Rav Avigdor Miller on The Working Man

Q: Doesn’t striving to become successful and comfortable take away from Torah and yiras shomayim?

A: Now we come to a subject that has to be explained. I’m going to take a minute to explain that. How foolish are people who don’t understand how to fit in Olam Hazeh with ruchniyus, with spiritual things. In order to succeed as a decent Jew, you have to have a decent gashmiyus; a Jew must have a profession, he must have a calling.

Now, it doesn’t mean you have to be a doctor of medicine but you have to have some form of making a living. And just to be a shlep, just to be a failure, that’s no way to be a Jew.

Now, if you’re a man who can succeed in learning – you’re learning a lot, all day long, so there’ll be some people who will support you; there are kollelim, there are places where you can go. But most people won’t do that so you must live a normal life and you must learn a trade; you must learn some calling.

And you have to have a home; you must have a wife. You must earn your own way – you cannot live on welfare. Anybody who lives on welfare is a flop; he’s a failure and his life is ruined too; even his ruchniyus is ruined.

And so let’s not deceive ourselves. The Gemara says that a man must teach his son an umnos, a trade. ראה חיים עם אשה אשר אהבת – See life with the woman whom you love. So the Gemara says, what does it mean “the woman who you love”? It means the Torah; the Torah is the woman we love — the Jewish nation loves the Torah. But it says “see life with the Torah.” It means “learn an umnos” the Gemara says. You have to learn some kind of livelihood to go along with the Torah.

Again and again we’ve seen tragedies of people who neglected to learn a livelihood. Here’s a man in Crown Heights and his wife is an idealist. She’s a giyoress, a ger tzeddek – a big idealist. And she tells me she met this Jewish young man, she made him frum, and she loves him. So I asked her, “What is he doing?”

“He’s a writer!”

“Has he published something?”

“No, he lies in bed all day long.”

I said, “A man like that, he’s not a cripple – why doesn’t he do something?!”

“Oh, he’s a great idealist,” she said. “He’s thinking up plans; he’s drawing up plans for some great work.”

Well, a little time passed by, the next I heard she left home with three little children because he was beating her up – this idealist. And that’s the wreck of an idealistic marriage! A giyoress tzeddek, a righteous convert and she was an idealist; and she was beaten up by this bum, this writer, because he never learnt a parnasa.

There’s a lot of people like that, ruined people. You can’t live in a cellar, you have to live in a decent home. I merely must add a warning – you shouldn’t put in all your efforts in beautifying your home! But you must have a fitting frame for the right kind of a picture. You must make a living and you must guard your health. You can’t neglect your health and just be a shlepper who is run down in health. You need fresh air, you need exercise, you need the right diet.

Now this is the subject that deserves a lecture by itself; I don’t have time for it now. I just want to sum up: In order to live a decent Torah life you must have a proper and decent material life, and the two go together. And that’s the ratzon Hashem and it can be proven by many statements in the Torah.

TAPE # 308 (April 1980)

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