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BITACHON AND HISHTADLUSåÌáÅøÇëÀêÈ ä' àÁìÉ÷éêÈ áÌÀëÉì àÂùÑÆø úÌÇòÂùÒÆä: "…and the Lord, your God, will bless you in all that you shall do." (Devorim 15:18)
The Sh'lah (Shnei Luchos Habris) (Chulin, Ner Mitzvah, Ch. 53) writes that one who is honest in business is promised by Hashem that he will be blessed with success. It is imperative to be honest in business. One must realize that no one makes one penny more or one penny less than what Hashem has allocated for him that year. One might be inclined to respond that if so, he may as well sit home and not work at all. Whatever will be, will be, no matter how much effort I put into it. So why do anything? Therefore the Torah tells us, "…and the Lord, your G-d, will bless you in all that you shall do." This is stated specifically in the Sifrei, "Is it possible that one will receive the bracha even if he sits idle? This is not true. The possuk says, 'in all that you shall do.' One has to do is some minimum effort. Then Hashem will deliver what has been allocated for him."
(The following is from Yalkut Lekach Tov, vol. 5, pp. 250-252, cited in my sefer Trust Me!)
R. Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld used to tell those close to him not to indulge in excessive effort in pursuit of their livelihood. Rather, they should do just what is required of them, and Hashem would send them His bounty. This was the case with the mann. If a person tried to bring home more than he needed, he found that he didn't have anything extra; and if someone brought home less than he needed, this turned out to be enough. R. Zonnenfeld delighted in the Chofetz Chaim's parable about a man who exerted an inordinate amount of effort to make a living, and indeed became wealthy. The Chofetz Chaim compared him to a storekeeper who sold oil from a large barrel. One day a simpleton came along and said to him, "Let me give you some advice on how to increase your profits. Hire a worker to insert an additional tap in the barrel, and you'll see that your earnings will double!" From this we see that a person must internalize in the depths of his soul the maxim that no matter how much he endeavors to increase his wealth, his efforts won't add even a single penny to what Heaven has decreed for him.
Perhaps you'll say, "If so, then I'll remain idle and my livelihood will come on its own!" In response to this, the Torah tells us: "Hashem your God will bless you in everything you do" (Devarim 15:18). This means that man must create vessels into which Hashem's beneficence can flow. This is His will: a person must do something to open a conduit through which the Almighty can shower him with blessings.
Moreover, when a person invests the permitted and proper amount of effort, it strengthens the connection between him and his Creator. This is because, along with the exertion, he lifts his eyes to Heaven and prays that his efforts will not be in vain. And this applies to the farmer and his crop, the vintner and his wine, the storekeeper and his goods, etc.
However, under no circumstances should one try too hard. Exerting too much effort can mislead one into thinking that his accomplishments were truly due to his abilities and labors.
A person should be especially careful not to detract from his davening or from the time he has set aside for Torah study. Otherwise, how can he expect Hashem to grant him His brachos, when he behaves like an ingrate, thinking that, if he takes time off to daven, his livelihood will suffer?! How is it possible that in return for one's lack of faith in the One who sustains and feeds all of Creation, Hashem will bless his efforts?
How Much Hishtadlus?
So how much hishtadlus should one exert? The amount of hishtadlus depends upon the strength of one's bitachon. A person with strong bitachon can suffice with very minimal hishtadlus, as is evident from the following story:
One incident expresses the profound bitachon of R. Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld and his rebbetzen. The following story was related by R. Yisroel Ya'akov Bernstein:
For many years we used to live in R. Yosef Chaim's neighborhood. One afternoon, Rebbetzin Zonnenfeld knocked on our door. With visible anguish and embarrassment, she asked if we could lend her a loaf of bread for lunch. You might not think this very remarkable, but in my eyes it was astonishing. The Rebbetzin had never asked any of her neighbors for anything, not even a piece of thread or a shoelace, much less food. Nevertheless, I was happy to help her and acted as if nothing unusual had happened. I went to the cupboard, took out a fresh loaf of bread that my wife had just baked, and handed it to the Rav's wife. The lines on her face testified that her soul was in deep turmoil. All this was so unusual that my curiosity got the better of me. As a result, I discreetly followed the Rebbetzin to her house.
Cautiously looking through the open window, I saw R. Yosef Chaim sitting at the table, quiet and engrossed in his thoughts, waiting for his wife to serve him lunch. Without a word, the Rebbetzin served him the bread she had just gotten. After R. Yosef Chaim made the berachah and cut the bread, his wife said, "I wanted you to taste what it means not to have bread in the house, so that you could feel my pain and the pain of our children, who have nothing with which to satisfy their hunger." Upon saying this she broke into bitter tears, and added, "Even this bread that you're eating isn't ours. I borrowed it from our neighbor R. Yisroel Ya'akov."
R. Yosef Chaim was very disturbed - both by the skimpy meal that awaited his family and even more by the fact that the bread wasn't his - something that went totally against his nature. He had never borrowed anything from anyone. He forced himself to eat the minimum amount that would require him to recite birkas ha-mazon and no more, because he didn't want to satisfy his hunger from food that wasn't his. During this entire time, the Rebbetzin went into the only other room in the house and stood in the corner, tears streaming uncontrollably down her cheeks.
His wife's pain and the hunger of the children pierced R. Yosef Chaim's heart to the core. When he finished reciting birkas ha-mazon, he reflected to himself aloud, "I thought that my wife had the same amount of bitachon as I do. However, now that I see that this is not the case, I'll have to go out and find some livelihood." With that, he got up, put on his coat, and left the house.
R. Yosef Chaim was well known as a wonder-worker, and his statement only served to pique my curiosity even further. Therefore, I decided to follow him to see exactly how he would "find some livelihood." He went up the steps to the street above the neighborhood, with me following and hiding behind walls so that he wouldn't sense my presence. Then he turned right, in order to leave by the gate next to Misgav Ladach Hospital that was in an alleyway. He took several steps outside the gate and headed in the direction of Meidan Street. I was right on his heels, and didn't let him out of sight for even an instant. All of a sudden, I saw him bending over. I couldn't restrain myself and quickened my steps so that I could see exactly what he was doing. Just as I came near, I saw him picking up two gold coins from the ground.
At this point, he finally sensed my presence. He turned to me and said serenely, "Nu, now I can go home. Baruch Hashem, I've found some parnasah!"
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