Shlomo Ezagui

Earning OR receiving a livelihood

A most significant practice is that every morning before we do anything else, we pray to God. While our minds are still clear and fresh, we lay the foundation; we set the course for the day by connecting with the source wherefrom the good luck, blessings, and strength flows.

Once, a simple soul traveled to his teacher, Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl, for the Sabbath. As was customary, before departing for home, he went before his teacher to receive a blessing. The Rabbi instructed him to recount his daily routine. The simple merchant described how he goes early in the morning to buy merchandise from the farmers and then, returns home to do his prayers, before finally going to the market to sell his wares.

Hearing this, the Rabbi condemned his actions, saying, “It is not proper to put God second in line.” The merchant demonstrated a weakness in his faith in God and had more trust in his own actions, by acting this way.

The poor fellow tried to explain how important it was for him to gain an advantage over other buyers by arriving early. Still, the Rabbi responded, “Do you not see how God provides for the entire universe effortlessly, and the only reason we work is that we are commanded to make an effort? When you give precedence to your work over your prayers, it appears as if you believe it is entirely up to you, as if – you – earn the money!”

“Let me tell you a story,” said the Rabbi.

“A young man supported by his father-in-law was forced to find additional means of support when his family grew. He left home to earn money as a teacher, saving every coin he received. After three years of making a respectable living and saving enough money, he decided to return home. On his way home, he reached a small village and, realizing he would not make it home in time for the Sabbath (when it is forbidden to travel and handle money), so he stopped for the evening at an inn. He was afraid someone could steal his money, so he left his bag of coins with his host. Although he didn’t know this innkeeper, he figured that was a better bet than leaving the money in his room.

Throughout the entire Sabbath, he worried about his money. He could not wait for the end of the Sabbath, and quickly went over to the innkeeper to ask for his money back. Upon receiving his bag of money, he started to count his gold coins. As he came to the end of his counting, he kept on shaking the sack. The innkeeper asked, “Is everything all right? I see you have all your gold coins.” The fellow answered, “There was also one copper coin. I’m looking to see if it is still there.”

Rabbi Mordechai concluded, “Look at this man’s silliness. After seeing that all his gold coins were returned to him, he suspected that perhaps the innkeeper stole one copper coin. You are doing the same.

When you go to bed every night, you entrust God with your very own soul, and there is no guarantee you will wake up in the morning. When you wake up, you open your eyes, the sun is shining, and God returned all the gold you had given him. How is it then that you still worry whether God can and will provide all that is necessary for the day after you have first thanked Him, and done all your prayers in the morning?

According to the Bible, a person should not say, “I will eat, drink, and enjoy, and Heaven will have mercy.” We learn from Isaac that seeds need to be planted so that God will bless our effort; however, “WE” do not make a living. We do good deeds and earn merit from God, and then our efforts generate success at the right time in the proper measure for each person.

A person who feels he must engage in ungodly doings to earn a living or compromise his principles does so because he thinks it is he who generates (makes) the livelihood.

One who truly believes the entire universe was created and is in the present tense, constantly vivified by God and that God provides everything in our lives; the only reason a person (needs to) works, is because God commanded us to do so. Therefore, it is unthinkable that following the directives of God, by praying first thing in the morning, observing the Shabbat fully or doing anything else we are commanded to observe could or would, stand in the way of God providing.

“The One who has created the day also created for each person his livelihood.” “One who has food for today, yet worries what he will eat tomorrow, is lacking in Faith.” Blessings and success come from above; the only thing necessary on our part is to make our effort within reason, for God’s blessings to flow down to us.

One who is overly involved in his livelihood is like a person who sews pants for himself that are too long, causing himself to trip and fall over that exact effort he put in, for the sake of his/her pants.
Chapter 29

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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