| Parshah |

A Tale of Two Fish

The work is getting done — but parnassah is from Hashem


“Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day it should be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem…” (Shemos 35:2)

Why doesn’t the pasuk say, “Six days you should do work,” instead of saying, “work may be done”?

A person must understand that he himself is not doing work for parnassah. The work is getting done — but parnassah is from Hashem.  Once you accept this, then you can rest fully on Shabbos, knowing that on that day, no work can be done, but that no profit would come from such work. (Rav Shlomo Ganzfried, Sefer Apiryon)

The food was good and so was the company. I was enjoying myself as I networked with fellow authors at a luncheon for editors and writers.

Then, across the room, I saw Michal. Elegant and poised as always, she was chatting with the owner of a publishing company. I wondered what brought her to the luncheon. Last I heard, she’d been working as a social worker in the national welfare office. Holding my coffee carefully, I wended my way through the crowded room to say hi.

Chazal say this is one of the reasons we eat fish on Shabbos. Large fish sustain themselves by eating smaller fish. A big fish chases a smaller fish and swallows it. According to this scenario, if you opened the stomach of the bigger fish, you’d see the smaller fish’s tail facing the back of the big fish, since it was swallowed as it was being chased from behind. 

However, we find the opposite is true. Upon dissecting the stomach of the bigger fish, you’ll find the smaller fish’s face facing toward the back, as if he flipped around after being swallowed.

From here we learn that even though the big fish had been chasing a specific smaller fish, he didn’t end up eating the fish he’d been pursuing. He instead swallowed a different random fish that Hashem caused to swim straight into his mouth. That’s why it’s facing that way.

“Hey, Michal! How’s life as a public servant?”

“Public slave, you mean.” She gave me a tight hug. “I have hereby liberated myself.  Guess you haven’t heard, I’m now working for DafDaf Publications.”

“Seriously? What made you switch careers? Midlife crisis?”

She laughed as we found chairs near the buffet. “I wasn’t planning on switching careers. But I was getting burned out in social work, and I’ve always been interested in writing and editing. I minored in journalism in college but never did anything with it. Then, the last few years I started writing again — something in me needed to be expressed.

“So I sent my work to all the major publications out there. You should’ve seen the number of rejection letters I got. I could’ve papered my dining room with them.  Finally, after rejection letter number 101, or close to that, I put my pen aside and decided I wasn’t any good at writing and I’d stick with social work for the rest of my life.”

“But Michal, you are good at writing. Don’t tell me you surrendered!”

“I had to. Because the more articles I submitted and the more times I was turned away, the more dejected I felt about myself and my writing.”

This is teaching those who keep Shabbos that they shouldn’t spend Shabbos worrying about their parnassah. Hashem is the One Who actually sustains us; it’s not our chasing opportunities or pursuing various venues that actually gives us a salary. 

“So what brought you here?” I gestured around at the groups of women chatting.

“I’d given up, but apparently someone hadn’t given up on me. You know Rivka Cherner, owner of DafDaf? She used to work for one of the major weekly magazines. Then, when she started DafDaf, she called me out of the clear blue. Told me that although she’d rejected my articles for technical reasons when working for the magazine, she personally had always liked my style and she offered me a head position at DafDaf.

“This was two years after I’d stopped submitting anything! And then suddenly, here I am, senior editor, and I’ve never been happier. I’d been banging down doors for a few years, but Hashem didn’t want them open until now.”

I lifted my coffee cup in a toast. “When the time’s right, it goes right.”

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 685)

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