By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM
“Man does not live by bread alone” (Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:3) - a famous line, but what does it mean?
The verse comes from this week’s Torah portion Eikev (Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12-11:25), and is a reference to the miraculous Manna, which fell from heaven daily during the Jewish people’s sojourn in the wilderness. The conclusion of the verse states “rather, by the utterance of G‑d’s mouth does man live.” Thus, it is reminding us about the true source of human sustenance.
Contrary to popular belief, it is neither our earthly toil, nor the sweat of our brow, nor all those conferences, meetings and sales seminars that ensure our success. The reality is that it is G‑d who sustains us and looks after us, just as our ancestors trekking through the desert were totally dependent on Him for their daily bread. Wealth is a G‑dly gift. At the end of the day, it is not our business acumen alone that provides our daily bread, but the blessings from Above which endow our efforts with success.
Ask anyone in sales how often their best-laid plans and pitches have come to naught, and then, out of the blue, a big order comes in with little or no effort. Of course, it’s not the rule, and we must be prepared to put in effort if we are to succeed. But when it does happen, it reminds us that there are higher forces, beyond our control, at work.
But there’s another meaning to this verse as well. Man does not live by bread alone. The human spirit is such that we crave more than bread. Human beings are never satisfied with money or materialism alone.
Money is important, but we cannot live by money exclusively. What about job satisfaction? I know a number of individuals in our community who willingly gave up lucrative positions for less rewarding ones, because they found their work unstimulating. They were making lots of cash, but there was no emotional reward.
There are many people who have it all financially, but who are nonetheless unhappy people. They are very successful—and very miserable. For satisfaction to be lasting it must be more than material; it must be spiritual. We need to know that our lives have purpose, and that somehow we have made a difference. We want to be assured that our work is productive and will have lasting value.
We have a deep-seated need to know that our life’s work is purposeful, physically and spiritually. When we understand that every good deed is attached to a complex spiritual apparatus and what we do affects the cosmos - then our lives become endowed with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
We desperately need to know, as well, that in some way our work is helping others - that we are making a contribution to society beyond our own selfish needs. Then - we live. Then - we are happy.
Man does not live by bread alone. We simply cannot.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Yossy Goldman)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!