Parshas Beha’alosecha discusses the Jews’ travels in the desert on their way to the Land of Israel. The verse says (9:18), “By the mouth of God they travel and by the mouth of God they camp.”
The Shelah (Beha’aloscha, Derech Chaim, Tochachas Mussar) says this verse alludes to the way a Jew should speak. A Jew should always mention God when he discusses his plans. When a person talks about going somewhere or doing something, he should say, “With God’s help,” or “God willing, I plan on doing such and such.” This is not just a nice way of talking, but a way of life. By making it a habit to refer to God’s control over our plans, we work on searing this fact into our consciousness.
It’s very easy to get excited and think of ourselves as the ones who bring our plans to fruition. But very often when we proceed with such an attitude, God has to remind us that it isn’t so.
The Bais Halevi says that when one relies on human control, he causes curses to be brought upon himself, and this attitude itself can be the cause for his plans to become foiled, as the verse says (17:5), “Cursed is the one who relies on a human and puts [his confidence in his] flesh as his strength and deters his heart from God.”
There was once a blind priest who put a forest up for sale. There was a Jew who found out about it, and he got very excited. The price was very cheap and it sounded like an excellent deal. This was going to be his deal of a lifetime. Everyone he spoke to advised him to jump on the opportunity. Everyone that is, except for his rebbe, Rabbi Dovid Moshe of Chortkov.
The man told the rebbe about the tremendous wealth he was about to earn from this amazing deal, but the rebbe was not enthusiastic about it. Instead of giving his blessing, the rebbe told him that he should not go ahead with the deal. The man ignored the rebbe’s advice and finalized the deal. As soon as the deal was closed, he sent men to start chopping down the trees for lumber. It wasn’t long before the workers returned with the disappointing report that all the trees were rotten. The forest was practically worthless.
Two years later he returned to his rebbe and reported about the loss. “I was wrong,” he said. “I should have listened to the advice of rebbe’s Divine spirit!”
Upon hearing this, the rebbe responded, “My advice to you was not sourced in Divine spirit. The reason why I advised you against it was because, not once did you mention God’s assistance in your plans. You relied on your own acumen in pursuing the deal and you did not feel you needed God’s intervention to make you succeed. When someone conducts business with such an attitude, he is on his way to failure. This is why I advised you against pursuing the purchase.”
Many people are accustomed to mentioning God when discussing their plans, but sometimes, out of habit, it just becomes a thoughtless motion, devoid of the magnitude of true significance it carries. It’s not a matter of just saying the words, but about the attitude with which we conduct ourselves. The more we acknowledge God’s control over our plans, instead of banking on our own abilities to succeed, the more blessings we will have in our pursuits in life.
Parshas Beha’alosecha by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (email@example.com)