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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira | 5769

The Virtues of Hard Work

Ein Ayah

(based on Berachot 1:101)

[This piece is very hard but hopefully very enriching, even if understood only partially.]


Gemara: Greater is he who benefits from the toil of his hand than a G-d fearer. For regarding one who benefits from the toil of his hand the pasuk says: “The toil of your hand shall you eat, you are fortunate and it is good for you” (Tehillim 128:2). Regarding a G-d fearer, the pasuk says: “Fortunate is one who fears G-d” (ibid. 112:1); it does not say, “It is good for you.”


Ein Ayah: The elevated feeling of one who benefits from the toil of his hand is the most complete and best ethical feeling in man. This is because a person has engraved in his nature that since he is free to choose his actions and, with diligence, he can complete himself in all ways, he should not sit idly by and wait for others to act for him. Even with regard to Divine Providence, he should imprint on his soul to reject dependence on others unless he cannot perform the matter himself. Whatever he can accomplish is the completeness (shleimut) that the Divine Providence bestowed upon him to have the power for a success that will be in his hand. This moral power leads a person to lofty levels because he will also strive for shleimut in Torah, wisdom, and good deeds. This all stems from the fact that the person wants to benefit from his toil and not be one who is supported by charity, which leads him to higher levels than an abstract feeling of fear of G-d. The latter may invigorate him to grasp service of Hashem. However, sometimes he will try only to “fulfill his minimum obligations” with nice and holy ideas that fill his heart.

In truth, the main pleasant feeling in the world to come belongs to one who benefits from the toil of his hand, for this is the good shleimut known in its truth to his Maker, although one cannot feel its entirety. This is why it says one with fear of G-d is fortunate, for he feels good fortune in its pleasantness and grandeur. It is in the world to come that this true goodness is recognized. Therefore, the essence of the good that comes from fear of G-d is one of palpable enjoyment. While it is of the highest level, its advantage is from the perspective of the enjoyment, similar to the good feeling of this world.

In contrast, the good that comes from the holy level of one who enjoys specifically that which comes from the work of his hand and thereby completes himself is connected to the truly good side of the world to come. Specifically there, the glory of this shleimut will be recognized. Since this attribute of benefitting from one’s own efforts, when it gets to its upper reaches, includes all the wonderful parts of good levels, it is very respectable even from its beginning. One who acquires this good attribute for himself is worthy of respect and honor even when the attribute is only starting to develop, i.e., when its purpose is to sustain his body and the people of his household from the hard work of his soul in a just and straight path. This attribute will elevate him even to its lofty value, in the storehouse of moral life in the path of Hashem. This is because the power of straightness that exists in this good feeling is the basis of all of the Torah. This is the part that Hashem gives to man to be judged based on his actions through free choice, and this is the whole purpose of our souls coming down into the world and getting mixed with the powers of the body. It is these efforts that the rabbis of mystical matters called running away from “bread of embarrassment” [i.e., our soul’s feeling that the enjoyment that one gets from the Divine light is not fully worthwhile if it was not earned through development of the soul by choosing well in life’s tests].The content of the matter is that the true goodness is to exist and be drawn by an approach of true straightness, which is Divine justice.


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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of Shirley, Sara Rivka bat Yaakov Tzvi HaCohen z”L
as well as

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga      Brachfeld


Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker

and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.


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