How to Make Money
What is the Torah approach to how wealth is increased?
What do you do if you want some extra money? Work longer hours? Make some savvy investments? Reduce expenses? Learn new skills so that you can get a better paid career?
In the charedi world, these things are ultimately meaningless. As discussed in the previous post, it’s Hashem Who decides how much money you make. Hishtadlus (worldly endeavor) has zero genuine significance, it’s just a charade. Most people have to engage in such a charade in order for Hashem to disguise His divine intervention. But since it’s a charade, there is no correlation between hishtadlus and parnasa, once the designated amount of charade is performed. And to the extent that one truly acknowledges that everything is from Hashem, less of this charade is required.
But is this traditional Jewish belief? Well, the Beis HaLevi, in chapter 22 of his work on Bitachon, presents it as being from the Gemara itself:
"וכמאמרם במסכת נדה, מה יעשה אדם ויתעשר יתפלל למי שהעושר והנכסים שלו"
“It is as they said in Masechet Niddah, What should a man do to become wealthy? Pray to the One who has all the wealth and resources.
All you have to do is pray. Provided that your prayer is sufficiently worthy, you’ll get the money that you want.
But is that what the Gemara actually says?
If you go and check, you’ll see that the Gemara (Niddah 70a) actually says something different:
מה יעשה אדם ויתעשר אמר להן ירבה בסחורה וישא ויתן באמונה אמרו לו הרבה עשו כן ולא הועילו אלא בקש רחמים ממי שהעושר שלו שנאמר (חגי ב, ח) לי הכסף ולי הזה במאי קמ"ל דהא בלא הא לא סגי
“[The Sages of Alexandria asked:] What should a person do to become wealthy? [Rabbi Yehoshua] said to them: Let him increase trade, and engage in trade with integrity. They said: Many did this, and it did not help! [Rabbi Yehoshua replied:] Rather, he should seek mercy from the One Who has the wealth… What does this teach us? That one without the other is insufficient.
The Gemara clearly states that the first thing to do in order to increase wealth is to grow one’s business!
Now, the Beis HaLevi did not delete this part of the Gemara himself. The Vilna Gaon erases that phrase from the Gemara. But I had a friend check earlier manuscripts, and all of them have the full text.
In other words, for Chazal, and the Rishonim, increasing the amount of money that you make requires you to make the ordinary efforts that people engage in to increase the amount of money that they make. This is, of course, consistent with the statements of Chazal and the Rishonim in numerous other places. But as the rationalist approach declined, it became unthinkable that this was a necessity, to the point that the Vilna Gaon believed that it must be an error!
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Meanwhile, I’m off to the US today. This weekend I’ll be in Miami Beach, and on Sunday morning I’ll be in Hollywood, Florida. Looking forward to connecting and reconnecting with friends!
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