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Monday, 23 March 2015

You don't work for your boss

Daf Yomi Kesubos 49

I’ve known Ivan for many years.  He had his bar-mitzvah at the shul and I’ve watched him grow up and go through university and land his first job.  Last year, he came in to see me.  Ivan wanted to quit his job.
“Rabbi,” he said to me, “it’s just such a drag to get out of bed each morning and pull myself to work.”
“Why?” I asked him.
“My boss tortures me.  He’s always making snide remarks trying to put me down, while working me long hours with a nonstop gruelling workload.  I’ve had enough, I can’t take it anymore.”
“Ivan,” I replied, “you don’t work for your boss.  You work for G-d.  He is your provider. Mark my word, if you pass this test, He will provide for you in a whole different way.”
Ivan heeded my advice and stayed the course.  A couple of months later, HR called him in.  They’d seen his performance results and were offering him a major promotion in a different department.  Ivan now has greater seniority than his former supervisor! 

King David declares in Psalms, “G-d gives an animal its bread; and to the children of the raven who call.”
When delinquent fathers would appear before Rabbi Hisda, he would say to them: Turn over a mortar in public and let the father stand on top and announce, ‘Even a raven wants to provide for its children and this man does not want to provide for his children.’

The Gemara asks: But the verse in Psalms implies that G-d provides, not the raven’s parents!
The Gemara answers: No problem.  The verse refers to white ravens; the announcement refers to black ravens.  Rashi explains that when ravens are young, they are white and so their parents do not recognize them and therefore deny them sustenance (thus, they must be sustained by G-d).  When they get older, they become black and the parents love them once again.

Why do we chastise this delinquent father with the raven analogy?  King David makes it clear that ravens also fail, at least initially, to provide for their young!  Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the analogy of an animal that never fails to provide for their offspring? 

The message we are conveying to this man is that G-d is the ultimate provider.  Just like when a raven does not recognize its offspring, G-d provides for them, the Almighty will provide for these human children, no matter what.  This lazy good-for-nothing father does not have the power to provide or withhold sustenance from his family.  That is in the Almighty’s hands.  All he may choose to be is a partner with G-d.  If he decides to pull his socks up and go out to work, he will be Heaven’s vehicle for sustenance.  If not, He will forego the merit of partnering with the Almighty.

And that must be our attitude to sustenance generally.  King David further declares, “Do not place your trust in princes, in people who can provide no salvation,” and the prophet Jeremiah declares, “Blessed is the man who trusts in G-d, G-d shall be his confidence.”  Your boss doesn’t have the power to provide or withhold your sustenance; that’s in G-d’s hands alone.  S/he is merely a vehicle.  If G-d wants you to make more, you will make more and you will be promoted way beyond your supervisor, who falsely thinks they are your provider, and you are at their mercy and every whim. 

When people ask you who you work for, tell them you work for G-d.  He alone is your provider.  When you take those earnings and provide for your family, for the needy, and for your synagogue and community, you become a partner with G-d.  He doesn’t need you to provide – if you choose to evade your obligations, He will still provide.  Rather, He offers you the opportunity to be His partner in the provision of sustenance.  Will you take Him up on His incredible offer?

The Almighty is the true provider.  We are but vehicles to partner with Him as He sustains His creatures.  May you merit always recognizing where your bread is buttered and giving constant thanks to Hashem who never forsakes His children!