Someone I once knew was always fond of saying, “you gotta make money; you can’t live on love!” He would use that line on Kollel people and working stiffs alike, it didn’t matter who you were. At any rate, that phrase was what was going through my mind when I read the following verse from this weeks’ Torah portion Eikev:
“And He afflicted you and let you go hungry, and then fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, so that He would make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of Gd does man live.” (Devarim 8:3)
Here is the full verse in Hebrew:
“וַיְעַנְּךָ וַיַּרְעִבֶךָ וַיַּאֲכִלְךָ אֶת הַמָּן אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַעְתָּ וְלֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן הוֹדִיעֲךָ כִּי לֹא עַל הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם כִּי עַל כָּל מוֹצָא פִי ה’ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם:”
I noted that, and it resonated with me that a lot of variables completely out of our control when making various decisions in life. Gd runs the world, and controls everything, including health and wealth.
A University Degree Doesn’t Guarantee Anything
For example, getting a university degree today doesn’t guarantee instant employment, whereas in a not-so-long-ago past it did. Or even worse, you could be in the process of closing potentially the most career-changing business deal of your life and a death or terminal illness in the family occurs. Even worse than that, you can Chas V’Shalom die the next moment. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people with no formal education, having a child at a very young age, being disowned by their families/peers and work their way up to a respectable profession. This has happened many times as well.
So, why go for that piece of paper? Good question. There still is a perceived importance to getting that piece of paper regardless as it can increase ones chances of getting hired. To a prospective employer, a degree can show not necessarily how smart one is, but more so how disciplined one is which is a big factor in the hiring process. Keep in mind though that that “discipline” can manifest itself in other ways, such as how long one has been at a previous job, or how many projects one has seen from start to end without giving up. Nevertheless, one still needs to pray to Gd at the same time that everything should work out in due time as there are no guarantees.
Where Does the Modern State of Israel Fit Into the Equation?
Regarding the modern state of Israel, the whole state really exists as a result of a Bracha from Hashem. By all logic, Jews should have been wiped off the face of the earth many centuries ago, let alone formed any state, let alone one that is thriving in almost every aspect. A study of Israel’s wars will show that only through miracles was Israel victorious. In battle, there were clouds and winds that appeared seemingly out of nowhere to redirect rockets aimed towards Israel or to expose land mines. Preemptive air strikes due to “lack of communication,” like the ones during the Six Day War, destroyed armies that were many times larger than Israel had. Going back further to the 1948 War of Independence, one hears stories of how one man flew a Piper Cub airplane and, upon running out of bombs, used empty glass bottles to make the “smash” sound to scare away the enemy. There’s also the one where a soldier was given a gun with one bullet with the instruction to “use it well.” Another gem was where a whole unit had only four tanks whereas the enemy had hundreds of tanks. Their solution? Bring the tanks up to the top of a hill. When the enemy saw these tanks at the top of the hill, they thought there were more and grew afraid.
Throughout Israel’s young existence there were Haredim learning in Kollel full-time as well as soldiers fighting the enemy. Each side to this day says the same thing: “it was because of Torah and Prayer/Fighting (pick a side) that Jews exist and Israel exists.” The truth is, the spiritual and physical aspects are both needed to succeed.
Bottom-line, we have absolutely no physical control over what can happen to us. At the same time, prayer alone won’t work. We need to do our part but also pray to Gd that everything should go well in the end. We may think that we are in full control of everything good and bad that happens, but our actions are only one part. Praying to Gd that He take care of the rest is the other part. To say that Gd alone will provide without any effort on my part, or that everything happened because of me, is almost like saying, “I’m walking thanks only to my left leg,” or “…only to my right leg.” You need both.