Earning God's Providence

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Since many of us are not engaged in Torah study as we should be and lack much knowledge, we are easily misled by our peers, certainly by those religious in their practice. We assume "They've got it all right." So when we see the orthodox masses spending the overwhelming portion of their day engaged in business, we think this is proper. However, this is not so. I wish to share a few sources that spell out Torah's actual view on man's required dedication to God and Torah, as opposed to following man and worldly pursuits.

Trusting God over Our Natural Abilities

A wise Rabbi once said that man tends to be attached to the "messenger", and not the Master. Meaning, Jews tend to be attached to the pursuit of their livelihoods more than they are attached to God, the actual One who determines our income each Rosh Hashanna. 

This weakness is an expression of our reliance on natural law, more than on God. We feel that with less work, we will not earn sufficiently. Torah says otherwise.

There is a primary principle you must know as a basis for all else written herein. Just as God wills plants to grow when supplied with sufficient moisture and sun, He also wills His laws of providence to grow man's wealth when he abides by Torah principles and philosophies, and trusts in God. Neither one – nature, or God's laws of providence over man – is more real than the other. They are equally "created systems" that at one time in history, did not exist. Therefore, neither system should be trusted any less. But man is overtaken by his emotions; he sees natural law around him from his youth, and all day. But he doesn't "see" God's providence.

Due to the sensual nature of natural phenomena and our inclination to be sensual, we tend to trust nature to be more "real." But if you engage your mind, you will realize that both natural law, and God's system of providence over man (Reward and Punishment) are equally true. We must exert our thinking over our emotions, if we are to see this clearly.

Once we review all the Torah's lessons of God's interactions with the Prophets and all the benefits they received from Him, we affirm that the "invisible" system of providence is a reality. We can then loosen the grip that our trust in nature has placed on us. We then acknowledge that God is the true provider and that natural law is under His rule. We will agree that following His words will ensure greater success than ignoring His words and chasing after wealth with our mortal means.

It is for this reason, I believe, God says only once in His Torah "test Me" in connection with charity. Here, God is asking us to part with our source of security, our money. So He tells us we may test Him, to see if He doesn't "open the storehouses of heaven, emptying out a blessing that's more than enough (Malachi 3:10)." God understands our weakness; our belief that parting with wealth leaves less, not more. So He informs us in this verse that this is not so. He tells us that by following His word, we will end up with more. 

We must realize that God runs nature. If we see this clearly, if we trust His promises, we will be able to part with our wealth, be charitable and actually become richer. It is the one who does not trust God, that does not part with his wealth, and works far more during his day than he learns. Another verse tell us this: "God does not forsake those who search Him out (Paslms 9:11)." Here, God promises His providence for those who seek Him through studying His ways, and studying His Torah. These are the closing words of Shacharis, just before reciting Alaynu. Those who seek out God fulfill the greatest mitzvah (Moade Katan 9b). Thereby, they increase their worth before God, and are more deserving of His assistance. He detaches himself from the physical and is more convinced in God's abilities than in physical means. God controls the physical, so the person is attached to the Controller, not the controlled (i.e., nature). Psalm 147:11 teaches that God desires those who await His kindness. This means that God will act on their behalf. 

In his Laws of Sabbatical Year and Jubilee (13:13) Maimonides writes: "Any person whose spirit moves him, using his/her understanding, to separates himself to stand before God, to minister and serve Him...to know God...and this person walks upright as God made him, and he removes from his neck the yoke of many calculations [monetary concerns] that the masses seek:  this person is sanctified as holy of holies and God will be his portion and inheritance for ever and ever and he will merit in this world sufficient means, just as is merited by the priests and Levites. Behold, King David, peace upon him, said, "God is my allotted portion and my share; You make my lot perfect". And Psalms (9:11) says, "And those who know Your name will trust in You; for You have not forsaken those who seek You, Hashem".

And a few more quotes:  "…and one should work each day based on his needs to survive if he has not what to eat, and the remainder of his day and night [he should] engage in Torah study (Maimonides Laws of Torah Study 3:8)."

"Minimize your involvement in work, and maximize your engagement in Torah study (Pirkei Avos 4:12)."

The Torah philosophy is not caught up in amassing that which you cannot take with you. It is concerned that man pursues what improves his soul and his relationship with His creator. For this alone endures.

Be Part of the Community

Attend minyan. In this manner, one's status as part of the community's prayer is much greater in God's eyes than his individual worth. Maimonides teaches that the minyan's prayers are "regularly heard" (Laws of Prayer 8:1).

Observing the Most Primary Commands and Affirming Truths Regarding God

One must be concerned not to violate all commands, but the commands are not all equal. Maimonides was quite passionate about the loss of our souls that results from not accepting the 13 Principles. By studying these principles and becoming convinced of their truths, we raise ourselves to a higher level, earning God's kindness that much more.

In summary, God teaches man to pursue Torah study more than wealth. He should also part with his wealth. Doing both, man will not suffer the assumed loss of income. This message is throughout the Torah, as we have seen above. This does not mean God will make man a millionaire. King Solomon and all the Prophets did not value wealth as an ends, for they all knew man takes nothing with him as he departs this world. The Prophets valued only that which is eternal, that which has lasting value.

Yes, it is difficult to veer from the lifestyle of all your close friends. To change your lifestyle where you chase less after the fancier things and sit in the Beis Medrash will also raise eyebrows. But it will gain God's attention, as you pursue the life He says is most valuable. This path of Torah study, and study of the natural world will provide greater fulfillment than all else: "Better is wisdom than pearls, and all desirous things do not equate to it (Proverbs 8:11)."

So trust that God has it correct, and that the world is wrong. Abide by all the Torah sources mentioned.

After you trust Him, and you live this proper Torah lifestyle, you will no longer need to trust how good it is. For you will have firsthand knowledge that the life of wisdom surpasses all else. And regarding your livelihood, work wisely, work minimally and be charitable. God has many messengers to assist you. You may not be wealthy, but as the Birchat Hamzone ends, "You will not lack anything." And in truth, as you live the correct philosophy, you will not want much, as King Solomon said, "do not make me wealthy, or poor [but] provide me my daily bread (Proverbs 30:8)." As you engage wisdom as your primary pursuit, you will naturally desire wealth much less. The simpler things will suffice, as your focus will be always pulled towards Torah marvels.