Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

The Mishna teaches, “Thus is the way of Torah: Bread with salt you shall eat, measured water shall you drink, on the ground you shall sleep, and a life of privation you shall live, while in the Torah you shall toil. If you do so, ‘you shall be happy, and it shall be good for you’ (Psalms 128:2). ‘You shall be happy’ in this world – ‘and it shall be good for you’ in the World to Come” (Avos 6:4).

People often find this teaching difficult to understand. After telling us the struggles we must endure – “bread with salt you shall eat” – how can the Mishna state, “’You shall be happy” – in this world?


Many commentaries attempt to resolve this by way of homily, but their explanations remain strained. The truth, Rebbe Nachman tells us, is there really is no question. If you have eyes to see and a heart that truly understands the world, you know this. If you have absorbed the wisdom contained in Rebbe Nachman’s awesome teachings, you know the truth. The Mishna means exactly what it says.

The wealthiest people in the world will tell you that the world is filled with worry and suffering. The rich suffer as much as everyone else. Thus, our sages teach, “The more possessions, the more worry” (ibid., 2:7). The poor may not realize this. They may think that they would no longer have problems if they were wealthy. But they are sadly mistaken, as we can see with our own eyes. The truth is as our sages have taught us. Whether you are rich or poor, you cannot avoid worries. The world is filled with pain and suffering and there is no avenue of escape.

If we desire a life of pleasure in this world and want to live at ease without troubles, we will be constantly frustrated. The more we seek pleasure, the more we will find the opposite. Everything we manage to grasp will be diluted with suffering. Look with truth and you will see this yourself.

It is written, “There is no wisdom, understanding or counsel against G-d” (Proverbs 21:30). The only way to be at ease is to be willing to subsist on an absolute minimum. Firmly resolve to follow the dictum of the Mishna, “Bread with salt you shall eat … a life of privation shall you live.” If we accept upon ourselves a life of minimal luxuries and pleasures in order to involve ourselves in Torah – “in the Torah you shall toil” – only then will we have life, even in this world. “If you do so, ‘you shall be happy’ … in this world.” This is certainly true.

No longer will we suffer from worldly troubles because we have already accepted them upon ourselves for the sake of the Torah. All our life – all our good – is the true good. Thus, our life is a true life. “Happy are you” – even in this world.

The person who wants to live of ease in this world and enjoy its delights will find only bitterness. “Even the slightest breeze will upset him” (Sotah 5a). The smallest happening contrary to their wishes will cause them to suffer greatly.

The only way to escape this suffering is in the Torah. Accept the way of the Torah, eating bread with salt …. Then you will be happy and it will be good for you. Happy – even in this world. Look at the truth. Understand well the troubles of this world. You will certainly see the truth of this.

(Adapted from Sichos Haran #308)


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Rabbi Nosson Rossman is a rabbinic field representative for the Orthodox Union. He can be reached at [email protected].