Money, business and wealth, we spend so much time trying to achieve wealth but it sometimes doesn’t come as fast or as abundant as we would like.
There are people who devote excessive time and thought to pondering the natural factors which affect their affairs. They are given to making longs-term calculations to decide which of a number of factors they should promote to attain a desired goal.
Even if their efforts are eventually blessed with success, they usually find that the matter did not take the course that they originally envisaged. The development was materially affected by factors which were completely unknown to them at the time. This is to teach us that there is no point in over-zealous manipulation of what we think are the physical causes of events. We manipulate on one side and Hashem gives from another.
It is a great mistake to think that one can achieve one’s goals by going into the fine details of factors and causes whose effect we imagine we can forecast. Every factor comprises many details, each of which again depends on other factors which are largely unknown to us. It is practically a foregone conclusion that the ultimate outcome cannot be foreseen.
For example, in our friend’s calculations one of the factors may be to go to So-and-so’s house and have a talk with him. But there are literally hundreds of small factors, produced by causes beyond his ken, which may prevent him from going.
There are hundreds of other causes which may interfere with the part of the plan referred to as “So-and-so’s house,” and similarly with “So-and-so” himself, and many more with the part referred to as “having a talk with him.” Then there are many thousands of possible factors which may affect the course of the talk and its outcome.
All of the above possibilities and their various possible outcomes are concealed from him. This shows how ridiculous it is to think that one has the ability to ponder all the factors, weigh them up accurately, and plan one’s actions accordingly. For each factor which he thinks he knows there are ten thousand which he doesn’t know.There is no greater foolishness than to base one’s life on such imaginary calculations.
And say, after all that, God eventually brings his efforts to a successful conclusion, even though by a completely different route from the one he first envisaged. If it should turn out that in all the various developments there are a few small points which partially resemble his first ideas, he will pride himself on his remarkable acumen and attribute the success entirely to his own efforts.
The Potency Of Prayer
What can one do to avoid these pitfalls? The most obvious means to this end is prayer. Prayer fixes in our heart the realization that we can obtain our desires only by turning to God, from whom all things come. Our Rabbis say: “Man’s livelihood is as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea.” Rashbam explains: “That is to say, a great miracle.” Needless to say, this does not mean that the miracle is difficult for God; all is equal before Him.
The meaning is that we, from our point of view, have to reflect on and realize the wonder of the miracle involved in earning one’s living. And the purpose of this, says Rashbam, is “to know how to pray.” By prayer we come to recognize the miraculous nature of human sustenance, which most people think of as the result of mere natural causes. Through prayer we impress on ourselves the truth that nature is nothing and that all comes to us from God alone; that there is no other cause but He, and from Him alone we seek and receive all our needs.
Opportunities In Abundance
People tend to make another great mistake. They often find that they manage to gain a livelihood only with the utmost difficulty; it seems to them indeed “as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea.” They assume that this is because there are relatively few opportunities compared with the number of people competing for them, so that only a few can be successful. Consequently they are always striving to manipulate the situation to attract to themselves as many opportunities as possible, not failing to step on other people in the process. All this is useless and destructive in the extreme.
The truth is that God has provided opportunities in abundance— thousands, even millions of times more than we can possibly make use of. Look at the world around us. The earth and all the planets together utilize only an infinitesimal fraction of the light, heat and energy given off by the sun.
Man, animals and the whole biosystem of the earth use only a tiny fraction of the available air. For every seed that develops into a plant there are countless millions whose potential is never fulfilled. In animals and man only one out of millions of sperms is needed to fertilize the egg. Our Rabbis say’ that the quantity of manna that descended on the camp of Israel every single day was sufficient to feed the whole nation for 2000 years.
What is the point of all this superfluity if in the end human beings have difficulty in obtaining their basic needs? What purpose is served by all this enormous wastage? In the case of the manna the Israelites were not allowed to store any for the next day and if anyone tried to collect more than one `omer he was unsuccessful. All that vast surplus melted away and was lost. Why then was it sent?
God wants to teach us that His bounty is unending; with Him there is no, ‘lack of opportunities or causes. We should learn that it is not the “causes” which give or take away; it is, God alone Who bestows or withholds. All is done according to His will. We are very foolish if we close our eyes and refuse to reflect on God’s infinite greatness.
This is so obvious to anyone who takes time to consider the multiplicity of worlds and creatures and the breathtaking beauty and complexity of their structure. If only we would not just see but observe and note all these wonders we should escape the cold heresy of “natural causes” to which we have become so habituated. We would then ensure our happiness in this world and the next.
R. Eliyahu Dessler