He Who Sustains the Bear

The story is told of a Yid who made a living chopping wood in the forest and using his horse and wagon to sell the firewood. Near his worksite, a shepherd would watch over a flock of goats. One day as the Yid was working, he noticed a goat slip away from the flock and go into the dense shrubbery of the forest. The next day, he noticed a different goat slipping away from the shepherd and making his way into the forest. When the scene repeated itself yet a third day, the Yid’s curiosity was aroused and he decided to follow the runaway goat.

He carefully made his way through the tangled vines and saw the goat climbing a hill and then entering a cave. The Yid followed the goat into the cave, only to come face to face with a huge, growling bear. At first frightened out of his wits, he soon realized that the bear was severely crippled and could move neither his front nor his back paws.

The Yid was overwhelmed with what he witnessed. The Ribbono shel Olam, Who sustains every living thing, was sending this crippled bear a goat each day so that he should not starve!

The Yid returned to his horse and wagon, and instead of working, returned home.

His wife, concerned that he returned so quickly and with an empty wagon to boot, was concerned to see him.

“What happened?” she asked in alarm.

“He Who sustains the bear will sustain us as well!” he replied.

She became even more worried, and was convinced that he was unwell and this was why he was acting so strangely. As she stood there wondering what to do next, two men arrived at the door and asked whether they could rent the horse and wagon for the day.

“You see how wondrous are the ways of Hashem!” the husband told his wife, “no one asked to rent our horse and wagon until the moment I decided to stop chopping wood.”

He agreed to rent it to the men, and gave his wife the money for the day’s expenses.

“But what will we eat tomorrow?” his wife fretted.

“He Who created the morrow will sustain us,” her husband assured her.

The two men were actually two violent criminals who wanted the wagon so they could bury their latest victim. During the burial they came across a chest of gold coins, which they happily loaded onto the wagon.

Each of them was determined that he alone would keep the entire treasure; and in their attempts to settle the matter they both shared the fate of their victim.

The horse waited all afternoon, and when darkness fell it decided to trot back home, pulling a vast treasure in the wagon.

The Yid inspected his wagon and joyfully informed his wife, “Hashem has brought us our needs for tomorrow — today!”

***

In this week’s parashah, the Torah teaches us: “If you will say: What will we eat in the seventh year? For we will not sow and we will not gather in our crop. I will command My blessings for you in the sixth year and it will produce a crop that will suffice for three years.”

One of the primary reasons given by meforshim for the mitzvah of Shemittah is that it serves to instill into Klal Yisrael the concept of bitachon, of relying solely on Hashem and recognizing that ultimately our parnassah — our fate — is solely in His hands.

There are differing views about hishtadlus for parnassah.

According to one view, the amount of hishtadlus a person is required to make is in direct proportion to the level of his bitachon.

Another view is that a certain amount of hishtadlus is required even by someone who does have the requisite amount of bitachon. However, Hagaon Harav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l, cautions that even according to this view, one should not err and assume that somehow it is the hishtadlus that brings the parnassah.

The fact we must earn our living “by the sweat of our brow” is part of the punishment mankind received following the sin of Adam Harishon, but this is not what brings parnassah.

While a shortage of funds for basic expenses can sometimes be an indication that an increase of hishtadlus is in order, in many situations this isn’t the case at all. It is imperative that one should always consult with a spiritual mentor for guidance as to the proper amount of hishtadlus. Too much can be just as harmful as too little.

The precise amount of money an individual will earn is predestined, though the amount of bitachon a person has and how much effort he exerts in tefillah also plays a significant role.

May the Ribbono shel Olam help us all achieve true bitachon, and may Klal Yisrael thus merit bountiful parnassah.