Where your Heart Pulls You
There is another way to know what the mission is that Hashem wants you to accomplish; and that is by following your heart. If your heart is pulling you to perform a certain type of good deed, this might be a sign that this is your life’s calling. Hashem placed this desire into your heart because Hashem wants you to excel in this area. Every person has his mitzvah that speaks to him. Some are enthralled with the merit of kiruv rechokim, some understand the importance of bikur cholim, some yearn to encourage others, and so on. These yearnings are often an indication of what Hashem wants from that individual.
The Gemara (Shabbos 118:) writes תיתי לי דקיימת ג׳ סעודת שבת, "I deserve reward because I fulfill the mitzvah of eating the three meals on Shabbos.” Reb Yehudah said, “I deserve reward because I daven with kavanah.” Rav Hunah (son of Rav Yehoshua) said, “I deserve reward because I never walk four amos without a head-covering.” Rav Sheshes said, “I deserve reward because I keep the mitzvah of tefillin.” (He wouldn’t walk four amos without tefillin – Rashi). Reb Nachman said, “I deserve reward because I keep the mitzvah of tzitzis.” (He wouldn’t walk four amos without tzitzis – Rashi). Rav asked Rav Yosef (son of Rabba), “What was your father most cautious with?” “It was tzitzis. Once, he was climbing a ladder and a string of his tzitzis ripped off. He didn’t come down until it was fixed.” Abaye said, “I deserve reward because whenever I see that a scholar completed a masechta I make a yom tov for the chachamim.” (Abaye was the rosh yeshiva and he made a celebration for the students – Rashi). Rava said, “I deserve reward because when a Torah scholar comes before me in a din Torah, I don’t lie my head down until I find a merit for him.” The Netziv (Haamek Davar 15:39) explains that all these scholars were talking about the particular mitzvah in which they excelled. The Netziv writes, “If someone will ask you: Which approach of Torah study should I follow, and which mitzvos should I focus on the most? Reply (Koheles, והלך בדרך לבך ,(9:11 ‘Follow your heart.’ Wherever your heart pulls you is a sign that your mazal understands that this is a good way for your soul.”
This rule also applies to approaches in Torah study. There are many approaches, and there are many focuses. The heart’s pull to a certain section of Torah is a sign that Hashem wants him to excel in that realm. Shevet Mussar (1:13) writes, “I am giving you something you should chase after; it is life for your soul and a necklace around your neck: Your primary study in Torah should always be in what your heart desires. If it is in Gemara, let it be Gemara. If it is in drush, let it be drush. Or whether it is the path of remez or kabbalah. As it states (Tehillim 1:2), אם כי בתורת ה׳ חפצו. This hints that Torah study is dependent on חפצו, what he wants to study. As the Arizal (Shaar HaGilgulim 3) teaches: ‘There are people who desire the path of pshat in Torah. Some want drush, or remez; there are those who want to study gematriyos; and there are those who want to study kabbalah. [These different desires] depend on the reason he came to the world this time as a gilgul. In his previous lives, he accomplished for his soul by learning the other parts of Torah. It isn’t necessary to study all parts of Torah in every gilgul.’” The Shevet Mussar concludes, “Don’t pay attention to those who will be opposed to you when they see you desiring to study pshat, or drash, etc., and they will ask you, ‘Why are you spending all your days immersed in this section of Torah? Why don’t you study other sections? It is because you came to the world for the parts of Torah that you want to study.”
You Will Get What's Bashert for You
The gabbai of Rebbe Yitzchak of Vorke zt'l was extremely poor, and he was wearing ripped shoes in the winter. With snow all around, this was not a simple situation. The Rebbe spoke with baalei tzedakah and raised money, so that the gabbai could buy new shoes. The Rebbe placed the money in a drawer, in his room. The poor gabbai found the bag of money and he couldn’t overcome his yetzer hara. He took the money for himself. The Rebbe of Vorke investigated as to how the money got lost, until he concluded that the gabbai took it. The Rebbe told him, "Fool! If you would have waited, you would have gotten the money in a permitted way." Because the money that is destined for you, will come to you. If you won’t try to take it in forbidden ways, it will come to you in permitted ways.
This lesson is also taught by the Ben Ish Chai (Nifla'im Maaseicha 71). He tells a story of a yeshiva bachur, who would go to his yeshiva every night at around midnight. On his way to yeshiva he passed the house of a wealthy, young widow who lived there with her maid. One night, he saw that the door to their house was left open. He went inside with the intention of stealing some money for himself. At first, the young widow and her maid were sleeping. But when he broke open the safe, they woke up from the noise. Nevertheless, they pretended to be asleep because they were afraid that the thief might be armed. In the last minute, baruch Hashem, the yeshiva bachur overcame his temptation and stopped himself in his tracks. He thought, "If the money is destined to come to me, it will come to me in permitted ways. If the money isn't destined for me, I will have to lose the money that I steal– perhaps even by becoming ill and having to pay medical bills bills… Why do I need this trouble?" With these thoughts in mind, he left the house without stealing anything. In the meanwhile, the widow realized that it wasn’t safe for her to live by herself. She went to the yeshiva and asked the rosh yeshiva to suggest a bachur who has a lot of yiras Shamayim and would be fitting for her to marry. At that time, this bachur was learning with hasmadah in the beis medresh and the rosh yeshiva pointed him out to her. “He is a baal yiras Shamayim!” he told her. They married, and as he predicted, the money that was destined for him came to him in a permitted way.
These ideas remind us of a story that happened with Rebbe Shlomke of Zvhil2 zt'l soon after his chasunah: Rebbe Shlomke’s father, Rebbe Mordechai of Zvhil zt’l, would give the young couple a coin, each day, so that they could buy their groceries and whatever else they needed. One day, Rebbe Shlomke told his wife, "We believe that parnassah comes from Hashem and not from my father. Therefore, I decided that we shouldn’t go to my parent's home to receive our daily allowance anymore. Let us trust in Hashem, and He will support us in other ways." A week passed, and they didn’t have money. Rebbe Shlomke said to his rebbetzin, "I think I made a mistake. Hashem chose to give us parnassah through my father, so who am I to say that I want Hashem to send me parnassah a different way?" So, she went to her in laws home. Her father-in law said, "You weren't here for an entire week; take a whole ruble this time." On the day that his wife received a ruble from her father-in-law, two businessmen came to Zvhil to speak to the Rebbe, Rebbe Mordechai of Zvhil. Afterwards, they went to Reb Shlomke’s home, to wish him mazal tov on his recent marriage. While they were speaking to Reb Shlomke, one of the businessmen took out a ruble and played with it, tossing it from one hand to the other. Reb Shlomke understood that he was planning to give him the coin as a wedding gift. The entire time that they were speaking, the businessman played with the coin, but when the conversation ended, the businessman put the coin back into his pocket and left the house. He forgot to give it to Reb Shlomke. Just then, Reb Shlomke's rebbetzin returned and showed Reb Shlomke the ruble she received from his father. Reb Shlomke told her that Hashem just showed him that had they passed the test and held onto their bitachon, they would have received the ruble through other channels. But since they took a ruble from their father, they didn’t receive it the other way. Because whatever is bashert for you will happen.
A storeowner once told Reb Shlomke of Zvhil zt'l that he was worried, because someone opened up a store directly across the street from his store. Reb Shlomke listened to his concerns but didn’t respond. The man said, "I heard a story about a tzaddik who wanted to help a pauper. The tzaddik broke off a piece of wood from his table, put it into water, and it immediately grew fruit. This was an omen that the chassid would become wealthy. Perhaps the Rebbe can do that for me, too?" Rebbe Shlomke replied, "There are things we must believe in and there are things we aren't obligated to believe. I am not obligated to believe that the story you just told me is true. Perhaps it never happened. But we are obligated to believe that Hashem gives parnassah to everyone, and no one can take away the parnassah that is bashert for him. I see that you believe in matters that you don’t have to believe in, while you don’t believe in what you must believe in…" The Gemara (Yoma 38:) says, אין אדם נוגע מן המוכן לחבירו, אפילו כמלא נימא "One doesn't touch that which is destined for his fellow man, not even by a hairsbreadth." No one can take away the parnassah that is destined for you. The Ben Ish Chai zt'l (Ben Yohayada) explains this Gemara with a story: One summer a new vacationer came to spend a few days at a camping resort. He stuck a peg deep into the ground to set up his tent, and the peg hit something hard. He dug it up and found an old jug, filled with precious gems. Who knows how many years or centuries it lay there, hidden in the ground! Now all that wealth was his. Every year, people pitched their tents around that spot– often they were just a few inches away from the jug – but they never found it, because it wasn't destined for them. The gems were destined for this specific person who found it. The Ben Ish Chai writes, "This is what the Gemara means when it says, אין אדם נוגע מן המוכן לחבירו אפילו כמלא נימא, 'One doesn’t touch that which is destined for his fellow man, not even by a hairsbreadth.' All those before him didn’t touch the place where the jug was buried, since it was destined only for him."
Taking Pleasure in Wise Ways
The Ben Ish Chai writes "I am going to reveal something that most of the world suffers from, and I, the servant, am among them. It happens to Torah scholars as well as to businessmen." He bases his lesson on the Gemara (Sanhedrin 26) which teaches, מחשבה מועלת, "Thoughts ruin." Thinking about something causes it not to happen. The Ben Ish Chai tells a story, to explain why this is so. There was once a Jewish merchant who would wake up early each morning and go to the Arab market to buy eggs and poultry, and then sell them at the Jewish market, for a small profit.
One day, he decided that it was time for him to change professions and earn more money. The work he was doing was too hard, and the profit was too little. He went to the Arab market and bought around a thousand eggs, which he carried on his head. He also bought two bags filled with live chickens, which he cast over his shoulder. He thought to himself, "This time, I will not sell them in the Jewish market. I will bring all the eggs and live chickens to my home and place the chickens on the eggs to make them hatch. When they hatch, I will raise the chicks until they will lay eggs of their own… Within a few months I will have two hundred - thousand chickens! I'll sell each chicken for a silver dinar, and I'll have 200,000 silver dinars. Then, I'll leave this business and I'll buy sheep, and ship the wool to London…" He imagined himself becoming very wealthy. He thought, "The Jewish community will certainly appoint me rosh hakahal (community president). When the king comes to our city, I will be called on to greet the king." He imagined how he would bow down before the king. He lowered his head. The eggs crashed to the ground and the chickens fell into a pit and they all died. All his dreams ended right then and there. This is because מחשבה מועלת, thoughts ruin. Plans cause things not to happen. What is the explanation? The Ben Ish Chai explains that this merchant was destined to attain the joy of wealth, and he received the joy of wealth in his imagination. Therefore, he lost the opportunity to attain the joy of actual wealth. On Rosh Hashanah it is decided how much pleasure a person will have that year. If a person derives pleasure from thinking about wealth, he might lose out on actually attaining the wealth. מחשבה מועלת, his imagined joy might take the place of their true fulfillment. The Gemara (Brachos 55) teaches, "When one has a good dream, his happiness, causes the dream not to materialize. When one has a bad dream, his anxiety, due to the dream, causes the dream not to happen." The Ben Ish Chai explains that the good dream foretold that success would come to him. But that goodness and joy was exchanged for the happiness he received from the dream, itself. The bad dream foretold bad tidings. His distress from the dream took its place, and now the bad dream doesn’t have to happen. Therefore, when one has a good dream, or when one has a good plan, be wise and don't dwell on the happiness that you are expecting. Rather, be happy when the dream, or your plan, actually transpire. The Ben Ish Chai writes, "It needs to be clear to a person that these thoughts are the yetzer hara, causing him to lose out on all the goodness that could have been his… Therefore, one should be strong and push away those thoughts from his heart and mind."
A father asked someone to tutor his son. The tutor agreed, but he wasn't certain that he should take money for it, since he already had sufficient parnassah in other ways. He asked Rebbe Shlomke for his opinion. The Rebbe replied that if he was offered money, this means Hashem was offering him the money. Why shouldn’t he accept it? The Rebbe elaborated, "If Rebbe Aharon of Belz would give you an expensive coin as a segulah would you accept it? Of course, you would. Well, now Hashem is offering you money, why shouldn’t you take it?"
Rashi explains, "When one thinks, 'I will do such-and-such, and thereby I will earn such-and-such amount of money,’ such thoughts cause that it will not occur. This is also true for Torah. For example, when one says that by this specific date, I will complete such-andsuch amount of masechtos [this type of thinking causes that it will not happen]."
Rebbe Shlomke once saw a person who was searching for honor in an exaggerated way. Rebbe Shlomke told him, “When a neshamah comes down to the world, it comes along with a quota of pleasure. These pleasures are divided among his needs: Some degree of pleasure goes towards nachas from children, parnassah, health, honor, and so on. But if you will take so much pleasure from honor, you are limiting yourself from attaining pleasure in the other areas.”