Reality Check| September 16, 2020
As a new year dawns, what did we learn — and how have we changed?
Everyone has that once-in-a-lifetime experience when they feel like they’re living inside a Reb Elimelech Biderman story. I got my moment 20 years ago.
I always knew
(and this is what I teach) that parnassah is from Hashem, that every penny we earn is decided on Rosh Hashanah, and that all we have to do is go through the motions of hishtadlus. But the journey from the intellect to the heart meanders endlessly. Once in a lifetime Hashem whispers in our ear, “Let me show you how I’ve got this.”
Twenty years ago, when my salary was randomly cut in half, Rav Moshe Shapira suggested that I scrupulously examine whether I’d given maaser properly. This made no sense because my wife, who runs our finances, is zealously meticulous in this area. On a sleepless night it occurred to me I had not taken maaser from the dedications for my sefer, Rigshei Lev. I reasoned that the money was coming from the donors’ maaser and therefore exempt. But when I asked Rav Chaim Kanievsky, I learned that my reasoning was wrong. After doing the math, it turned out that the money I owed was the exact equivalent of my salary reduction. And once I gave it to tzedakah, the next month my salary was restored!
Okay, I get it, Hashem, it was You all along. Reb Elimelech, are you listening?
This year I thought
that with coronavirus, a makas medinah, the rules had changed. I had to cancel four overseas trips, the first of which was a major parnassah provider. I watched with horror as so many beloved friends, especially those in chinuch and travel, lost vital income. Parnassah anxiety creeped in, but at least I knew I was in this with the rest of the planet.
Then it happened. In an insane roller-coaster 48 hours, an unexpected mitzvah ended with an inexplicably large check. You guessed it — it was exactly the amount I was expecting for my first missed trip! The check was my reality check.
This was no whisper. Hashem had roared into my ear, “I still got this…”
Rabbi Menachem Nissel is a mechanech in Jerusalem, senior educator of NCSY and the author of Rigshei Lev: Women & Tefillah. He is a talmid of Rav Moshe Shapira ztz”l.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 828)
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