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Question: When may a Jew rely on Hashem and when must he engage in activities to secure his own needs?

Answer: Some people rely on Hashem to provide basic needs without making any effort whatsoever. It is reputed that those under the influence of Navardok Mussar would never request help from anyone, even when in drastic need of food. Their hashkafah was that if Hashem wanted to sustain them, He would make sustenance available. They believed that no matter what, “Gott vet helfin.”

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This is not the accepted ideology of klal Yisrael. In fact, the Vilna Gaon totally rejects this position. He cites the Gemara (Sukkah 52b) which states that every day the yetzer hara seeks to destroy man, “v’ilmalei HaKadosh Baruch Hu she’ozer lo, eino yachol lo.

The simple interpretation of this statement is that if not for the help of Hashem, man would be unable to defend himself from the evil inclination. The Vilna Gaon, however, suggests a unique interpretation. He contends that this statement means that Hashem only helps when He perceives that man has done everything within his potential but has still come up short. At that point, Hashem comes to his aid. The phrase “eino yachol lo” refers to Hashem’s determination that the person has tried everything but still has not succeeded.

In other words, relying exclusively on Hashem without making any human effort is improper.

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Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.
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