Is your employment the means or the end?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

Once, a man brought his concern to the Rabbi Meir of Premishlan: “Someone is stealing my livelihood!”

“When a horse lowers its head to drink from the river,” Rabbi Meir told him, “he stamps his hooves on the ground. Do you know why? Seeing another horse reflected in the water, he becomes angry and envious that someone else might be taking some of his water, so he stamps his hooves. You, however,” continued Rabbi Meir, “surely understand that only a horse can think that way since there is enough water for both horses. Our sages have already taught us that no one can ever take what belongs to another (to you), and surely no one can add more for himself than what was already preordained for him/her to earn.”

The Bible says, “God will bless you in all that you do,” and “Six days a week you shall work, and the seventh day you shall rest.” It is undoubtedly expected that we should labor to earn a living. However, the books tell us that since God already preordains a person’s income at the beginning of the year, it is unnecessary (not commanded by God) and (therefore) futile for a person to work more than what is essential to earn the amount necessary to live on.

When a person overworks, he chooses to add stress and heartache to his life. When he decides that he will work earlier than everyone else and stay later than everyone else, he is choosing to take time away from other responsibilities he has in life, which will surely suffer as a result, while he earns no more money than what was already predestined for him to earn.

From time to time during the winter months, Rabbi Shmuel the Grand Rebbi, would travel out of Lubavitch for health reasons. Once, before he left the village, some of the residents who made their money on the people who would visit this Rabbi approached him and asked, “When the honorable Rabbi leaves, how will we earn a living?”

Rabbi Shmuel responded: “Did you ever hear of a cow worrying when the trough he eats out of breaks? It is the cows’ owner who must worry. So, too, with you. While I am away, you must trust that God will take care of your livelihood. There is no need for you to worry. You must be worthy individuals in the eyes of God, make your effort, and there are many ways God can and will provide.”

There are two approaches one may take to their employment. Some identify with their work as an indispensable and essential tool through which they earn and create their income. Therefore, they see their business or employment as the actual money source, albeit by God’s grace. These people are prone to guard their employment and view it in a way that detracts many times from other responsibilities.

Then some see their work as merely a means for God to provide their money. They only go to work because God commanded us to do so, not because God needs the job to provide us with sustenance. Work is not the source of income. God is the source, and it doesn’t matter what we are doing; He will provide.

This second approach allows a person to dedicate himself to his life responsibilities so that his health, family life, and religious duties are not affected by his work. With this approach, a person understands that what counts most is that he carries out his moral responsibilities properly. When God is happy, blessings will come from heaven, in abundant measure, in all the areas of life that matter most.

Chapter 90

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" Rabbi Ezagui opened in 1987 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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