Re’eh – The Effort Needed to Trust in Hashem

At the end of one of the pasukim in this week’s Torah portion of Re’eh, we find the following: “And Hashem your G-D will bless you in all you do” (Devarim 15:18). The Ralbag in lesson 10 teaches us a lesson in character development: “This is to inform us that it is not becoming for a person to stand idle not doing anything to be sure to keep the mitzvos of the Torah and to rely on Hashem that He will provide for his needs. This will lead to a loss and possibly with that a diminishing in faith in Hashem. For this reason the pasuk says ‘Hashem will bless you in all you do’ to teach us that one has to earn his blessing from Hashem by not sitting around idle, but rather doing actions which will spur upon him His blessing, and then Hashem will bring to him [blessing] in all that he does.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
It is possible that a person can choose to dedicate his entire life towards performing Torah and mitzvos, which in theory means he will be learning Torah all day and all night, and performing all the other mitzvos, including davening, chesed, etc. when they are required.  But he will then be unable to work for his livelihood,  and would rather   completely trust in Hashem that He will provide for His dedicated servant. That person, the Ralbag says, will lose everything and might even lose his faith in Hashem. How can that be? Isn’t one supposed to have a tremendous level of undaunting faith in Hashem and, in turn, dedicate himself  towards the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos? Isn’t this the ideal state?  How can it be counterproductive? It seems obvious from this Ralbag,  however, based on the pasuk, that Hashem also wants us to do some work. Built into our very existence is the need to work; only then does Hashem shower us with his blessing, and shower us with the fruits of our efforts.

That does not, necessarily, mean that one must have a profession in order to live. The pasuk does not say that Hashem will bless you in the profession (אומנות) you choose to go into; rather, every person has to have some type of plan, some  means to support themselves. Even at its minimum, Hashem will bless the actions one takes on behalf of his livelihood.

This does not mean that everyone should be learning in kollel their whole life on some minimal system of support. Not everyone can do that, and there is a need to spread the Torah that one has learnt to the world. Indeed, not everyone is cut out to be a full-time learner or teacher. There are many types of positions that must be filled in the world: doctors, lawyers, accountants, salesmen, plumbers, electricians, psychologists; the list goes on and on. Everyone has their own purpose in life and they  must figure out what that purpose is, and integrate it into their observance of Torah and mitzvos.

The attitude one should have is not that I am a full-time learner, or a teacheror a doctor, but rather I am an eved Hashem[servant of Hashem]. And one must constantly ask him or herself what is the best way, at that very moment, to serve Hashem.

My Rosh HaYeshiva zt”l, Rav Henoch Leibowitz, used to say that there is a sixth volume of Shulchan Aruch which deals with middos, one’s character development, and we only have to look into chaza”l to learn how to be a mentche, to act with proper derech eretz and manners, to improve our character, and to be normal. The means   accomplishing this is to constantly be asking ourselves: ‘What is Hashem’s will for me at this moment,’ and to maintain the  attitude that I am simply a servant of Hashem. Only then will He  bless you in all your endeavors.