Earning one’s livelihood

The pasuq reads:

 וּבָא הַלֵּוִי כִּי אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה עִמָּךְ, וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ, וְאָכְלוּ וְשָׂבֵעוּ, לְמַעַן יְבָרֶכְךָ ה אֱלֹקֶיךָ, בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדְךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה.  {ס} And the Levi, because he doesn’t have a portion nor an inheritance with you, and the ger, and the orphan and the widow, who are within gates, shall come, eat and be satisfied; so that Hashem your G-d may bless you in all the work of your hands which you do.

As this is right at the end of shelishi of parashas Re’eih, the last phrase caught my attention. “All the work for your hands” describes it, what is added by “which you do”?

The line reminded me of a thought I had to answer a different question. The ninth berakhah of the Amidah is called “Birkhas haShanim — Blessing of the Years” (the following is Nusach haGra, but the point remains in all versions):

בָּרֵךְ עָלֵינוּ ה אֱלֹקֵינוּ אֶת הַשָּׁנָה הַזֹּאת וְאֶת כָּל מִינֵי תְבוּאָתָהּ לְטוֹבָה. וְתֵן [טַל וּמָטָר לִ]בְרָכָה עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, וְשַׂבְּעֵנוּ מִטּוּבָהּ, וּבָרֵךְ שְׁנָתֵנוּ כַּשָּׁנִים הַטּוֹבוֹת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה, מְבָרֵךְ הַשָּׁנִים. Bless for us, Hashem our G-d, this year and all its kinds of crop for good. And give [dew and rain for] a blessing upon the face of the earth, satisfy us with its good, and bless our years like the good years. Blessed are You / You are the Source of Blessing, who blesses the years.

Why does this berakhah mix two ideas? Are we asking Hashem to bless all the crops and the land (and in the winter: the rain and dew) which provides them? Or are we asking Him to bless the year to be among the best ones? To understand the berakhah, I turned to my favorite source, Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher (in what I called sec. 6: Refinement, part 4:

ותחלת קבלת התורה על ידי משה רבינו ע״ה היתה דמות ואות לכל בני ישראל מקבלי התורה, שכמו שאמר הקב״ה למשה רבינו ע״ה “פסל לך שני לוחות אבנים”, כל כך הוא רמז לכל מקבלי התורה, שיכין כל איש ישראל לוחות לעצמו, לכתוב עליהם דבר ה׳, וכפי הכשרתו בהכנת הלוחות, כן תהיה קבלתו, מתחילה וכן גם אחרי זה אם יתקלקלו אצלו הלוחות, אז לא תתקיים התורה, ועל ידי זה לא יהיה מצוי כל כך ענין פחד משה רבינו ע״ה, שלפי ערך מעלת האדם ביראת ה׳ ובמדות, שהוא לוח לבבו, לפי ערך זה ינתן לו מן השמים קנין התורה, ואם יפול אחר כך ממדרגתו, לפי ערך זה תשכח התורה ממנו, וכמו שאמרו חז״ל שכמה ענינים גורמים לשכחת התורה ר״ל, ועל דבר גדול זה אמרו חז״ל לפרש את הכתוב בסיומא של תורה, “ולכל היד החזקה שעשה משה לעיני כל ישראל”, The beginning of the receiving of the Torah through Moses was a symbol and sign for all of the Jewish people who receive the Torah [since]. Just as Hashem told Moses, “Carve for yourself two stone Tablets”, so too it is advice for all who receive the Torah. Each must prepare Tablets for himself, to write upon them the word of Hashem. According to his readiness in preparing the Tablets, so will be his ability to receive. If in the beginning or even any time after that his Tablets are ruined, then his Torah will not remain. This removes much of Moses’ fear, because according to the value and greatness of the person in Awe/Fear of Hashem and in middos, which are the Tablet of his heart, this will be the measure by which heaven will give him acquisition of Torah. And if he falls from his level, by that amount he will forget his Torah, just as our sages said of a number of things that cause Torah to be forgotten. About this great concept our sages told us to explain the text at the conclusion of the Torah, “and all the great Awe Inspiring acts which Moses wrought before the eyes of all of Israel.” (Devarim 34:12, the closing words of the Torah)

Hashem doesn’t just hand us our needs, He created the notion of having to work for them, because that’s the process by which we hone the middos necessary to embody the Torah. And so, we ask Hashem to bless us with good crops, but we don’t only mention the success at the end, but  ask for His berakhah on the year of process it takes to get those crops. Bless for us this year, that it not only be prosperous, but that we too grow and flourish.

And perhaps that’s what the Torah means here too. We give ma’aser to the Levi “so that Hashem your G-d may bless you in all the work of your hands” — that we have financial success, and blessing in “that you do” — that the activity itself is blessed in how it refines us.

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