G-d’s Livelihood

By Rabbi Dovid Markel


Before the holy Baal Shem Tov revealed himself to the world, he would travel incognito from city to city and from village to village. His holy practice was that of being attentive to every Jew, men and women, old or young.

He would take interest into their wellbeing in all matters, including their health, livelihood, etc. The Baal Shem Tov was extremely satisfied when those Jews—the men, women and children—would respond with various versions of praise for the Creator, such as, “Thank G-d,” “Praised is G-d,” or other such expressions.

It once happened that the Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov arrived at a certain settlement. He conducted himself as he was want to do, striving to bring merit to the Jewish residents there by giving them the opportunity to praise the holy Name of the Almighty.

In this village there was a certain Jew who was extremely old. He was known to be a great Torah scholar and an ascetic from physical pursuits. For more than 50 years, he sat and learned Torah in seclusion and holiness.

All those years, he would learn while fasting and enveloped in his talis (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries). This would continue until the late evening and only after the nightly prayers, would he partake of a piece of bread and a drink of water.

When the Baal Shem Tov entered the study of this sage, which was located in an antechamber of the synagogue, the Baal Shem Tov inquired as to his wellbeing. He asked the elderly man if he had all that he needed materially. The sage, however, paid no attention to the Baal Shem Tov, who was dressed as a simple villager.

The Baal Shem Tov attempted the question numerous times until the sage became vexed and motioned towards the door to signify that he should leave.

At that point, the Baal Shem Tov turned to the elderly scholar and asked, “Why do you withhold the livelihood of the Holy one Blessed be He?” When the sage heard these words, he became flustered. How could this villager speak in such a manner regarding the Almighty, suggesting the idea that He requires a livelihood?!

The Baal Shem Tov, sensing the thoughts of the sage, responded: “The Jewish people ‘sit,’ relying on the livelihood that G-d provides for them, but the Holy One blessed be He, on what does he sit? This is the meaning of what King Dovid tells us[1], ‘But You are holy.’ For which livelihood do you sit and await? ‘You sit (and await) the praises of Israel,’ that they praise You for their health and livelihood. In the merit of this praise that the Jewish people give the Almighty, G-d gives children, life and sustenance in abundance.”

(free translation from Sefer Mamorim Yiddish pg. 138)

[1] Tehillim 22:4

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