Thursday, August 10, 2017

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman

This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated in memory of Elka bas Zisel OBM

Dedicated in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM

In the Talmud, the sages tell us that before a child is born, the heavenly court decides whether he or she is destined to live a life of riches or a life of modest means. Whatever scenario he or she is given, will be part of their life’s test. And of the two, the test of wealth is more severe. The particular challenge that money presents is the notion of independence from G‑d. When a person works to create success and security for himself, it is hard to feel tenderly dependent on the Creator. It is equally difficult for the wealthy not to feel intrinsically superior to the average person. To remain humble and G‑d-centered in the face of prosperity, is a colossal challenge.

Being broke, on the other hand, is also a test from G‑d. Can you trust that the creator of the world will provide for your needs? Are you able to maintain the belief that G‑d is good, despite the bad times? This is the challenging face of poverty.

When the Jews finally entered into the Land of Israel, where they would set up a national economic system, they were well-trained to have a very healthy perspective towards money. Surprisingly, it was not through lectures orTorah classes that they gleaned this healthy perspective, but through forty years of eating Manna, as described in this week’s Parsha, Eikev (Devorim [Deuteronomy] 7:12-11:25).

The manna made the Jew feel both rich and poor simultaneously. Rich, because manna was heavenly bread, and would miraculously taste like anything its eater requested. It was absolute wonder bread. But it made them feel poor, since it necessitated pocket-to-mouth living. Only enough manna fell for the day’s feed. If one left over food for tomorrow, the leftovers would spoil. G‑d cares, and He will provide again tomorrow. There was no sense of provisions surplus; although you were fed today, there was no absolute security for tomorrow. This is the fear of the business owner whose business makes just enough to stay afloat. I paid my bills today, but the future is unknown.

For forty years, the people had to come to terms with their rationed food. Each day they had the opportunity to practice two helpful meditations: a) All abundance comes from G‑d, and b) G‑d cares, and He will provide again tomorrow.

Perhaps this is why Moses preserved a bit of the manna, as a reminder that G-d Al-mighty is the ultimate source of one’s sustenance.  It symbolized this balanced meditation that may take a lifetime to master. But when practiced often enough, it affords enormous serenity to the affluent and the indigent alike.

(Adapted from a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rochel Holzkenner)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at