshe said...

You write, "our limited nature of our ability to understand".

I agree with you, that you maintain this applies to all men.

If so, and honestly it not possible that YOU are making the error here?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Let me make sure I am undestanding your point.

Do you disagree with the proposition that human beings, with a finite mind, are inherently incapable of fully understanding the way the infinite G-d conducts the world?

Rav Moshe said...

No. Of course, as the Haftorah on fast days says, "Lo machshivosai, machshivosaychem". I accept the Naviim. And reality demands that creation (men) are not equal to the Creator.

I simply said that in accordance with this principle, that ALL humans err, even Moshe Rabbeinu, either your understanding of Rebbe Nosson, or Rebbe Nosson himself can be in error here, regarding the principles stated above how our parnossah reaches us.
And I maintain my position initially stated is less open to problems.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

The point you agree with, then, takes ground out from underneath any attempt to "disagree" with the Gemara in Kiddushin or Rebbe Nosson, which make the same point as one another.

Rebbe Nosson's and the Gemara's explanation have the advantage of being authoritative and in consonance with the fact (which you acknowledge) that the finite human intellect cannot presume to understand all aspects of G-d's providence.

Rav Moshe said...

We're losing sight of the point, written in this blog: "His livelihood does not come from his physical activities at all."

This is impossible to state, it cannot be what the Gemara teaches, since anytime man does not plant, his field will not grow.

His livelihood DOES come from his physical actions in some measure. To suggest "His livelihood does not come from his physical activities at all" is to deny fact.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

It seems we have both said everything of substance that we have to say.

Let's call it a day.

Kol tuv!

Rav Moshe said...

We must not prematurely end this discourse, without examining the Gemara:
"Rebbe Meir said one should teach his son an easy and clean trade, and seek mercy from the One whose wealth and possesions are His; for poverty and wealth are not from the trade, but from God".

The Gemara itself testifies to the crucial role of man's labors. Man must teach his son a trade, for man's acts DO in fact matter.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

It seems you are not reading the gemara clearly.

Rebi Meir said the same thing Rebbe Nosson said, that one must work and that one must understand that the results of that work (poverty or wealth) come from G-d and not from the work.

Rav Moshe said...

Why then, must he work as the Talmud demands, if it all comes from God? Unless God grants parnossah "in accord" with our efforts.

No efforts = no parnossah.
Diligent efforts = more parnossah than no effort.

This statement posted here is untrue, "His livelihood does not come from his physical activities at all."