Parshas Beshalach describes the miraculous nourishment the Jews were sustained with during the forty years they wandered in the desert until they reached the Promised Land. They had the manna fall from the sky, six days a week, early each morning. One of the most fascinating miracles which occurred was that every person got the same amount of manna, no matter how much or how little he collected!
The Bais Halevi (Ma’amar Habitachon) says that the miracle with the heavenly bread stands as an example of the way a livelihood is provided for all times. No one actually earns his money! God decides how much money a person is destined to make, and that is how much a person will make- no more and no less. Just as there was a set amount of manna that each person would receive, so too, our income is predetermined. If it is decreed upon a person to receive half a million dollars that year, he can receive it by working only one hour a day. And if it was decreed that he receive only fifty thousand dollars that year, he can work eighteen hours a day, but he won’t come out with a penny more.
(The only catch is, as the Bais Halevi explains in Parshas Mikeitz, that a person will not necessarily get what is allotted for him if he doesn’t believe he can get it without doing more work. If he thinks that with the job he has he can’t make more than fifty thousand dollars, he may be making himself lose out on the additional funds Heaven has allotted for him. But if he believes God has no limits and there is no relationship between his job and the amount of money God sends him, he can work very little and receive half a million dollars.)
There was a doctor who was working extra time at night in an emergency room to supplement his income. When Rabbi B. heard about this, he said to the doctor, “Why would you do such a thing?” The doctor responded that his income from his day job was insufficient, and he was earning twenty-five thousand dollars a year from the extra hours. Rabbi B. assured him that he could quit his night job and spend the time studying Torah, and he would not lose out. God decreed how much money he will make that year, and taking on this extra job would not change a thing.
At first the doctor was reluctant to believe so, but in the end, he decided to rely on God. He quit the night job and told Rabbi B. “Let’s talk at the end of the year.” At the end of the year, Rabbi B. asked him, “So how did it go?” To which the doctor said, “God reimbursed me twenty-five grand.”
He then proceeded to tell him the story. His family took care of an old lady who had no family. She moved into a nursing home, and asked his family to clean out her apartment. She made sure to stress, regarding her apartment, “Look for the silver foil balls and keep them!” It seemed a bit puzzling, but indeed, they found silver foil balls – stuffed with cash totaling twenty-five thousand dollars!
This is not an easy concept to adopt. Whether you make sales and receive profits, or you have a job for which you are paid a salary, it is very difficult to break the imaginary link between work and money. But as the Bais Halevi points out, we all witness instances in which hard work doesn’t bring any proceeds.
It is impossible to earn more than God has decreed, and God doesn’t need anyone to help Him deliver the paycheck. Getting a job is nothing more than a tax God has placed upon humanity as a condition, in most instances, in order to receive income. Once the tax is “paid” by one taking on a reasonable source of income, there is no point in going overboard and working extra. Extra work cannot earn extra income.
When we are challenged with this concept and are tempted to exercise unreasonable venues to earn more money, we should remember the manna. While in the short term it might look like the extra work will bring in more income, remember that just as with the manna, you will end up with exactly what God has decreed, and ultimately, extra work is futile. The more we learn to internalize this concept, the easier our life will be. In addition, we will also be earning rewards in the World to Come for relying on God to support us.