Rabbi Yakov Haber
Rabbi Yakov Haber

Mann and Parnassa

One of the core methods through which Hashem's hashgacha p'ratis is manifested is through His granting parnassa - the daily sustenance of His creatures, especially mankind. Countless passages in Tanach address this very point. One of the more prominent ones is recited thrice daily in the Ashrei prayer: "Posei'ach es yadecha umasbi'a l'chol chai ratzon - You open up your hand and satisfy with favor all living creatures". The Talmud (B'rachot 4b) tells us that "Ashrei's daily recital leads to one becoming a ben ‘olam haba - one worthy of entering the World to Come". This is due to the presence of the passage dealing with parnassa in this Psalm coupled with its Aleph-Beis structure. Meshech Chochma (beginning of B'chukosai) explains that the complex, inter-related natural structures and cycles (represented by the order of the Aleph-Beis) all leading to the daily parnassa of all of the creatures in the world (represented by the passage "Posei'ach es yeadecha") indicate G-d's daily miracles masquerading as "the Natural Order". One who constantly recognizes this truth is surely on the road to the Next World. Parnassa is one of the three central features concerning which G-d orchestrates massive sequences of events in the world to bring about and which are not necessarily subject to the individual's merit - "banei, chayei, u'mzonei lav b'zchusa talya milsa ela b'mazla talya milsa - Children, life, and sustenance are not (solely) dependent on merit but on mazal" - special Divine Providence (Mo'eid Katan 28a). [See Rabbi A. Kaplan, Handbook of Jewish Thought p. 296 ff.]

Commentaries note that the mann, described in our parsha, served as a supernatural example of Hashem's sustaining us throughout our lives. With the mann it was obvious that this was so. When the Jewish people entered into Eretz Yisrael, it would be less obvious, but just as true nonetheless. Not surprisingly then, many aspects of our attitude toward the pursuit of parnassa and our faith and reliance on Hashem in providing it are to be found in the description and laws of the mann. Although these principles are well known, incorporating them into our lives requires constant study and review. This article is an attempt to inspire study concerning some of these important principles.

One, parnassa will never have permanence if achieved by violating the d'var Hashem. This is manifest by the mann's getting wormy for those who attempted to leave some over for the next day against the Divine command (16:20). Similarly, money earned through theft and dishonest business practices or other violations of halacha will have no permanence.

Second, Sh'miras Shabbos only increases one's parnassa; it will never decrease it notwithstanding the missing workday. This is highlighted by our Sages' promise that expenditures for Shabbos are not included in the decree of how much one will earn in any given year (Beitza 16a). The mann which fell as a double portion before Shabbos indicates this idea (16:22 ff.).

Third, although hishtadlus, human effort, is generally necessary - even the mann had to be collected and, according to the simple reading of the text, had to be prepared (16:23) - excessive hishtadlus does not lead to extra parnassa. This concept emerges from the fact that "He who took more, did not have more; he who took less, did not receive less" (16:18). [See Mishna Berura 1:(13).] What is considered a reasonable amount of effort and what is excessive requires individual analysis and consultation with Rabbinic authorities.

Fourth, we need to constantly remind ourselves that it is Hashem who provides for us through the agency of our efforts. It is not our efforts which produce the sustenance. This was taught by the mann not falling on Shabbos. The Midrash comments on the passage in B'reishis: "And he blessed the seventh day and sanctified it" - "He blessed it with mann - that a double portion fell on Friday; He sanctified it with mann - that it did not fall on Shabbos" (quoted by Rashi to B'raishis 2:3). Rav C. Y. Goldwicht z"l, the founding Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh, explained that that sanctification by the mann not falling one day a week was the reinforcement that the mann was a miracle from G-d. Even something as patently supernatural as the mann would lose its mystery if it fell every day. Hergeil maivee liday shich'cha - regularity leads to forgetfulness. So too we must constantly reinforce our dependency on Hashem for parnassa. Many read the Parshas HaMan every day to serve as a daily reminder of this idea. Not surprisingly, this also serves as a segula for parnassa. (See Shulchan Aruch (1:5) and Mishna Berura 1:(13).)

Fifth, oftentimes our parnassa comes not through our merit but through the merit of others. My rebbe, Rav Hershel Schachter shlit"a, taught us that sometimes an entire institution might exist in the merit of one scrupulous individual who deserves a parnassa. The mann fell in the merit of Moshe Rabbeinu and stopped upon his death (Ta'anis 9a). The Gemara (B'rachos 17b) tells us that the whole world was supported through the merit of the great tanna and miracle-worker R. Chanina b. Dosa, and yet, he sufficed with a meager portion of carob fruit from week to week. The religious truth that the wealthy's enormous assets might be in the merit of righteous individuals in that generation - who do not seem to have too much even to eat - is both a humbling thought concerning the true effect of our hishtadlut and should inspire us to support Torah scholars and other worthy institutions.

R. Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan, the Chafetz Chaim, in his Seifer Ahavas Chessed (footnote to 2:4) has a fascinating insight as to the nature of parnassa. King David declares in T'hillim (62:13): "For kindness belongs to you; for you compensate every man according to his actions".  The Chafetz Chaim asks: shouldn't Hashem's compensation for man's action be considered acts of justice, not kindness? He explains through an analogy that an artisan who provides free room, board, clothing, raw materials and tools to his apprentice need not feel obligated to compensate the apprentice fully, or even at all, for his work. Similarly, Hashem, who provides us with our parnassa and other needs - often way beyond our needs - and gives us all of our abilities in order to serve Him, should not have to reward us for our actions. Nevertheless, because of His kindness, He does compensate us both in this world and the next.

In the merit of our studying the parsha of the mann and internalizing the ultimate purpose of parnassa - to serve the One who grants it, may Hashem bless us with "chayim sheyeish bahem parnassa tova."

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