Sunday, July 5, 2009

Toiling in BigLaw or in Torah?

I first have to appologize for my lack of original posts in these last couple of months. One of the major reasons has been the fact that my time and headspace have been taken up by my summer associateship in biglaw. But that fact begs the deeper question of what the point of all of that extensive hishtadlus, toil, is.

In Ma'amar 40 of the section of Bilvavi Vol 5 called "Pirkei Avodah U'Machshava," the mechaber discusses fundamental yesodos in understanding the conflict between yediah (G-d's knowledge, which, I think, is synonmous with the idea of hashgacha pratis, specific Divine Providence over every detail of creation) and bechira (man's free choice). He points out that, among other things, a person has to have a lot of wisdom to know when to approach his avodah in this world through the lens of yediah and when to look at it through the lens of bechira.

It goes without saying that we are obligated to choose to keep halachah, since Hashem told us "Uvacharta VaChayim" in the Torah, thus not only affirming the existance of free, will but obligating us to exercise it to make choices that conform to His will.

But in reality, yedias Hashem/hashgacha pratis covers every single aspect of life. Rav Shwartz points out the sliding scale that exists with regard to how much hishtadlus, toil, is necessary to "make" a parnasa. If one lives in the world of yediah, he is aware that Hashem decrees everything and that he will only make the amount of money that Hashem decreed. His toil for parnasa does not make one iota of a difference in what he will actually make because his livelihood is entirely made through hashgacha pratis. Even according to the simple understanding of "hakol biydei Shomachim Chutz MiYiras Shomayim," "everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven," parnasa is certainly in the category of things that are in the hands of heaven. So one living on the level of yediah, like Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai doesn't have to make any effort towards parnasa because he is filled with the consciousness that it is all from Hashem anyway.

It is only from the perspective of bechira, where I feel that the toil that I choose to exert has some relationship to my parnasa, that I will feel the need to work for my parnasa. And to the extent that I feel a connection between my work and the money that I make, I will have to work to make that parnasa. This perspective, to one extent or another, covers most of us because we do not really feel, deep inside, that it all comes from Hashem. That is why the Gemara says "Harbei asu k'Rashbi, v'lo alsah b'yadam." "Many tried to do like Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai (not to work for parnasa at all, but only to learn Torah) but they were unsuccessful.

Although I certainly know people who work harder than I have to this summer and harder than I will probably have to work even when (IY"H!) I start as an actual associate, my field is certainly one which which "requires" a lot of toil, parnasa. One reason I am going this route is because I have learned in kollel and even tried to do a job where there was the potential to make a lot of money without the necessity for as much toil. In either case, the parnasa was not and seems that it would not have been on the level that my family would have needed to thrive without the need for matnas basar v'dam.

But "כִּי-אָדָם, לְעָמָל יוּלָּד," "man was created to toil" (Iyov 5:7) If that toil is not in Torah with an conscious feeling that everything in parnasa comes directly from Hashem and not through our hishtadlus, then that toil will be in hishtadlus for parnasa. While I may have been learning Torah, I was not toiling in Torah and since I wasn't toiling in parnasa either, it was decreed (I think) that I learn how to toil by toiling in law school and in parnasa.

IY"H, may I be zocheh to start to see the disconnect between my hishtadlus and my parnasa so that I may be able to move at least somewhat down the path toward greater ameilus in Torah/Yiras Shomayim and less toil in parnasa.

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yitz said...

Don't forget that toiling in parnasa is a great way to work on recognizing that everything comes from HaShem.

As long as you're being sincere in your pursuit of the awareness that everything comes from HaShem.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

True. It is possible to do this, although, as you know, the danger is that I will fail to see the fact that it all comes from Hashem because of the fact that I do put so much effort in. That seems to increase the perception that my actions are related to my parnasa. But, as you said, it will only work with a conscious effort to see Hashem's hashgacha in parnasa.

Menashe said...

Which brings you to the question of what qualifies as ameilus bTorah..Perhaps it is lav davka not having another job. Maybe it's only how your Torah time is used out.

Many (most?) among Chazal "worked" for parnossa and didn't take tzedakah. I think the trick is to truly understand what you need to be healthy and fit to serve the Aibishter properly. Once you've got that settled than the means to achieving that should be embarked upon.