By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
"G-d helps those who help themselves"
Is this statement heresy? Does it deny the hand of G-d in our successes?
But indeed, "G-d helps those who help themselves" is a perfectly religious statement. What it means is absolutely consistent with traditional Jewish thinking. G-d does indeed help us to accomplish things, but He requires us to help ourselves first. If we just sit back and wait for miracles to happen, we may be disappointed.
"G-d will bless you in all that you do," (Deuteronomy 15, 18) makes it very clear. Our blessings come from G-d, but we must do. Of course, we believe in miracles--but we mustn't rely on them. The combination of our own hard work and efforts coupled with G-d's blessing is the ideal road to success. This is the meaning of the concept “Hishtadlut” – attempt and involvement.
The classic analogy is the farmer. He can plough and plant, sow and shvitz from today until tomorrow but if the rains don't come nothing will grow. Conversely, all the rains in the world will not cause anything to grow if the farmer hasn't planted first. After the farmer has done his work and the rains come from above, there will be a plentiful crop. And it's the same story whether we are farmers or shopkeepers, professionals or artisans, employers or employees.
This week's Parshah Chaye Sarah (Bereishis [Genesis] 23:1-25:18) tells of Isaac taking Rebecca as his wife. "And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother." Rashi, quoting the Midrash, explains this to mean more than the obvious. When she entered the tent, it was as if she was Sarah, Isaac's mother. Because Sarah was of such saintly character, she was granted three special miracles. Her Shabbat candles burned the entire week, her dough was particularly blessed, and a heavenly cloud attached itself to her tent. When Sarah died, these blessings disappeared. When Rebecca arrived on the scene, they resumed immediately. In fact, this was a clear sign to Isaac that Rebecca was indeed his soul mate and that the shidduch was made in Heaven.
Each of those three miracles, however, required some form of human input first. A candle and fire had to be found, the dough had to be prepared and a tent had to be pitched before G-d would intervene and make those miracles happen. In other words, He does help us but we must help ourselves first.
Perhaps like the fellow who would make a fervent prayer to G-d every week that he win the lottery, but no luck. In anguished disappointment, he vented his frustration with the Almighty. "Oh, G-d! For months I've been praying to you. Why haven't you helped me win the lottery?" Whereupon a heavenly voice was heard saying, "Because you haven't bought a ticket, dummy!"
I wish it were that simple to win lotteries. But the fact is that it is the same in all our endeavors. G-d helps those who help themselves. May we all do our part. Please G-d, He will do His.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Yossy Goldman)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!